Dash Living caters to a new generation of white-collar workers who prefer short-term fully furnished luxurious pads when working out from expensive cities like Hong Kong and Singapore. Asian Property Review talks to the founder of Dash Living, serial entrepreneur Aaron Lee.
1. Since the start of the pandemic, what are the average occupancy rates like across your accommodations in HK and Singapore, compared to the year before?
Lee: 90%+, before COVID till now, even with our expanded portfolio. We had enquiries of over 50,000+ in 2020, thanks to our content-driven marketing (including user generated events and content) and the growth hacking efforts we made. Additionally, we have our centralized Philippines Operations & Sales team, and AI, to support our well-established Hong Kong and Singapore teams.
2. With social distancing being an essential part of the new normal, how is Dash co-living affected?
Lee: We are fortunate our tenants are cooperative. We have implemented various adaptations in regards to social distancing, for example, we are limiting common space access to tenants and staff, and many of our regular events are shifted to Zoom classes.
3. What is the basis for your minimum stay requirement of 28 days in HK and 3 months in Singapore?
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Lee: Our minimum stay policy is in line with local regulations in each market. We believe this offers a lot of flexibility to renters when you compare to traditional rentals that usually bound you to 12-24 months of rental depending on the contract structure and location. This is one of the reasons we were able to curate such a strong renter base in 2020.
4. When evaluating tenants, what are the criteria you look at?
Lee: We tend to attract the right crowd with our brand, tenant experience and our price point. We have been quite successful in attracting some very vibrant and discerning millennials into our community.
5. Do you buy or rent the accommodations?
Lee: We take an asset-light approach so we do not own any of the premises. We either rent or sublease the premises which gives a higher margin but is less scalable, or we manage it like how a management company manages a hotel for the owner. But we do it in a much more tech-enabled manner, with centralized operation for long stay. This is much more scalable and will be leading the pack where we can take the role of a sales channel, sales channel + operator or sales channel + SAAS (software as a service). We have some great partners like Ovolo Hotels and Ascott which we just announced in March, and we are seeing a lot of expansion opportunities with this model.
6. Will you expand to other expensive cities like Tokyo or Seoul, or Beijing/Shanghai?
Lee: With the volume of growing enquiries we receive, I would say we are far from niche. But expensive cities are the best start as 58% of millennials worldwide now reside in Asia, and these upscale and worldly millennials want to thrive in the cities. As such, it is natural for us to expand into more expensive cities in Asia. Tokyo, Seoul, Sydney, Melbourne, Shanghai, Beijing, etc, are all very realistic markets for us to look into.
7. Which is your target market? Why would this group choose your accommodations over others in the market?
Lee: Our main target market is millennials. They are curious, adaptable, health conscious, tech savvy, etc. A lot of what they need and who they are resonate extremely well with our offers, which introduce an ecosystem of curated partners for them to explore, allowing ideas to flourish with co-living. We have had tenants sparking business joint ventures and friendships in our spaces (true story). We host regular events including yoga and fitness classes. We also had digital enablers such as a digital key at a very early
stage of our business. And we plan to grow our app further to enhance our tenants’ lives. We are constantly evolving to match what our target audience needs so I do feel we have a leading edge to get their attention and preference.
8. What is the inspiration behind this business venture?
Lee: It all started back in 2014. I saw a lot of my connections and friends having difficulties finding an affordable place to stay with everything included and a place where they can meet friends. At the same time, we see real estate being expensive. I am always a problem solver so I saw an opportunity to use technology to solve the problem of expensive properties with underutilised facilities and labour. We outsourced the facilities nearby and centralised the operation through tech/AI, chatbots which created a huge sharing economy.