Sandhya Soman

Operators recognise rising need for quality temporary accommodation; "concept of serviced apartment hinges on the cost factor" For the expatriates, cost is secondary when compared to a home-type atmosphere

CHENNAI: First came the apartments. Then came the `fully' furnished apartments. Now you have `serviced' apartments that seek to offer the best of both worlds -- home and hotel -- to the increasing number of short-stay corporate visitors to the city.

Star City, which already has six such properties, has started constructing a Rs. 22-crore serviced apartments complex on Poonamallee High Road.

The block consisting of 60 apartments with their own kitchenette, microwave, rice cooker and washing machine would also have star hotel facilities, including gym and pool, says managing director Muruga Bharathy. "We will open in 2007."

Ranjini Manian of Global Adjustments, a company that is primarily into expatriate relocation, has also recognised the rising need for quality temporary accommodation.

"The number of expats coming to the city has gone up and is growing. However, except for a few apartments maintained by some star hotels, we do not have a temporary accommodation industry," says Ms. Manian.

Global Adjustments, she says, is thinking of a serviced apartments facility at Sriperumbudur, right on the telecom corridor. The two-acre facility, proposed to come up next to the Nokia Special Economic Zone, will house executives who want to avoid the hassles of commuting. For quality living there would be entertainment zones, landscaped premises, work areas, kitchenettes and a grocery around the corner, says Ms. Manian.

For the expatriates, cost is secondary when compared to a home-type atmosphere.

The concept of serviced apartment hinges on the cost factor, says Mr. Muruga Bharathy.

Ernst & Young has 40 of its employees housed at Star City's three bedroom apartments.

"They are on a four-month training programme. The cost will be prohibitive if all of them are put up at star hotels," says Mr. Bharathy. Other than three bedroom apartments, Star has studio apartments and suites for families. The rate per day for a three-bedroom apartment is on par with any three star hotel. For a month, it will be around Rs. 40,000 plus electricity charges.

Inn Chennai has four types of rooms, says sales manager Seshadri. "It is Rs. 2,000 for the regular room and Rs. 3,500 plus taxes for single bedroom apartment. We also have a multi cuisine restaurant and travel desk just like a hotel."

However, the concept that is popular world over and well established in even neighbouring Bangalore is yet to take shape in the city, say industry insiders.

For many, a serviced apartment means a `fully furnished' place with some furniture and a television thrown in. "It works for people who come down for medical treatment. Moreover, with rise in land and construction prices, small operators find it difficult to survive in this sector unless they offer furnished apartments," says Mr. Bharathy.

Operators such as Baheerada Marthandan of Chennai Real Estate have their hands full.

"After Tidel Park came up, the rental demand has gone up," he says. Instead of Rs. 2,500, a newly `converted' single bedroom serviced apartment in Tiruvanmiyur fetches Rs. 7,000.

"Now I am constructing a block with eight apartments at Sholinganallur," he says.