Software professional Renju Rajan was part of the "exodus" of working professionals from metros to their hometowns.
A majority of these professionals had been staying at hostels and paying guest accommodations. Being asked to be sheltered in place and work remotely, many chose to get back to their hometowns as their work could be carried out from anywhere, with good internet connectivity.
In some cases, the hostels temporarily shut down, factoring in the challenges of running these units in the midst of a pandemic.
Renju, now in Kochi, will return to the metro only next year because, as things stand now, she can work from home at least until the end of 2020.
When she moves into a hostel then, she would want it to tick the boxes of hygiene and health, and of course, scope for social distancing.
Sanjay Chugh, Chennai head and senior vice president, ANAROCK Property Consultants, declares that hostels and PGs have to re-prioritise their systems in favour of hygiene and safety to be relevant now.
A survey conducted by NoBroker.com finds that tenants hitherto living in PGs are taking a more favourable view of shared houses and co-living accommodation, because they believe in these spaces they can control certain factors, including social distancing (co-living space is different from a hostel, in that an array of extra amenities are available). Thirty-six percent of the 7500 persons surveyed said they were considering to shift to shared houses; 34% expressed that they would move to co-living apartments.
Besides the greater scope for social distancing, a drop in rentals of individual homes is said to be factor for this shift in mindset.
Among those who expressed a preference for co-living and shared accommodation, 73% said they needed an individual room, said the report. Close to 46% of the respondents said the rental budget they are looking for should be less than ₹8000 per month while 23.5% said that their rental budget was between ₹ 8000 and ₹ 12000 per month.
“The market share will start increasing for organised co-living players as against unorganised PGs,” says Sanjay Chugh. There are already indications of this trend. Aarusha Homes, which runs hostels in Bengaluru, Pune and Hyderabad, is currently running with 30% occupancy. In the coming months, it is planning to start revamping its spaces to give them a new look with modern furnishings. The number of beds in each of its facilities is also being reduced.
CoLive, Stanza Living, Zolostay, Oyo and Netaway are some players in this emerging segment.
Zolostays, a co-living platform operating in 10 cities, has started investing in PGs and hostels hit by crisis.
“We have locked and signed 13,000 beds across the cities we operate,” says Nikhil Sikri, co-founder, Zolostays. “Of this, the maximum is found in the National Capital Region, Pune, Chennai and Bengaluru in that order."
In Chennai the demand is largely for apartment complexes being turned into co-living units. In Bengaluru, it is about hostels being converted into such units, he says. Sikri says, “We do up the space completely right from the façade and add a host of amenities, which include a co-working area.”