We are publishing an interview with Mr. Suresh Rangarajan K (SRK), Founder and CEO of Colive. An alumnus of Yale School of Management, SRK is a Chartered Accountant and a passionate & intense start-up professional. One of the earliest adopters of the internet world, he was a core member of the founding team of Citi-Times’ JV TimesOfMoney.com. Moreover, under his entrepreneurial leadership, remit2india.com went on to become the world’s #1 online money transfer portal & one of the most successful internet businesses in India. SRK then founded an innovative real estate enterprise called Artha. The highlights of his stint at Artha include the path-breaking Startup City & Knowledge Park – Emprasa.
Combining his prolific experience in banking, internet & real estate, SRK founded Colive to solve the housing challenges faced by millennials while offering a new asset class of Buy-to-let properties to investors. For his immense contribution to these domains, SRK has been conferred the prestigious Udyog Rattan award along with being awarded with the coveted title of “Trend Setter in Real Estate” by WCRC and Ernst & Young.
Q.: What is the problem you are trying to solve? Can you share with us any insights that led you to believe that this is a big enough problem?
Ans: For the modern young population, finding a fully-furnished with the freedom to live independently is a major challenge. Moreover, re-locating to a new city due to career demands comes with its own share of ordeals like adapting to an unfamiliar environment amid the lack of a support system, often rendering people lonely and isolated. Added to that are issues like safety concerns in unfamiliar neighbourhoods, difficulty in commuting in traffic logged cities, purchasing or renting amenities that they seldom use, etc.
While it is still a niche segment, the domestic co-living market is estimated to be worth more than USD 2 billion by 2022, indicating how it is steadily gaining traction in India. Therefore, with our technology-driven network of fully managed ready-to-move-in homes conveniently located in proximity to IT parks and business hubs, Colive is gradually building a strong community of shared living while catering to the lifestyle expectations of millennials in an efficient manner.
Q.: Tell us about the Product / Solution. Explain how you went about the Product-Market Fit Process.
Ans: Colive is a technology-powered platform that provides a network of fully managed living spaces equipped with all modern tech-enabled security, service, and maintenance features and support. As stated previously, Colive has emerged as an affordable, hassle-free, and vibrant solution addressing all the challenges that modern urban dwelling comes with. Colive especially caters to the younger population that has just ventured on its professional journey, taking the stress of rental issues off them while letting them thrive in a community of like-minded individuals.
Q.: What is your USP?
Ans: One of the biggest factors that differentiates us from our contemporaries is our efficient technology-driven process. From finding the right place to live and having access to amenities, to an ease of conducting daily activities and availing service support—everything at Colive is accessible at the click of a button on our app or the website. Even when it comes to paying the bills, Colive eliminates the need for a resident to be physically present at any instance by letting them do it all through the app.
At Colive, we operate on a full-stack model, providing end-to-end service and support, both on a regular basis as well as on demand, in terms of housekeeping, laundry, daily maintenance, etc. Moreover, our living spaces are equipped with exciting and recreational property features such as cinema rooms, games and fitness rooms, community kitchens and dining areas, terrace lounges, and dance clubs, to name a few. With all such offerings, Colive has succeeded in building a strong community of over 8000 happy residents within three years since its inception, letting them thrive in an all-embracing and inclusive society with the freedom of their choice.
Q.: Please tell us about the investors (if any)
Ans: Envisioning to revolutionize the renting space in India, Colive has found its appeal among investors looking for innovative solutions to modern-day challenges. We raised a sum of USD 1.8 million from Ncubate Capital Partners in February 2018, which helped us scale up our operations to quite an extent. Recently in February this year, we raised a sum of USD 9.2 million from Salarpuria Sattva Group in our latest funding round. We aim to utilize the funding to expand our presence in cities like Hyderabad and Pune, while scaling up from the current count of 15,000 beds to over 1 lakh beds over the next two years.
Q.: What were your assumptions when you entered the market, learnings that you have? Who in your mind is your ideal customer? Do you have at least one of them signed up?
Ans: One of our biggest assumptions when we embarked upon this entrepreneurial journey was that of the market demand for rental accommodations working on a full-stack model and offering a host of services with one price for everything. We realized that there was a severe gap for this in the market that needed to be fulfilled. Moreover, we got acquainted with our target group—the millennial generation—and their nomadic nature of shuttling between cities in search of better career prospects and opportunities.
We gradually became aware of the fact that the deposit payment for rental accommodation is a huge concern for young working professionals. Moreover, they deal with issues in the procurement of basic amenities like furniture etc. Upon learning about all these challenges, Colive emerged as a solution by providing affordable, convenient, fully-furnished, and managed accommodations while taking a deposit of only 2-months’ worth of the respective rents, in contrast with the mainstream range of INR 60k- INR 1,00,000, and even more.
Colive essentially caters to customers falling in the age category of 22-35, with something to offer to them at each stage. Our purview of an ideal customer includes entry-level and mid-level working professionals, young couples, and Dual-Income-No-Kids (DINK) couples. We have a strong community of 8000+ customers falling in the above-mentioned category at present and as our platform continues gaining momentum, the count is steadily increasing.
Q.: What has been your biggest failure as an entrepreneur and what did you learn from it??
