Crafting Tomorrow's Living: Aditya Surneni & Boston Living Chronicles

Crafting Tomorrow's Living: Aditya Surneni & Boston Living Chronicles
Aditya Surneni: Director and COO of Boston Living
StartupTalky presents Recap'23, a series of in-depth interviews where we engage with founders and industry leaders to explore their growth in 2023 and their predictions for the future.

The co-living space industry is transforming urban living with shared housing models. Providing furnished rooms and communal spaces fosters a sense of community and affordability. Popular among young professionals and students, co-living spaces offer flexible leases and amenities. Tech-driven platforms streamline bookings and enhance the resident experience.

The global co-living market is projected to achieve $8.9 billion by 2025, with a robust CAGR of 16.3% from 2019 to 2025. Simultaneously, India's co-living sector anticipates a substantial CAGR of 17%, nearing INR USD 40 billion in the next five years. Projections suggest doubling India's co-living market by 2024, reaching 450,000 beds by year-end.

In a recent Recap'23 interview, we at StartupTalky had the privilege of connecting with Aditya Surneni, Director and COO of Boston Living. We explored Boston Living's unique approach to co-living, uncovering their industry strategies.

StartupTalky: What service does Boston Living provide? What was the motivation/vision with which you started?

Aditya Surneni: Boston Living is one of India's largest premium co-living spaces. Currently, we house 555 beds, with over 530 beds consistently occupied, within our expansive 1.6L sq. ft. property.

Our rental approach is simple: we offer stays on a per-bed basis across three categories: cozy, comfy, and plush. Each category distinguishes itself through amenities such as laundry, housekeeping, electricity inclusion, bed linen, and room decor. The quality and finish of our rooms reflect our commitment to providing a comfortable living experience.

As a hospitality partner for corporates, we accommodate their employees on a short-term basis. Our top priority is the safety and security of our residents, particularly women. To ensure this, we have implemented innovative access management systems.

Beyond the essentials, our property features diverse facilities to keep our residents engaged – from a late-night food truck and quaint bistro to a well-equipped gym, game room, co-working space, and even a football turf.

Our journey began with a vision to address a gap in the Hyderabad market for premium, convenient, and comfortable accommodation. Boston Living was established as a modern housing solution, sparing residents the hassle of dealing with expensive brokers and furnishing stores. Here, individuals can arrive with their bags and find a fully furnished home with all the necessary amenities under one roof.

We are driven by a desire to foster a sense of community for our residents. Our founders aimed to create more than just a living space. Boston Living has evolved into a place where individuals not only co-exist but also enjoy each other's company, forming a closely-knit community. We aspire to become the global go-to brand for managed residences. Offering fully furnished, ready-to-move-in spaces. 

StartupTalky: What new services have been added in the past year? What is/are the USP/s of Boston Living?

Aditya Surneni: At Boston Living, we're not just a hospitality brand; we are enthusiasts of the community lifestyle. Our aim is to establish spacious co-living spaces that not only foster engagement but also enhance operational efficiency through economies of scale.

What sets us apart is our commitment to a community-driven approach. We firmly believe that a joyful and comforting home is created through the shared experiences and memories formed with fellow residents. The enduring loyalty of our customer base is a testament to the invaluable connections forged through networking during events and as roommates.

To further enrich the communal experience, we've introduced an in-house app tailored to our space. This app facilitates online connections among residents, fostering meaningful relationships while respecting individual privacy. The positive response and appreciation from our residents for this addition reinforce our belief in the power of community-driven living.

StartupTalky: How has the coliving industry changed in recent years, and how has Boston Living adapted to these changes?

Aditya Surneni: In the thriving coliving industry, our focus on the luxury segment with premium services sets us apart from competitors. The rising demand for rental housing in major metro cities, fueled by the return-to-office trend, positions coliving as an appealing choice for millennials and Gen Z seeking a hassle-free, ready-to-move-in setup. Our commitment to providing top-notch accommodation, housekeeping, food, fitness amenities, and engaging community activities distinguishes us as the only coliving player offering this full suite under one roof. Recognizing the trend towards private living spaces, we've upgraded our existing property inventory and incorporated this into the planning for upcoming properties. 

Aditya Surneni: One of the key approaches to staying relevant is by remaining ahead of the curve. This involves a keen awareness of trends, understanding customer perspectives, actively participating in industry events, and fostering connections. It's essential to pay special attention to trends as they are significantly influenced by the evolving needs of customers.

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StartupTalky: What key metrics do you track to check Boston Living's growth and performance?

Aditya Surneni: We tailor our metrics to suit the nuances of our industry. We closely track key indicators such as occupancy percentage, sales cycles, and resident feedback. Additionally, we focus on specific metrics like the average revenue per bed per month and the time it takes to address resident-raised tickets across various categories. These metrics, among others, provide valuable insights into the progress and performance of our company.

StartupTalky: What were the most significant challenges Boston Living faced in the past year, and how did you overcome them?

Aditya Surneni: One of the persistent challenges we encounter involves optimizing costs as our property matures. We strategically utilize technology to implement preventive maintenance procedures, ensuring the efficiency of our operations. We employ various data-driven techniques to identify areas with significant operational expenditures, such as repairs, new acquisitions, housekeeping essentials, and linen. Our focus is on establishing enduring partnerships with vendors to achieve favourable costs and elevate the quality of our products. Maintaining a consistent customer flow to occupy our accommodations is important. To facilitate this, our sales team relies on a robust CRM tool, allowing for effective tracking of both existing and potential customers.

Regarding rent adjustments, historically a sensitive matter, we have navigated the process smoothly by introducing changes gradually. This approach minimizes resistance and ensures a more seamless transition for all parties involved.

