Co-living startup ZiffyHomes has hit a pause on new customer acquisitions and is currently in the process of pivoting its business model, in a bid to counter the impact of the pandemic that has seen business come to a near standstill, founder and CEO Sanchal Ranjan said.
Last week, TechCircle, among other media outlets, reported that the startup had suspended its website, leading to speculation of a possible shutdown.
Speaking to TechCircle, Ranjan said the startup is using the slowdown in business to rethink and rework the website and the app, which he said is “under development” rather than being permanently shut down.
“For co-living businesses call-to-action is visiting the property and seeing... that has not been happening for the past three-four months. Clearly, that is not working for us right now. We are looking at ways the co-living business will work out. We are exploring virtual tours and getting feedback through user surveys. We are checking whether more people getting vaccinated would come out to visit the properties. For the time being the existing model of product, app and website format is not working out,” he said.
“We are looking at pivoting to virtual touring or completely turning into a marketplace-based platform. We are considering multiple business models,” he added.
Gurugram-based ZiffyHomes, which is backed by Y Combinator, partners with real estate developers to acquire properties (buildings) with around 100-150 rooms, which the startup operates on a revenue sharing basis. It was founded in 2015 by Ranjan and Saurabh Kumar
At present the startup is running only two properties in Gurugram that house 90-100 customers. Eight other contracts which were signed pre-pandemic are waiting to be launched. This is a drastic fall from 30 properties across Delhi NCR, including sign-ups, and around 3,000 customers in February 2020, Ranjan said.
“There are property managers at these two locations. Customers can email and connect to them directly. Anyone who wants to reach out to us can also reach through emails. To manage at scale when we had 3,000 customers, there was a proper technology stack being used in the back end. But that’s not viable at present given the limited number of customers,” he said.
Last year, around September, several customers of ZiffyHomes had reached out to the company on social media platforms seeking refunds of pending deposits. Ranjan said that these pending payments were settled as and when the company received monthly rents. The deposit refunds were settled by not charging customers during their notice period, he said.
The customer base of the startup is mostly corporates and freelancers.
“You need to keep changing with your customer's needs. You can’t just spend your marketing money on promoting what the customer doesn’t want. One has to continue rebuilding if you want customer to pay for it. Why do something which will not work out?” he said.
ZiffyHomes had offered 50-60% discount on various fees charged for four months last year starting from April, as businesses were shutting down and freelancers were out of work.
Citing the government’s estimated deadline of December until the majority of the population would get vaccinated, Ranjan isn’t looking to start acquiring new customers till January next year.