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Why is Community Building Essential for the Success of a Business in the Co-Living Industry? From group outings to simply having another young person down the hall for a quick chat, it is a convenient way to find company

By Nikhil Sikri

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According to a 2017 report on the Indian housing market by JLL, nearly 40% of India's 28.1 million millennial workforce are migrants. Of the 34 million students pursuing higher education in India, approximately 10.4 million students travel across the country in search of programs with better facilities. While social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram offer virtual alternatives for socializing for millennials, the migrants often miss out on experiencing the meaning of "real socializing", due to language and cultural barriers in their host societies. Social isolation and loneliness are serious issues that affect the mental health and well-being of such individuals regardless of their gender, ethnicity, and place of residence. After all, no matter how many friends you have at work, you always want to come back to the comfort of your home at the end of the day.

The idea of co-living is to create a community-centred environment that not only provides privacy in living arrangements but also promotes social contact. Specially curated community in a co-living building fosters inclusivity that enables tenants to meet a variety of other individuals and expand their network. Firms that offer group activities within co-living spaces provide the opportunity for tenants to interact with other tenants, engage and build relationships. From group outings to simply having another young person down the hall for a quick chat, it is a convenient way to find company.

To drive community interaction, companies have employed several methods:

  • Co-living properties have state of the art lounges & common areas that are designed in such a way that it becomes the default place to hang out for all the residents. They put in well-loved board games and video games in the common areas. Furniture, furnishings and wall colors are used, specifically keeping the young customers in mind. Keeping in sync with the ongoing trends, use of recycled materials such as old bicycles, old guitars, used tyres, twigs and wood pieces for decoration is a common feature.

  • Companies are planning to use innovative technologies such as AI/ML in multiple projects to provide a better experience and value add for the customers.

  • Finding the best roommate: Co-living start-ups are trying to implement AI-based techniques to profile incoming residents to provide for the best roommate match for them based on occupation, education, interests, degrees of connection, etc.

  • Drive community engagement: Gamification techniques are being used on the co-living residents' app to induce behavioural change to increase resident participation in community events, interactions between residents and between residents and property staff.

  • More personalization: Augmented reality initiatives are also in the works for several start-ups, aiming to deliver personalized spaces for co-living residents where they can experiment, add and modify amenities within their rooms to create a more homely experience.

  • A lot of community-focused social events are organized to improve the social engagement between residents. Many co-living operators organize community-led events such as yoga classes, barbecue nights, laughter mashups, story-telling events and pizza nights for the modern-day city dwellers.

Co-living companies in India are meeting the unserved demand of migrant housing among students and young professionals, a $93 billion opportunity according to Prop tiger. Among intense competition from 15+ start-ups, many companies have been focusing on the community as a core value proposition due to the following reasons:

  • Digital nomads find UGC a more authentic content as it helps humanize the marketing by brands. Consumers are more likely to trust their peers recommending and advocating a brand than the brand itself making statements about its service. People want to know and understand other people's experiences before taking the plunge with a purchase. This becomes very important when you are selecting a place to stay.

  • Communities provide an active and engaging medium for companies to dive deeper into this pain point for users, not only working to solve the inquiry at hand, but also discovering other areas of innovation and improvement for products. It also provides a sounding board for bringing in new products and features to the co-living spaces.

  • Apart from the convenience and the gamut of add-on services that are available at co-living spaces, a strong community not only incentivizes customers to stay, but also makes them persist with the brand even if they have to switch to other cities.

In the end, co-living directly taps into today's plug and play living trend, creating a lifestyle-focused environment that aids in meeting new people, learning something new every day, innovating and collaborating for work-related aspects as well.

Nikhil Sikri

Co-Founder & CEO of Zolo

Armed with an MBBS from AIIMS and a management degree from ISB, Hyderabad, Dr. Nikhil Sikri is the driving force behind Zolo. Under his guidance, Zolo has grown to become India's largest co-living brand within a short span of three years. He comes with over 10 years of diverse experience in start-ups, management consulting, establishing companies’ sales footprints, and medicine. Nikhil has been actively involved in all aspects of building the business and in his role as a CEO is instrumental in setting strategies and providing invaluable entrepreneurial leadership
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