Viral Chhajer, Co-founder & CEO, StayAbode

Co-living is solving a huge real estate problem with soaring prices of ownership and rental and we believe co-living is here to stay and it is already been pegged as a $93bn opportunity over the next few years.

Mar 20, 2019 05:03 IST India Infoline News Service

Viral Chhajer, StayAbode
Viral Chhajer, Co-founder & CEO, StayAbode, is responsible for Business Development and Growth. The 3 co-founders are - 
  • Varun Bhalla takes care of Technology and Product at StayAbode. Prior to StayAbode, Varun was a Mobile Developer at Treebo Hotels. He along and I, also co-founded Bribe Me, a flash sale marketplace for the traditional brick and mortar stores.
  • Devashish excels in taking care of Resident Experience and Financial Positioning at StayAbode. Prior to this, he handled Operations at Roadhouse Hostels. His career trajectory in finance began with being a Portfolio Manager at Right Horizons Investment Advisory and Wealth Management and an Equity and Mutual Fund Analyst at International Money Matters.
  • I am the CEO and responsible for Business Development and Growth.  Prior to StayAbode, I headed marketing at food ordering and delivery platform Runnr and before that have co-founded Bribe Me, a flash sale marketplace for the traditional brick and mortar stores.
 
In an interview with Shweta Papriwal, Editor, IIFL, Viral Chhajer, said, “Our primary objective is to ensure high occupancies which ensures our properties are delivering value both to our landlords and us.”
 
Details of the company and founders.
StayAbode was founded in 2016 with the vision of operating co-living spaces for the working millennial. Today we have over 17 spaces housing close to 800 people with an occupancy of 95% across the board.
 
 
What was the problem you wanted to solve?
We wanted to solve for all the living issues that young professionals face when they move to a new city. From difficult landlords to high deposits and unfair rentals as compared to the spaces that are offered, were some of the driving factors. On top of that when you layer the fact that a lot of young millennials face acute loneliness when they move to a new city, a sense of community becomes important. By solving for both these issues through community living and a hassle free living experience, we believe we are well set to solve for millennial living in today’s sharing economy where the consumer gives access a greater significance than ownership.
 
Please explain the concept of co-living and how do you see its growth in India.
Co-living is very simple communal living where common spaces and kitchens at some of our properties are shared. The objective is to make living more productive and meaningful where utility costs become uniform under one rent that is paid and all the residents come together at events or social get togethers to grow personally and professionally through our spaces. Co-living is solving a huge real estate problem with soaring prices of ownership and rental and we believe co-living is here to stay and it is already been pegged as a $93bn opportunity over the next few years. The real maturity we believe will come through better experiences for the resident and long term stability and profitability for the builders/owners.
 
How big is the market you are targeting?
Estimates tell us it is a $93bn opportunity and the numbers differ but it is overall the rental market for millennials and that is a significant chunk of the rental residential market today and can only grow if this young consumer continues to choose co-living across the stages in their life.
 
Who are your target consumers – in terms of age, location, income group etc.
We address consumers right from the ages of 23-40 as we have offerings across budgets from room layout properties to 1/2/3 BHKs across the major work hubs of Bangalore. Income varies from Rs 5 lakhs per annum - Rs25 lakhs per annum.
 
What services do you provide in your co-living spaces? 
The rent at a StayAbode includes a fully furnished space where you just need to move in with your clothes and all utilities. Our common spaces are equipped with recreation spaces, board games and gaming consoles along with free access to all our events which range from movie night to music concerts and workshops.
 
How are you funded?  
We have had a couple of angel rounds and a Pre Series A with investments from Anupam Mittal (CEO, People Group); Vineet Sekhsaria (Head, Real Estate investing, Morgan Stanley); and Japanese gaming company Akatsuki Inc.
 
Who do you consider your competition? How are you different from them?  
There is an increasing number of players in this space now from Nestaway, CoLive, Homigo, CoHo, but everyone tend to operate on different models with different focus areas. Our primary focus is the resident experience which means there is a Community Manager at each property which is unique in this space. Our focus is on constantly improving operational efficiency to give our owners better value along with a seamless experience through community and tech for our residents.
 
How do you monetize?
We charge a fixed rent which covers living and utility expenses and have a defined margin with every landowner which differs property to property. Our primary objective is to ensure high occupancies which ensures our properties are delivering value both to our landlords and us.
 
How many properties do you have now? What are your expansion plans?
We have 17 properties across Bangalore and looking to add 100-150 beds every month starting April with a large asset co-living space in ITPL, in partnership with CP Developers, in the pipeline which will house over 1200 people, going live in 2020. We intend to grow the small inventory spaces along with signing more Greenfield projects like the ITPL space in the coming year.
 
You have tied up with several developers and are setting up the largest co-living facility in Asia? How is it beneficial to developers to work with you?
A lot of land owners and builders find it extremely hard to guarantee occupancy in the spaces they build out or be able to extract the best rentals. On an average rental yields across the major urban centres in the country is between 3%-4% and we have been successfully delivering upwards of a 9% yield to our developers as we are able to drive high occupancy through our model of providing a great living experience. With our project in partnership with CP Developers we are promising a similar model at scale and as our operating costs will only become more efficient with a larger space, the overall yield will be higher than our smaller inventory spaces.

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