Building a dream beach house business, from lockdown lows

#WSH52 Spotlight

Meet our character, Khalil Amin 24 M, One of the Ninjas of the Sharing Economy.

With our spotlight series this week focuses on the rise, challenges and opportunities of the Sharing Economy. We look young people and how they have applied this to their side hustle.

Khalil lived in a suburb in Mumbai, but hails from Putthukari. A prosperous town near Travandrum. You drive past it on route to Varkala, a popular surfing and tourist beach.

Khalil studied in Pune to be an Engineer. He worked as a technical assistant to a popular event AV and Decor Lighting supplier. The young man had spent 4 years as a producer of wedding and live music lighting. This took a hit in 2020. The pandemic had put everything on standstill. His company paid well, but his pay package included workday variables. Event vendor companies do this to de-risk the low seasons. It’s normal. With the Pandemic, and no working shifts, this salary was unsustainable for Mumbai. He requested his company to allow him to work-from-home, but from Kerala. He offered to make himself useful and move to collections and business development. He kept the job. It was time to negotiate an exit from the flat, with his landlord, who was very understanding. This was a welcome surprise to him. His Rental contribution, in a shared appartment was now manageable. His continued base salary, and this covered this recurring expense.

Our protagonist, had little over 3 months of savings and drove back to Kerala. Once there, idle life was easy for the first month but he was itching, keen to explore what he could do. There were no part time jobs, but he knew the pandemic would ebb. He saw an opportunity to build a service business. Kerala towns, with expatriate empty second homes are unique. This is his neighborhood now. This could be his opportunity.

Village Life in Kerala

While traveling on Event Shows, he was aware of AirBnB, and traveller expectations. The sharing economy had made Internet based short term rentals, easy to get noticed.

In India, It’s not as simple as a remote lock box check-in and self served stay. These rooms need laundry & cleaning services. The Kerala State government requires a list of compliances, and IDs scanned at check ins, etc. This is the opportunity. Khalil took the effort to look up friends and relatives that had ‘locked’ second homes. A large number of vacant empty homes belonged to expats in the Gulf. They now, worked and lived abroad, and Khalil built out a casual offering, before making his first call.
The pandemic made second incomes welcome. The general tend of traditional salaries dropping. Uncertain times churn long standing, rigid . The home owners, cautious at first, love this short term rental idea.

Khalil’s offer was to manage these properties for short term rentals. He would operate and service these flats / homes for AirBnB and Hubloft listings. The service business would take 30% of the earnings. Against this, Khalils team of locals, provide cleaning, check in services. He himself photographed and listed the properties. He had an initial set up fee, that he discounted to zero, and set up the property on actuals (what ever he actually had to spend on it). The set-up operation procured, repaired and prepared them, with standard traveler expectations. This included stocking the toiletries, pantry, electric kettle among other things.

It was a lot of work for Khalil, and there was still no business. Every homeowner has his own quirk or request. This is frustrating. India still does not have the flow of international tourists coming in that would make this work. Khalil knows, this will normalise. He now has a team of check in and cleaning staff prepared, his mother now is in charge of responding to enquiries and managing the bookings.

Second Homes in Kerala

Khalil now has 4 properties ready and set up at the moment. The business so far has had about 16 short term rental customers with an average of 4 star user reviews. Trip Advisor is his networking forum. The home share app shows these to audiences. The referrals have begun. This enterprising young engineer can scale this up to 25 properties as soon as demand steps in. He is in BD (Biz Development) mode. Khalil, works online collecting outstanding payments from his old job, from 9am to 3pm. His exciting a week, now is negotiating for another 2 properties near Varkala Beach. He is hoping for bookings to flood in, as soon as November comes in. He will be ready.
He dreams of finally giving up his rental room in Mumbai at the end of the year. He may return next year, but he’s got a business to attend to now.

This would not have been possible without the sharing economy. Times are still hard and Khalil’s savings are very low. Soft loans from his family are keeping him going. A possible business loan for expansion is something he will consider too. He is optimistic.

Take Away : Look for opportunity. The Sharing Economy is unlocking value. Hard times are almost always a certainty, heal yourself and build again.


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