HYDERABAD: Living in co-living spaces was a trend until the Covid-19 pandemic hit us. With the work culture becoming WFH, many of those who preferred this accommodation to rent/leasing flats returned back to their homes. This badly hit the shared accommodation business, such as paying guests and hostels. However, a few co-living spaces, catering to a wide range of professionals and adopting hygiene and sanitisation measures have managed to buck the trend.
“People did go back at the onset of the pandemic,” agrees Krishna Kumar Vijaiyan, CEO and co-founder, Isthara Co-living. However, he says they were successful in managing occupancies of around 45%-48% overall as companies such as health, retail, banking, and pharma needed a place for their employees that were safe, clean, sanitised, and provided food. They have two properties, one each in Madhapur and Neknampur in Hyderabad.
“The impact of WFH was largely borne by the traditional hostels and PGs, as they struggled to even maintain 10%-20% occupancy and were forced to shut shop,” says Moonis Ali, co-founder and CEO, Living Quarter. Adding that his brand is a “city-specific, an upgrade from traditional operators,” Moonis says, “They managed to keep occupancy levels to 80% on average,” in their five properties located in Gachibowli, Financial District and Lanco Hills. How did they maintain this occupancy? “We have had a diverse mix of clients -- doctors, freelancers, media professionals and entrepreneurs, and substantially lower dependence on residents from the IT sector,” replies he.
Professionals and students are looking for branded places to stay as they provide hygiene and sanitisation, feels Vijaiyan. Explaining the safety protocol, he adds, “We have daily temperature checks, travel history declarations, no visitor policy, social distancing, hygiene standards, and PPE and masks for all staff.” For those guests who tested positive, Vijaiyan informs that Ishthara had a Covid-19 + building allocated which had a tie-up with one of the hospitals.Moonis shares, “We were one of the earliest operators to take action in early March by restricting visitors and sanitising the premises. With time we added other precautions such as fumigation of common areas, equipping staff with protective gear, promoting social distancing, among others.”
To ensure that the food is safe to eat, many co-living spaces have their own kitchens. “We run the kitchens which ensure we are a real problem solver for guests who want a great place to stay,” informs Vijaiyan. He says the properties have cafeterias. “We provide home-cooked food and snacks throughout the day. Residents have found our in-house facility to be of a considerable advantage during and post-lockdown, given the risks associated with ordering food from outside.”
Driving up costs
With Covid-19 precautions, there is an added layer of expense for the operators. Moonis comments: “Since the pricing in this sector is mainly driven due to supply and demand, operators now have to incorporate the additional costs of precautions at their own expense, and still provide discounts to lure prospective tenants.” Vijaiyan says, “This surely drives the cost up, but I think the customer today does not want to risk his personal safety and wants to ensure a comfortable, clean and safe stay.”
— Tamanna S Mehdi