Ans: Presenting a product way ahead of its time was the most major challenge that we have faced. While the consumer demand for a product of our kind has been witnessing a robust growth, the market forces are not yet prepared to facilitate the same. Moreover, challenges in obtaining government permissions and convincing multiple stake holders to come onboard posed as a major challenge, slowing our pace in the beginning. Acquiring the inventory of the first 1,000 beds was painstakingly slow, but scaling up from there to 10,000 beds was achieved in lesser time. However, our extensive efforts towards emerging as a solution for urban living constrains let Colive recover and gain momentum soon enough.
Q.: How are you pricing the Product? What is the logic behind it? What is the model you are following – Free / Freemium / Premium etc.? Explain your thought process.
Ans: Since the very essence of our startup is to provide a space with shared amenities, the rent has been divided in two parts– the base rent which is the price being paid for the bed or the room, and the service charges levied for availing facilities like WiFi, housekeeping, etc. The rent may vary according to the location, as the onboarding of properties or procurement of certain amenities or services in some localities is slightly higher than the rest.
Q.: How did you get your first customer?
Ans: We got our first customer through social media. In this increasingly digital era, the impact of social media platforms cannot be undermined. Social media has been a very powerful medium for us at Colive, and flagging off this entrepreneurial journey through the same was quite a memorable experience.
Q.: Is there any interesting success story? If yes, please write about it. ?
Ans: While it has been only three years since the inception of Colive, the journey from 300 beds to 10,000 beds has been a humbling experience. Reaching the count of the first 1000 beds took us approximately two years, and it was a complete learning curve for us. Within the next one year, we were able to remarkably scale our operations from 1000 to 10,000. We are certain that the demand for co-living spaces in metropolitan cities is never going to cease, and our experience has well-equipped us with the potential to keep catering to the same efficiently.
Q.: What is the big picture of your startup? Is this Product leading to something bigger? If so, how?
Ans: Co-living is perhaps the smartest way of living in urban areas in modern times as it has emerged as an effective solution for urban-dwelling challenges like space constraints and a high cost of living, by eliminating the need to pay for or purchase amenities that will be used once in a while. Because of this, co-living is gradually paving its way towards becoming the most-preferred way of living in metro cities. Our startup is basically catering to this ever-increasing demand among customers for renting a private space and sharing expenses for utilities and amenities that are not in frequent usage. For instance, bachelors may take their food from the community kitchen, avail weekly-used facilities like washing machines, or use fitness rooms for a couple of hours in a day. Through our offerings, we strive towards having over 1 lakh beds across cities while building a community of interesting and like-minded people living harmoniously in a social atmosphere that is warm, comforting, embracing, and all-inclusive. We strongly believe in the ‘Power of Co- Colive, Community, Convenience & Collaboration.
Q.: What is the insight that you have about this market, which no one else has? Uniqueness about your Startup.
Ans: The target group for our platform is very different in terms of a desired lifestyle. They like to hang-out together and believe in investing their money, time, and efforts in experiences over just purchasing assets. Being amidst a like-minded community of people helps in creating a sense of security and helps everyone feel comfortable in their peer groups. Therefore, by providing a space just as they desire it to be, Colive has certainly found its distinct appeal among the young population.
Q.: List all the names of the core Team Members, along with their Designated Roles – How you see them evolving over time. What would be each of their Skillsets? – Elaborate also if any of the team members has a specific domain expertise.
Ans: Arun Singh – Chief Investment Officer
Saurav Swami – VP, Alliances
Swastik Mishra – VP, Business Development Bangalore. He is responsible for onboarding of properties that are fit or compliment co-living.
Narendra Reddy – Head of Transformation. He oversees the transformation process of converting a building into a co-living space with the furnishing of rooms and common spaces.
Arnab Karmakar – Head of Operations. He ensures that the Colive residents have a smooth housing experience, right from check-in to any issues faced during the course of their stay.
Gautam Kini – Head of Marketing. He keeps things interesting and relevant to the Colive Community. From planning events and executing them, Gautam makes sure Colive maintains the fun factor that has attracted hundreds of Indians to our brand.
Archisman Sarkar – Head of Product Development. His role includes keeping Colive ahead of its competitors by integrating advanced tech-based solutions.
Vivek Anand – Head of Sales. Thanks to him, Colive has managed to make a strong foothold in the Indian co-live sector.
Q.: Who do You Perceive as Your Competition? How do you differentiate yourself with them?
Ans: there are some poular players in this segment like Nestaway, Oyo Life and Zolo. Stanza Living, Quickr Homes, CoHo, Stay Abode, FF21 and Squareplums among others.
As mentioned earlier, Colive properties strictly adhere to the 6S – Style, safety, services, social, smart and savings and are enabled by the ‘Power of Co- Colive, Community, Convenience & Collaboration.
Q.: What would be your goal to accomplish in the next six months?
Ans: We plan to have 25,000+ beds in Colive’s inventory. In terms of geographical expansion, we are foraying into the Hyderabad market.
Q.: What message do you want to convey to fellow entrepreneurs?
Ans: Well, I would advise my fellow entrepreneurs to stay passionate and focused. Believing in yourself and your idea is truly important. There will be many roadblocks along the way but don’t lose heart. Suresh
Thanks Suresh. Best wishes.