Use of technology: An enabler in the renting space – Times of India

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Deepak Anand, Co-Founder & CEO of Housr
A new generation of tech-enabled, real-estate companies are currently reshaping the hitherto unorganized landscape of young professionals and student housing across India. These new developers are offering what are being called ‘co-living’ spaces to professional millennials in search of affordable accommodation and friendly neighborhoods in new cities. The new apartment blocks offer shared, well-furnished, sustainable living spaces with fully equipped state-of-the-art tech, efficient housekeeping services and common lounges. The experience is not impersonal like hotels, but with all its comforts, yet it is non-intrusive unlike old-school PG set-ups where the landlords ruled. Hence, co-living is fast-emerging as a no-brainer option for single, immigrant professionals and higher-ed students.
What makes the spaces appealing?
What has made the spaces even more attractive to singletons is the convenience and community feeling these spaces offer to people. Often new to the city, struggling to find friends, made even more tough in the pandemic-induced scenarios—the young, tech-savvy millennials are flocking to these new spaces, pulled to them by the fantastically maintained, sleek, clean premises, promise of digital connectivity and a sense of inclusion. With some strict norms for safety, social distancing and hygiene—the co-living apartments become an enlarged family unto themselves without the baggage that often comes with genetic ties.  
Modern digital technology has proven to be a big enabler of this uber-convenient, ultra-modern, congenial new concept of rental housing. Right from locating the property to virtually viewing it, arranging the logistics and organizing shifting to the management of the locales as well as its scaling has been made possible with the use of technology. Indeed, the success of these co-living spaces for singletons has proven so successful that many players are now scaling and expanding into rental home spaces with similar concepts.
Technology enabling smart co-living
Technology is integrated into the very heart of these co-living spaces making it safer and more convenient for both the business as well as the residents who choose to live there.
Tech-enabled process support for onboarding and marketing:
As discussed, right from finding the space, to the paperwork and the actual moving and settling in processes are entirely digitally-enabled. Companies are investing in AI and machine learning to continually enhance the services, track customer behavior with data and provide bespoke products. For example, there are efficient processes in place for practically zero touch move-in. Companies offer detailed 360 virtual tours, online booking and organizing shifting for residents amongst other things.
On-premise tech for convenience and safety
Most co-living companies offer mobile apps that include built-in features for residents to report any problems, request meals, use laundry or housekeeping services, or even seek room or roommate changes. The system logs-in complaints and constantly uses data to push itself to perform better.
Understanding that safety and security are a top priority for residents – they ensure strict safety protocols are followed within the premises. These include biometric and facial recognition systems, 24-hour concierges, video surveillance and round-the-clock security guards.
Remote management:
Most developers have factored in very efficient remote management backend dashboards and visual data to enable any necessary on-site changes to perfect the living experiences without creating an intrusive physical presence. The companies are also careful to disallow any infringement on privacy when using these methodologies.
Social distancing and socializing enabled by tech:
In the post-pandemic scenario social distancing is a major concern for residents. At the same time, isolation woes have been on top of the distress list of a majority of people. The co-living spaces have mastered the art of ensuring safety and hygiene alongside a sense of communal living. One of the chief USPs of the co-living sector is its reliance on community. They ensure that tech is optimally utilized to create the necessary physical distancing while ensuring digital gatherings to engender a sense of community. Thus, they organize baking workshops, online games, and even social parties to facilitate interaction.
On the other hand, on-call doctors, virtual consults and first-aid facilities with trained paramedics are just a call away.  
Tech for generating new business leads and leveraging growth:
One of the things co-living space providers are promoting is ease of living across cities. So, if a user registers in one city and needs to travel to another, they are ensured a seamless experience in the company-run facility across cities. The online feedback generated on social platforms also goes a long way in creating awareness and generating leads for the business. Given the cleanliness and maintenance services of these firms, many non-resident property owners are signing up with them to lease out their space and list it with them.
Innovations in sustainable living:
Furthermore, co-living companies are constantly working on newer innovations to aid and improve customer experience and find shared, sustainable solutions. Right from smart refrigerators and TVs to logging customer preferences using data analytics, the companies are looking at offering bespoke, customized-tailored solutions to their loyal customer base—including looking at food and décor preferences as well as optimum temperatures or aromas within their private living spaces. Another thing that co-living spaces are looking at is gamification techniques to motivate tenant actions or trigger behaviour changes. These can then result in an increased participation in virtual events, help make changes to their power consumption habits and such to avoid wastage. Developers are also looking at designing spaces sustainably, working with sustainable materials, using natural and solar lighting amongst other out-of-box ideas.
The potential of the right technology allows for sustainable living solutions in shared spaces, which goes a long way towards encouraging a more humane, sensitive and sustainable mind-set. It is hence hardly surprising that co-living is being seen as a viable solution to overcrowded cities, and environmental degradation, as well as a way to conserve resources and live more harmoniously.
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Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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