These co-living startups are helping tenants sail through Covid-19

The co-living space with a market size of $6.6 billion usually works on a lock-in period system. “We are not a hotel where people come for a few weeks to stay and leave,” said an industry player.
Last month, Sai Ashok Madugula was handed the pink slip by a  start-up in Hyderabad, citing a financial crunch because of the  pandemic. The biggest worry for him was paying the rent from his savings.

Madugula had been staying at Zolo Twins, a co-living property owned by Zolostays, for over six months. To his surprise, he got an email from Nikhil Sikri, co-founder and CEO of Zolostays, stating that his monthly rent of Rs 8,500 had been waived for July and August.

“We don’t want to go bankrupt but help as much as we can. It should be in the bearable zone,” said Sikri, a doctor turned entrepreneur who started his co-living venture Zolostays in 2015.

The Nexus Venture Partners-backed platform has so far waived the rents of 600 such persons who’ve lost their jobs since the Covid outbreak. The open-ended offer at its properties around the country has meant a Rs 1-crore hit for the start-up, and the figure could well rise.

Bengaluru-headquartered Colive, which has an inventory of 26,000 beds in Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai and Pune, is coming out with a similar plan. A tenant who’s lost his/her job in the past two months will get a rent waiver of 45 to 60 days.

“We sent the invoice for July to our 7,000 residents but they can raise a concern on our app if they face difficulty in paying the rent,” said a company spokesperson.

The firm had run a ‘Rent Free June’ offer for people who moved in at its properties last month. It helped some 250 new tenants. The offer cost the company Rs 22 lakh. Not surprisingly, its June booking surged by 20 per cent over the previous month.

Tiger Global-backed Nestaway, which in March acquired StayAbode Ventures, is also giving waivers on a case to case basis for patrons living at its co-living arm, Hello World. The company has been reached by over 20 tenants for waivers this month so far. Hello World owns 20,000 beds across 17 cities in India. Some 15,000 of these have been reserved for working professionals and the rest for students.

The co-living space with a market size of $6.6 billion usually works on a lock-in period system. “We are not a hotel where people come for a few weeks to stay and leave,” said an industry player.

With the Covid situation leading to a shut down of colleges and offices, Colive is running a programme called Flexistays, under which tenants can stay as long as they wish.

Oyo Life, the co-living arm of Oyo, has not withheld security deposits for residents who had to leave without serving a notice period. “Further, we have waived penalties on delayed rental payments including corporates experiencing difficult times due to irregular cash flows,” said an Oyo Life spokesperson.

Another co-living player Guesture, which has properties in Bengaluru, is letting go rent from those tenants, especially students, who went home after exams and got stuck due to the lockdown. 

“Those customers who are currently staying with us are paying the rent in full. But we are not charging rent from those who are not staying with us but their luggage in some cases are at our facilities,” said Sriram Chitturi, founder, Guesture. Zolostays’ 15-member HR team has also started dedicating time to help its tenants look for jobs. It plans to start webinars from next weekend to help patrons crystallise their resumes via workshops.

Co-working players are also in talks with tenants to offer discounts and reduce rents. According to sources, SoftBank-backed WeWork has reduced tariff for its tenants. "When it comes to the WeWork community, the business type knows no bounds. We are working together with all our members to support their unique business needs and are focussed to protect our long-standing relationships with our members, landlords and other partners." said Karan Virwani, CEO, WeWork India.

Another player, Smartworks is also providing flexible options to members. “Our members are free to use any of our centres - intercity or intra-city- to ensure less travel and exposure and to keep the business operations up and running at no additional costs,” said Neetish Sarda, founder of Smartworks.

The company is also offering discounts to clients on a case-to-case basis.

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