Ravi Sharma, CEO and co-founder of coliving operator Respublica talks to SAN about rolling out the brand and how the pandemic has made us demand more from our homes.
• What is your background in the hotel/hospitality space?
“I have a background in residential development and technology. My brother and I founded an B2B e-commerce platform out of university, which we sold in 2016. In 2005 we also started Elysian Homes Ltd which developed design-led homes in London, Surrey and Kent. With Respublica we knew it was all about the overall member experience and wanted to bring a strong hospitality skill set in house from the start. We brought on board three former IHG executives who had deep sector experience but were natural disruptors that wanted the freedom to execute their ideas in a more radical way.”
• Can you tell us about the Respublica brand and what makes it different from its peers?
“Respublica is about providing an unparalleled living experience at exceptional value. We are obsessively focused on the details that contribute towards creating a great living experience. There are no silver bullets, the brand experience is built upon 100+ small and sometimes imperceptible things from the air quality, to the comfort of the chairs in our workspace, to the warmth of our team. That said, one of our big brand promises is superior vale.”
“In terms of our shared living offering we are creating a price points that sits at least 25 per cent below the all inclusive cost of renting a one-bedroom in the same area. And this is whilst having proper useable spaces — an ensuite bathroom, a big kitchen and lounge shared with only a few people, gym, dedicated workspace, on site team etc. Another key differentiator is our focus on fostering a genuine, vibrant community. We encourage and facilitate people coming together at all levels, as a household, a building and as a neighbourhood. For example we’ve had some incredible events and festivals on our site in Camberwell already and have seen the impact of how that is bringing people together.”
• Your Camberwell project will contain a number of mixed-use elements. How did you decide upon the right elements for the site?
“Camberwell represents an extremely exciting opportunity to create a new urban quarter in an area we consider to be one of London’s best kept secrets. We want to bring together a genuine mix of live, stay, work and play that embraces the fluidity of how people want to use space. Our lives becoming less siloed — we believe people will increasingly want the freedom to transition effortlessly and conveniently through complimentary spaces and offerings. The other major ambition was to capture the creative energy of the neighbourhood which has a thriving arts culture. We have homes for rent, an apart-hotel focused on extended stay, art studios, co working, an all day cafe, roof top lounge and terrace, and lot of green spaces.”
• Your proposed coliving units are larger than in most other London projects — does this mean you are targeting a different demographic? And who do you see as your co-living customers?
“Our core offering going forward is actually a blended BTR and shared living model. This contains a broad choice of unit types from private one-bedroom apartments to four-bedroom apartments specifically designed for sharing. We want to give our members choice and the ability to stay with us even as their life circumstances evolve and change. All our buildings will have great shared amenity spaces, on site hospitality teams and a strong focus on 360 degree wellness. We want to encourage a diverse and inclusive member base that isn’t necessarily defined by income and age, but has a shared psychographic. Our members prioritise experiences, are open-minded, aspirational and community-orientated. They have strong design sensibility, expect digital and frictionless user journeys and gravitate towards authentic brands that align with their personal values.”
• What are your roll-out plans for the brand?
“Very soon we hope to announce several new developments in our pipeline. We are increasingly working with housebuilders and developers on a forward fund/purchase basis where we can input pre-planning and guarantee them an exit with an institutional covenant. We are focused on building a critical mass in London before looking at other key gateway cities.”
• How do you anticipate the pandemic will affect your projects’ design and operations?
“The pandemic has certainly accelerated a number trends that were already at play and the net result of that is we are all demanding more from our homes. I think that will continue to the be the case. In addition to sleeping, cooking and lounging, we need to be able to work effectively, have great outdoor spaces, optimise our physical and mental health, be rooted to a community and have a sense of connection. These are things we were already thinking about, but the pandemic has underscored their importance. From a risk management perspective — we of course need to plan for adaptability of spaces, operations and communication to cope with potential future emergencies.”
• Where do you see the Respublica brand in five and 10 years’ time?
“In the near term our focus is to build our pipeline of assets in London and iterate and improve our offering continuously, such that we have loyal members that love and value what we do. Sharing our ambitions beyond this seems premature right now, so let’s keep in touch and see how we do.”
This story was originally posted a year ago on ServicedApartmentNews.com
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