StartupTalky: Good service is something everyone is talking about in the service industry. How do you ensure that the clients of Boston Living are happy?

Aditya Surneni: The key to keeping a client happy is understanding them. One of the most effective ways is by communicating with them regularly to understand their day-to-day needs and challenges. The community managers and the guest relations team strive to know the basic details of every resident who stays on the property by personally meeting them and checking if they need any customization or if there is a scope for improvement.

Any issue is immediately raised with the management team, and depending upon the number of residents facing the issue/size of the issue, we immediately resolve it. Our guests treat our community managers as their go-to people/ friends. It helps us in establishing a long-term association with our guests resulting in a sustained relationship with our customers.

StartupTalky: What are the different strategies you use for marketing? Tell us about any growth hack that you pulled off.

Aditya Surneni: Our brand has been built because of the positive word of mouth we get from our residents. They not only become repeat customers but also refer us to their friends, colleagues, and family members visiting/moving to Hyderabad. Influencer marketing has also helped tremendously to push our brand forward.

StartupTalky: Foreign clients- this is what most of the service-based companies are looking for. What has been your experience?

Aditya Surneni: While not a frequent occurrence, we do get opportunities to welcome foreign guests in Hyderabad on a short-term basis. The concept of coliving is more established abroad. The appeal lies in the opportunity to reside in a fully furnished home equipped with high-end security and complimentary access to amenities like a gym, Zumba studio, cafeterias, and laundry facilities.  

StartupTalky: What are the important tools and software you use to run Boston Living smoothly?

Aditya Surneni: In our hospitality setting, we've incorporated a paperless approach, firmly grounding our belief in the pivotal role of technology within the hospitality industry. Our commitment extends to digitizing every facet of both the customer journey and our backend operations.

Diverging from conventional hotel practices, when guests provide their information on tablets, we take an additional step to delve into their interests and skills. This information allows us to curate events tailored to their preferences. Upon check-in, guests seamlessly transition into a customized mobile application. Here, they can interact with fellow residents, raise service requests via the app instead of using an intercom or calling the reception, pay rentals, and book amenities.

From a managerial standpoint, this technological integration has yielded valuable insights into the level of community engagement among residents. It assists in tracking the timelines for resolving housekeeping or linen change requests, which enables us to enhance operational service level agreements (SLAs). We can also gauge the regular usage of provided amenities, and residents even have the capability to monitor the pH value of drinking water.

Operationally, we've replaced traditional books and registers with asset management software for day-to-day housekeeping and proactive maintenance. This includes tracking in-house inventory down to the smallest items like tissue boxes, planning, assigning, and tracking our maintenance calendar. 

StartupTalky: What opportunities do you see for future growth in the coliving industry in India and the world? What kind of difference in market behavior have you seen between India and the world?

Aditya Surneni: Co-living is truly versatile, transcending geographical boundaries. Its adaptability allows us to implement this concept anywhere in the world, tailoring community engagement to the specific characteristics of each region. The potential for growth is boundless.

We observe a significant alignment between coliving and employee accommodation. There's a growing trend where more companies and startups are leaning towards coliving providers to furnish both short and long-term accommodation for their employees.

In the Indian context, the value proposition of coliving centers more on the convenience it offers rather than emphasizing the community aspect. In contrast, outside India, customers are drawn to coliving because of the desire to belong to a community. While we anticipate a gradual shift in Indian customers' preferences towards the community aspect, it may not be the USP they seek when opting for coliving.

StartupTalky: What lessons did your team learn in the past year, and how will these inform your future plans and strategies?

Aditya Surneni: We truly value the benefits that technology brings to the table. One of the standout advantages is its capability to track operations, offering in-depth insights crucial for informed decision-making regarding costs and staff efficiency. This year, we introduced user-friendly maintenance and inventory management software. The feedback from our staff has been positive, and they've embraced its ease of use. As we move forward, we're keen on exploring enduring technology solutions for our upcoming properties to ensure seamless operations and continued efficiency gains.

StartupTalky: How do you plan to expand the customers, service offerings, and team base in the future?

Aditya Surneni: One of our flagship projects on the horizon is The Landing by Boston Living. It's set to be a groundbreaking premier co-living facility, a first of its kind, nestled in the airport of Hyderabad. The Aerocity, being one of the largest in India, hosts several multinational corporations, and the demand for quality housing in this area is pressing.

The concept behind it is to cater not only to the workforce of these corporations but also to airline crew, frequent airport visitors, and business clients. We've envisioned it as a space that resonates with the diverse needs of individuals associated with entities.

Looking ahead, our future endeavors include establishing similar properties in key areas of Bangalore and Chennai. By the close of 2023, we aspire to evolve The Landing into a 1500-bed property. Our broader vision extends to reaching five more cities and offering a total of 10,000 beds by the year 2026.

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StartupTalky: One tip that you would like to share with another service company founder?

Aditya Surneni: It's crucial to recognize that customer preferences are ever-evolving and dynamic. In any service-oriented business, staying flexible and adapting to these changes is key, and it's essential to make these adjustments proactively to emerge as the top choice for customers and outpace the competition.

In a service-centric company, it's not just the leadership; every team member, from the most senior to the most junior, should maintain close proximity to customers. As leaders, our role is to encourage the team to engage with customers at a detailed level. Creating an environment where the team can freely share their insights fosters a comprehensive growth atmosphere.

StartupTalky extends its gratitude to Mr. Aditya Surneni for dedicating his valuable time and generously sharing his insights with all of us.

Explore more Recap'23 Interviews here.

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