COVID-19 is a “Black Swan” event that happens once in 100 years. This catastrophic event has affected all business spheres, including rentals and properties. YourOwnROOM is a Bengaluru-based residential proptech rental and property management business that provides space of online managed rentals for singles.
Prabhat Kumar Tiwari, Co-founder of YourOwnROOM, spoke to YourStory about how the sales process has stopped completely but they are trying to keep the team motivated by building internal capabilities.
“We have run focused workshops, to enhance our products, execution and technology. In the near future, job opportunities will be optimised,” says Prabhat.
Founder of YourOwnRoom, Prabhat (right)
He tells that, initially, the team found it difficult to comprehend the gravity of the situation.”We were initially in a denial mode till the trial lockdown was announced. The first thing we did was to set up a COVID-19 task force which included the founders, senior executives, and managers from Sales, Operations, and Technology. The task force then drove decisions, and did planning and execution.”
They reached out to their tenants through all channels including the app, website and email. The startup informed them about the situation, and advised them to observe social distancing and personal hygiene, as well as stay away from socialising at the premises. Further, they identified all move-ins and move-outs, and worked with their vendors to accelerate the move-ins wherever possible.
The team had to put together a Work from Home Policy, and asked all the employees to observe the same. They implemented a daily standup call through Zoom. They noted that the technology team’s productivity had significantly gone up as they did not have any distractions.
YOR’s strategy was to acquire high-quality assets in good locations and secure societies, which are comfortable and provides tenants with a great quality of life. As almost all the tenants are in a “Work from Home” mode, there is a general appreciation of the startup’s value proposition.
There is also a sense of anxiety among tenants who are interns, and people working in companies/ industries highly affected by COVID-19. Some of them have asked for flexibility in paying rentals.
The impact of COVID-19 was felt by the densely populated rental set ups such as PGs. Several of the tenant’s’ friends, who stay in PGs, reported of being arbitrarily asked to vacate with no notice. On hearing the same, YOR sales team ran a campaign and extended their properties with an open hand to accommodate any such guests.
Paying rentals on time and keeping them updated on property audits and tenancy is key to winning their confidence and signing multiple-year MoUs. “Being close to our tenants and our assets is of utmost importance. Clarifying questions raised by owners and keeping them updated on tenancy, rentals and state of the property creates transparency which is the biggest confidence-building initiative,” says Prabhat.
Retention and Renewal
In the last 4 years of operations, YOR has realised that to have a consistent growth in the industry, one has to maintain high levels of retention and renewal. This needs to be embedded in the organisation at a cultural level across all functions. “It starts with getting the right asset and tenants, and engaging them actively in solving their service requests/clarification and managing the asset,” says Sanjay Singh, VP – Operations.
It also means making hard decisions with regards to holding assets and tenants in the long-term interest of the organisation. To effect that, YOR has adopted a Net Promoter Score method of valuing every tenant.
Work from Home
Work from Home is now the new normal, with employers leveraging this to significantly bring down their real estate costs which have always been on the rise. However, this also demands quality digital infrastructure like uninterrupted and stable power supply, and good wifi connection. “These will be important criteria as we acquire more homes and buildings. With increased WFHs over time, the community engagements will become a key norm as your homes become your workplace. As friends and colleagues in the office become more virtual, individuals will rely more on their co-living mates for social support,” says Prabhat.
Sachin Joshi, Prabhat Kumar Tiwary, Rewat Laxman
Scaling proptech platform
YOR’s proptech platform – which includes the portal, mobile app, and Business Process Engine – scaled up significantly during the lockdown. It serves as a single source for all business processes, and implementing accounting and payment processes – minimising people-related dependency. YOR’s entire operations and sales across locations are built and mapped on the platform.
“The demand influx for managed living will see a surge post COVID-19. Fear of poor economic conditions will force owners to look for higher occupancy and rental yields,” says Sachin Joshi, Chief Sales and Product Officer.
YOR, with its large inventory base in Bengaluru and Pune, is evaluating the possibility of large apartments to offer a sweet entry point for new buyers. They typically run houses with large room sizes and plan to unlock more homes in the cities in the next 60 days to stabilise supply against the predicted demand.
On revenue growth for the industry
Showing high Gross Merchandise Volume (GMV) by cutting corners on the rental arbitrage, lower deposits and lock-ins, and compromising quality of tenants, assets and operations increase sales and operations costs of the properties, leading to cash collection issues. The crisis has harmed organisations that focused merely on GMV, with dropping economic indicators leading to owners resetting their expectations around rentals.
YOR says increasing sales velocity of these properties by channeling the demand through the platform will offset the gap between rents of the old days and post COVID-19 world. YOR’s varsity engine will educate owners on expectations around return on investment in the coming times“It is hence important to build a long-term sustainable business with long-term tenant contracts and pick good profile tenants. For this business to succeed, you need to look at this business from a long-term rental perspective and not from a short-term hospitality perspective,” adds Prabhat.
Source: Your Story