Nearly 31% of India’s urban population resided in rental housing before the pandemic upended our lives. While the first wave saw an exodus from cities to hometowns, the second wave is seeing individuals and organizations adopting a more long-term outlook.
More than a year since the ‘work from home’ culture kicked-in for white-collared workers, organizations have started negotiating for hybrid work-live spaces and are expecting employees to relocate to economic hubs. Similarly, industry owners are eager to retain workers on campus to ensure greater safety and production control.
“This trend is only going to see an upward trajectory, given that 65% of the country’s population falls within the ‘Under 35’ age group, and does not have the resources or requirement for owning homes. Yet, most governments as well as private interventions, so far, have been focused on home ownership rather than rental housing to meet the gap in urban housing infrastructure,” said Sriram Chitturi, President, Rental Housing Association of India (RHAI) and Founder of Guesture, a pioneering co-living start-up based in Bengaluru.
Typically, flexible rental and co-living solutions offer access to affordable, safe, and healthy spaces that offer ‘Walk to Work’ convenience. During the pandemic, these features have become imperative, contributing to the industry’s growth. Companies such as Guesture, an early mover in the organized rental housing category, are able to facilitate this by following a concentrated inventory model in micro-markets that are located in neo-economic hubs across cities.
“Most of our micro-markets are in proximity to mass urban transport solutions or within a two-km range of the nearest railway station,” noted Sriram. “We target the working population – two-three lacs or more – within a five-km radius. The aim is for our residents to have access to good social infrastructure, business connectivity, and public transport – all key requisites for a healthy urban housing experience,” he explained.
Further, such spaces are designed to be self-sufficient and have a strong focus on safety and hygiene. “This in in sync with the vision shared by member companies of the RHAI. Safety and hygiene serve as the two key pillars of quality shared rental housing, regardless of affordable or premium properties. This vision is crucial for our survival and success,” said Sriram.
The demand for hybrid co-living models is led by the fact that they deliver optimal, 360-degree, tech-enabled results, both from the employers’ and employees’ perspectives. These fully customized solutions in premium apartment complexes are facilitating business continuity, increased productivity and enhanced innovation for companies, without compromising on employees’ safety and comfort.
Apart from housing solutions, they also offer co-working spaces, incubation spaces, and more. These well-planned amenity spaces blur the lines between work, play and learn, to match the work-life integration needs, which have only become more pronounced since the pandemic.
“Unlike traditional housing, co-living solutions are built around the requirements of various micro-communities, including tech-driven corporates,” maintained Sriram. Guesture’s Hybrid Satellite Centre, for instance, enables teams to live, work, play and socialize within a healthy, safe and diligently controlled environment that closely simulates the office experience. “It resolves employee mobility and availability issues, enhances team interaction, and addresses data security and productivity concerns as well as Service Level Agreements (SLA) compliance challenges,” he noted.
Seizing the opportunity
Apart from corporates and urban professionals, hyper-local economic hubs and SEZs are estimated to significantly contribute to this model’s growth. They are emerging as a key micro-community for need-based rental housing solutions.
Focused co-living solutions, such as Quarters by Guesture – a distinctive offering that caters to the housing needs of industrial workforces, nurses, gig workers, associates of tech aggregators and blue-collar workers – are expected to be key growth drivers. There’s a huge opportunity to facilitate staff housing solutions in various industrial clusters across India based on the Government of India’s Affordable Rental Housing Complexes (ARHCs)’s policy.
“We aim to manage over one million beds (100 million sq.ft), including two lakh beds for blue-collared migrants, across 25 micro-markets in six geographies of the country. We are actively pushing for collaborations with Invest India to provide rental housing solutions on a service model at manufacturing campuses,” said Sriram.
RHAI has also proposed a partnership with private players using a build and manage model, to speed up the availability of quality and provide shared rental housing solutions for all. The pandemic is fast-tracking a trend that could help resolve India’s affordable housing challenge, especially with regards to migrant housing.
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However, its success depends on the active onboarding of various stakeholders, including government bodies and industrial associations, to recognize this unique market opportunity and give it the rightful thrust it deserves for sustained growth.