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SimplyGuest - A Technology-based Platform for Private and Shared Rental Spaces

SimplyGuest has recently tied up with Gati to offer its tenants a hassle-free move in and move out experience from its homes in Bangalore. With this tie-up, Gati now becomes an exclusive logistics partner of SimplyGuest.

Bengaluru-based SimplyGuest provides fully-furnished homes to singles, working professionals, and couples in close proximity to their workplaces. The accommodation is completely managed and hassle-free; rent is inclusive of all monthly bills including electricity, water, 20-100mbps WiFi, DTH, unlimited LPG, domestic help, repairs and maintenance. SimplyGuest takes care of finding qualified flatmates as well as their entries and exits. Tenants can move in to any house in our network at no extra cost when they change jobs or workplaces. SimplyGuest also provides bicycles on rent for an easy commute and recommends a curated list of cooks and maids to the people living at SimplyGuest homes.

SimplyGuest recently started a professional hostel as well. The attempt here is to change and improve many aspects of traditional PGs. For starters, the food offered at these hostels is of high quality. There are monthly audits to ensure that food standards, safety and hygiene are maintained. There are no curfews in these hostels.

In an interaction with BW Disrupt, SimplyGuest’s founders shared details about their venture.

What made you start SimplyGuest and what problem does it solve?

The original idea was actually very different. We set out to certify rental houses along the lines of certifying used cars. We would certify a house for its livability quotient by trying to answer questions such as, ‘is there a provision for a washing machine?’, ‘are there enough plugs in the house and are they all working?’, ‘is the geyser working and what its capacity is?’ and so on. But unlike certified cars, people weren’t willing to pay for certified rental houses. They would rather go through the difficulties of living in a suboptimal house than to pay for it.

So then we pivoted to PG aggregation. That didn’t work either, as PG owners weren’t open to upgrading their facilities with technology. However, during the research for this project, we visited numerous PGs and realized that they were nothing short of cattle-houses. Even if you were willing to pay a higher monthly rent, you couldn’t find a decent PG. That’s when we decided to create an alternative to paying guest accommodation. We rented a flat in an upscale apartment society, furnished it with everything a family would require, got a very good WiFi connection, DTH, LPG, made the kitchen functional and hired domestic help; it was everything one could possibly ask for in a house. People could rent rooms in a good apartment without worrying about finding other flatmates. Very soon, the flat was fully occupied and that was our Eureka moment.

Bangalore attracts a lot of singles; many of them earn well and don’t want to compromise on the quality of their lifestyle. At the same time, they don’t want the hassle of finding flatmates or managing the consequences of changing flatmates such as splitting furnishing costs, adjusting security deposits, paying and splitting bills, managing the house overall etc. This is exactly the problem that we have set out to solve.

What were you doing before this startup?

Subbu Athikunte is a software engineer with deep experience in all aspects of software development. He worked at Apigee (later acquired by Google) before quitting to start SimplyGuest. He has worked on distributed systems, analytics, big data, cloud computing, UI, devops and nearly everything else in the field of large-scale software projects.

Ambareesha used to work on civil and PWD projects before SimplyGuest. He is very experienced in setting up and managing ground operations of infrastructure projects.

Mayank Pokharna has worked with Indian start-ups like Practo and Cuemath in their hyper-growth phase. In his previous role as a chief of staff at Cuemath, he worked on streamlining multiple business processes to drive productivity and sales. At Practo, he was responsible for creating and managing end to end operations and business intelligence processes.He was a SimplyGuest customer before joining hands with Subbu and Ambarish.

Where is your startup based out of? Why do you think that is the best place for you?

SimplyGuest is based out of Bangalore. Bangalore attracts a lot of youngsters; it has a cosmopolitan culture. Unlike cities like Mumbai which contain traditional industries Bangalore’s is made up of knowledge based industries. People who come here don’t want to compromise on their freedom, and the quality of their lifestyle. At the same time, they don’t want the hassle of finding flatmates or managing the consequences of changing flatmates such as splitting furnishing costs, adjusting security deposits, paying and splitting bills, managing the house overall etc. This is exactly matches the king of problem we are trying to address and hence it is the best place for us.

Who are your competitions and how are you better than them?

We compete head-on with companies like Nestaway, Homigo, Colive, SquarePlums, StayAbode, etc. PGs are still relevant and provide advantages that a distributed model like SimplyGuest can't provide. They are concentrated living spaces and take advantages that come from economies of scale. This concentration makes operations easier. Some upscale paying guest accommodations are extremely well operated.

We provide a completely ready-to live house and we manage day-to-day operations of a house. It’s like having a homemaker on hire. All repairs, maintenance, bill payments, are taken care by us.

Our average tenancy duration is 7 months which is more than we initially expected. We make living in shared accommodation very easy. Our tenants are guaranteed that they will continue to pay the same rent even when other tenants move out; this removes the dependence on flatmates. Even if only one person is currently occupying a house, they will have access to all utilities, connections, domestic help and all other services. We ensure housekeeping gets done regularly.

We have an online expense sharing tool (like splitwise) for flatmates to split expenses among themselves; these expenses then get settled along with the rent so that tenants don’t have to open their wallets every time they have to split bills. We also assist with deep cleaning whenever there is a need for it. Ultimately, our customers get predictable rents, and a consistent, quality living experience throughout their stay. We provide a curated network of house service providers like cooks, water can providers, housekeeping staff and certified meal delivery services. We want to integrate more services in the future and make living alone still easier.

We have also built a robust payments system. All payments - rent, security deposit, bills, and owner payments - are executed online. Tenants get an itemized rent invoice and they can pay through a computer or a mobile phone using any mode of their choice. We also have technology to manage all backend operations that can generate rental agreements, manage internal tenant movements, manage assets in the property, manage house keys, etc. very efficiently.

How hard is it to have a work life balance as a startup founder and how do you manage it?

We are on the ground most of the times showing homes, servicing guests and scouting opportunity. Sometimes we meet at Mayank’s place when we have to discuss anything. Each one of us work on our own, wherever we feel comfortable. There is no life, it’s just work.

Have you raised any funding round so far?

We are self-funded and bootstrapped. Our focus was to build the product and services until now. We are in a pretty good shape now to raise external capital; we are looking to raise funds. We have been talking to many investors. We have rejected an acquisition attempt from a major company who is trying to enter this segment.

What gets you excited about this company?

We are excited about the opportunity in front of us. We are solving a fundamental problem people face, reliable housing. As commuting time to workplace gets longer, people prefer staying closer their workplaces. It also encompasses food, security, travel, housekeeping, utility connections, a lot of house related issues. This industry has been unorganized. We are excited about these problems and we are in the right position at the right time to find effective solutions.

How much of revenue you expect by the end of 2018, or in five years down the line?

We are expecting Rs. 4-6 crores gross rent collection by end of 2018 and in five years about Rs. 150 crores. We intend to grow sustainably solving the critical pain points for our customers.

What is the percent of growth you have been witnessing since its commencement?

We have grown 200% year-on-year since we started in 2015. We are expecting 300% growth in 2018. We aren't looking beyond 2018 as of now as we want to solve what we have at hand now.

Are you planning to target any other market apart from Bangalore?

We are not looking to expand to other cities for now. Covering all of Bangalore is our priority. But anything can change once we accept funding.

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