Affordable housing was a sector which really aligned with our beliefs. We evaluated various options and business models in this space. I believe that there are a few moments in the life of an entrepreneur that change everything. For us, it was the moment when we collated our findings from the co-living market in Bengaluru. The quality of life for most people living in such a setup was not optimal, to put it mildly. The opportunity made sense from all angles—there was a large market (more than 5 million people), significant scope for operational efficiency and an opportunity to completely redefine the way people live, by adding a strong community feeling.
So, we started with a business model of signing up operators under our brand and standardizing the quality, very similar to what Oyo does in hotels. In a span of six months, we had 20,000 beds in our portfolio. However, we quickly realized that by simply becoming another player on the top and trying to standardize a certain process, we were not able to significantly enhance customer experience. We had to take a tough call: whether to quickly become a large but inconsistent customer experience player, or take matters into our own hands and spend a little more than doing just that. We decided to do the latter and moved to a full stack model where we would ourselves take care of all the customer needs—getting a building, furnishing it, providing housekeeping, food, Wi-Fi, DTH, repairs and maintenance, and adding a feeling of belongingness by building communities.
We had to pay a hefty fee for it—we moved from having 20,000 beds to zero overnight, which impacted our fundraising efforts at the time. However, that move paid off significantly for us. This is not to say that glitches never happen now, but now we can do something about them and learn to not repeat them.