Driven by its huge positive social impact, the Bengaluru-based co-living start-up eyes one million beds (100 million sq.ft.), across 25 micro markets in India over the next decade.
While Covid-19 has impacted industries across the globe, some are better positioned to see recovery and meaningful growth, courtesy the unique value proposition they offer consumers. Co-living start-ups are a case in point. Globally, their demand has rebounded and, in many cases, it is now higher than in the pre-pandemic days.
“Housing is becoming a service for the migrant population and India is expected to have rapid migration in the coming decades,” said Sriram Chitturi, the Founding President of the Rental Housing Association of India (RHAI) and Founder of Guesture, a co-living start-up in Bengaluru. By 2050, urban population is expected to reach 52% from the current 31.16%, with the advantage of ‘demographic dividend’ of 65% of India’s population being under 35 years of age.
There is massive business opportunity to cater to “nearly 31% of India’s urban population” that resides in rental housing. And as one of the early movers in the organised rental housing space, Guesture is well poised to meet the evolving housing needs of the migrant urban youth, riding the next big wave in consumer evolution – co-living.
Ready to disrupt
Launched in 2016 as a multi-generational, hyper local, and asset-light rental housing management company, Guesture follows a concentrated inventory model that promotes space sharing and cost optimisation, while offering residents an upgraded quality of life. The Bengaluru-based company’s self-serviced homes are fully furnished, safe, secure, hygienic, healthy and well-equipped with hotel-style conveniences, such as Wi-Fi, TV programming and housekeeping.
“Guesture is a home away from home; residents just need to bring in their bags. Over the next 10-12 years, we will be a national brand, having presence across the country, and managing over one million beds (100 million sq.ft.), across 25 micro markets in six geographies of the country,” said Sriram. While the migrant urban youth will continue to the prime clientele, the company will also cater to the long- and short-term rental housing needs of young families, senior citizens (non-assisted care), corporates, medical tourists and the like.
“We strongly believe in creating a huge positive social impact by providing healthy, hygienic and safe living environment, especially for young women. We build our infrastructure in a biophilic design, by being ecologically responsible, economically sustainable and enabling socio-cultural integration in an equitable environment. We are not only building communities, but also empowering residents by helping them to build social capital and enable self-actualisation,” he explicated.
Growth by design
Guesture operates in micro markets that are close to the neo-economic hubs of cities with substantial working population within a five-kilometre radius. The idea is to offer residents easy access to social infrastructure, mass urban transport solutions such as the metro rail as well as optimal business connectivity.
Each property is designed as a ‘home’, striking a fine balance between functionality, privacy and multi-functional design, which can be repurposed with changes in demographics. The residents enjoy an exciting array of experiences, such as rooftop gathering with pop-up kitchens by upcoming local chefs, organic vegetable and herbal gardening, talk sessions by thought leaders, yoga/meditation sessions, exploratory day trips, including hiking and heritage walks, group vacations and volunteering opportunities within the community.
“Our residents value the quality of relationships and experiences over the quantity of square footage,” remarked Sriram. Apart from housing solutions, Guesture also provides smart co-working spaces, training infrastructure, incubation spaces, food courts, sports infrastructure, entertainment and shopping spaces, art and culture spaces – seamlessly blurring the lines between life, work and play. There are intuitively designed learning spaces too that offer residents opportunities to discover, acquire, and exhibit their talents, as well as create a valuable network with people having similar and varied interests.
When working from home became the ‘new normal’, Guesture was quick to provide a Hybrid Satellite Centre that closely simulates the office experience. It resolved employee mobility and availability issues, while enhancing team interaction and addressing data security, productivity concerns and Service Level Agreements (SLA) compliance challenges. The customised solution in premium apartment complexes helped ensure business continuity, increased productivity and enhanced innovation, without compromising on safety and comfort.
Prompted by the mass exodus of migrants during the pandemic, the company also launched a first-of-its-kind affordable rental housing initiative - Quarters by Guesture. It aims to provide dignified living spaces to varied groups of urban migrants, such as industrial workers, nurses, gig workers, associates of tech aggregators, blue-collar workers and employees from lower socio-economic strata.
“The plan is to operate purpose-built industrial workers accommodation (PBIWA) and purpose-built rental housing accommodation (PBRHA), in locations which are close to the places of work for the main bread earner of economically weaker section (EWS) and low income group (LIG) households ,” informed Sriram.
The project will first be rolled out in Peenya, one of the biggest industrial areas in Asia, followed by Kolar in Karnataka and then, in Rajasthan. Further, Guesture is keen to take up operations and maintenance of rental housing properties owned by government bodies across the country.
Roadmap to the future
Factors such as affordability, convenience and community-led living are likely to drive the adoption of co-living in India vis-à-vis traditional, unorganised rental housing systems, such as PGs and hostels. As a new-age, shared economy business, enabled by technology, the co-living model caters not only to digital nomads, but also to a wide range of residents who seek proximity to city centres, yet desire a collective, experience-led lifestyle.
“There are also immense opportunities in tier II markets. We are already seeing players offer remote office hubs that provide meeting spaces, along with WiFi and other amenities. It’s only a matter of time before co-living makes waves in the small cities and towns of India,” noted Sriram.
Organised rental housing can speed up the process of ‘Housing for All’, with co-living becoming the game-changer.