Updated: September 21, 2021 12:20:46 pm
Founded in 2018 by real estate veterans Deepak Anand and Kalpesh Mehta, co-living startup Housr offers easy and hassle-free living for millennials. The two-year-old brand has Serum Institute CEO Adar Poonawalla as its key investor and Pirojsha Godrej (Chairman, Godrej Properties), Abhishek Lodha (Lodha Group) and Harsh Patodia (Group Chairman, Unimark) as angel investors. Co-founder and CEO of the startup Deepak Anand speaks to The Indian Express about co-living spaces and the company’s trajectory.
Your note talks about the company taking different models in different cities in terms of operations. Has the company invested in its own property in any city or is the model running mostly on leased properties?
Housr works on asset-light models, leasing properties on a long-term basis across cities. We take the entire building and undertake a full-stack service model where we become the sole operator for the property and put up services like F&B, laundry, Wi-Fi, housekeeping, security, providing fully furnished rooms and common areas for residents.
In addition, through our tech stack we control the entire operations on a day-to-day basis and for residents, everything happens on a seamless app on their mobiles ranging from rent payment, visitor management, ticket resolutions to opting for value-added services like F&B, gym etc.
Co-housing has huge potential but it is limited to certain cities only. For example, Sangli, Kolhapur or Latur in Maharashtra has a large student population but co-housing is almost absent as a segment or is very fragmented. What have been your observations in tier 2-3 cities and do you see any potential for growth there?
For us, the focus would be to enter tier-2 cities where both the student population and working professionals are widely present. Such micro-markets for Housr exist as part of large markets like specific sectors in Gurgaon, Noida, Pune. We are essentially a working professional brand and also cater to post-graduate students as the overlap between the two segments is quite high. However, at the moment we do not do dedicated college student housing.
We are looking to add over ten tier 1 and 2 cities in India serving over 30,000 beds across over 50-75 Grade-A stand-alone properties in the next 18-24 months. After starting operations in NCR, Housr has also forayed into Pune and is now expanding their operations in Hyderabad, Chennai and Bengaluru with 35 locked-in properties at the moment. Towards the end of 2021, the aim is to enter Ahmedabad and Indore that have a large population of single working professionals and there is a definite product gap in the market
How has Covid impacted your business? With most educational institutions closed and work-from-home being the norm, you would have seen many vacancies. What is the present percentage of occupancy in your properties and what was it prior to the pandemic? What was the student versus working professional occupancy prior to Covid and now?
Housr did not stop during the lockdown and worked in full capacity to translate Housr’s strategies into desired outcomes. We focused on the supply side and during the first Covid wave, locked in eight properties in a span of 3-4 months. Also, as I said, Housr is primarily a working professionals brand and even though we had setbacks during the lockdown, we still had above-average occupancy numbers and the speed at which the occupancy came back post both waves has been really encouraging.
How long will it take for the sector to go back to pre-Covid occupancy rate?
For Housr, the recovery has been very sharp. In fact, we have grown across metrics when compared to pre-Covid in terms of number of properties, residents living with us or our overall revenue and growth numbers.
We expect this trend to continue as more and more offices are now opening up post the successful vaccination drive in India. For the industry, we expect close to full recovery by Q1 2022, if the current positive trends are to continue.
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