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THE INC. LIFE

Why This Start-up is Making Real Estate Student-Friendly

OxfordCaps helps Asian students find better housing during their school years

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BY Ezra Ferraz - 01 Mar 2018

Why This Start-up is Making Real Estate Student-Friendly

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

When Annu Talreja moved to Singapore to start her studies at INSEAD, she found that finding a home is even more difficult than getting into business schools.

“I experienced an inherent discrimination against students especially when it came to Asian students. I felt that students were either forced to pay much more than market standards or were only left with highly inconvenient and dilapidated housing options,” says Talreja.

Together with Priyanka Gera, a friend from her undergraduate days, Talreja founded OxfordCaps to help Asian students find better housing during their school years.

OxfordCaps differs from other real estate platforms in that the company works with building owners to make housing student-friendly by meeting a set number of standards relating to comfort, safety, and convenience, explains Gera who serves as COO.

“We market and manage such accommodation for students who can search and book their housing via our web platform prior to their arrival in the city. The accommodation is ready-to-move-in with all amenities including furniture, Wi-Fi, dinnerware, bed linen, etc. So a student can basically move in with his luggage and be ready for school next morning,” says Gera.

OxfordCaps also works with vendors to extend relevant offers to students, such as concerts or travel experiences.

The value of the service, CEO Talreja says, is that students can move to a place close to a university and are relieved of the stress of having to understand the real estate norms and contracts in each market.

“A student can book only his room or shared room via OxfordCaps rather than waiting to connect with a group and then rent the entire unit. At OxfordCaps, our effort is to give them a home where they can focus on enjoying the best years of their life – just like we did ours,” says Talreja.

Scaling the business

The hardest part about scaling OxfordCaps is that real estate norms differ across Southeast Asia. “In markets like Singapore, scarcity of land leading to higher real estate cost is a challenge, while in more developing countries – lack of a transparent real estate regulatory environment is a challenge,” says Gera.

In the short-term, Gera says OxfordCaps is expanding their team, enhancing their technology platform, negotiating property sign-ups to expand their presence in the region, and even exploring other property formats with partner real estate developers.

Given the success of OxfordCaps with the students, Talreja had plenty of advice for other founders who may want to target this demographic.

“Two critical things to remember: word-of-mouth is the strongest marketing channel with this demographic as the sense of community is extremely powerful for students. Further, compassion is equally important while understanding the mindset of this customer demographic – they are young and lack a lot of exposure. Therefore, compassion goes a long way in building trust with the demographic,” she says.

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