The enigmatic founder and Group CEO of Weave Living, Sachin Doshi chats to Home Journal at the grand opening of Weave Suites to share the evolution and future of his niche brand.
Tell us what a typical day for you is like, and perhaps how this has changed in the past few years?
I’ll start with when I first started the company. This was in 2017 July, just under four years ago, and there was only four of us, so it was truly a start-up. It was really interesting because we did everything, whether it was finding the right property to acquire, raising capital, doing the design, preparing for operations, managing renovations and the leasing – we all tried to contribute in whatever we felt the company needed at the time.
So it was all a bit crazy and our concept was a relatively new one – no one was doing rental housing the way we wanted to do. And when we grew to around seven to eight people, we opened our first property in Prince Edward. I still remember this day - we were all hands on, making sure there was toilet paper in the bathrooms, soap in the dispensers, batteries in the machinery etc. Fast forward to now, we have grown to 50 people in the company and we have a lot of great talent to help with very specialized roles, But we still hold on to a very entrepreneurial mindset.
For me, that sense of wonder is still there. I spend a lot of the time on the design and the look and feel of the properties, making sure the user experience is good from a physical space standpoint, I spend a lot of time talking to investors as well – we are very fortunate to have a big investor who supports us.
I speak a lot with the internal teams - whether it’s the marketing campaigns we have, or spend time walking the streets of the locations we buy in. At heart I love real estate, so walking around a neighborhood and envisioning how we can change it is really fun to me.
For the most recent addition to Weave Living’s portfolio – Weave Suites – the concept is quite different. Can you elaborate?
This concept really came from our clients. When we were speaking with some corporates and some B to B clients, they shared they really liked the community element and the shared spaces but they felt that for their middle management (perhaps coming to the city and staying for six to nine months), they wanted to deliver a slightly more elevated experience. It wasn’t so much about the offering itself but more about the space. We felt we had the ability to create spaces where one could interact with others more easily. So we sat back and thought, are we going too much into the serviced apartment category?
We very quickly found out we weren’t as most serviced apartments are all about bigger residences but you don’t really get to know your neighbors or have that ability to create social interactions. We wanted to create our own take on serviced apartments. Weave Suites came about as really responding to what the market was asking us. The response we’ve had so far has been really fantastic. Prior to opening, we already sold all of our big suites and the feedback we’ve received overall has been really encouraging.
How involved with you with the design concept of Weave Suites?
I was heavily involved – I’m very picky when it comes to design. Good design is not enough; you have to be able to operate it in a certain way and you have to create spaces where people feel comfortable to meet and get together. I think design is an important component but it’s how you program the space – what goes next to what, what is the height of the seating, the depth of the drawers - all these things are essential to the user experience.
Why did you choose this area, Sai Ying Pun, for this offering?
The location is a key aspect to all our properties. Sai Ying Pun is a very hip area, a great amalgamation of the old and the new. If you go left, it’s Hollywood Road, and if you go right, it’s the dried seafood shops. I think it’s a really interesting place, and it’s also boasts a concentration of the best coffee in Hong Kong.
We want our residents to enjoy and experience (not just go back to a place where you eat and sleep and cook and clean). How do you interact with the wider neighborhood and also your immediate neighborhood? I’ve lived in Hong Kong for 15 years now and I’ve never really known my neighbors – there’s a certain degree of anonymity. But if you think about how Hong Kong used to be – people moving in and out of each other’s houses, borrowing things and interacting more broadly, we wanted to bring some of those elements back to how we do things.
Tell us about the role of the lifestyle ambassadors in Weave Suites?
The job of our lifestyle ambassadors is really, to create avenues for people to interact with each other. We don’t want to force the curation of a community - our ambassadors’ job is to know our residents, but also know the city and the neighborhood. So whether it’s making a restaurant booking or recommending the best cocktail at a particular bar, they’ll have this intimate knowledge. We also host events which are optional – like I said, we do not want to force interaction – but we want to create that avenue so residents know these are available to them.
Was the concept of Weave drawn from your personal experiences?
There’s a deeply personal reason why I started this company. To me I’ve now lived in four different cities, and every time I’ve moved cities, two of the hardest things are figuring out where to live, and building a social network. For Weave, I wanted to build a trusted company where when people choose our properties, they know they can trust the standard and consistency – it’s in a good locale, it’s safe and well designed.
I still remember moving to Australia from India when I was 17, and feeling really lonely in the beginning. But the friends I met in university are still some of my closest friends to this day, who have really shaped me in a significant way. I’ve really benefitted from these friendships and connections, and I feel there’s no better way to build connections than someone you live with. So I wanted to combine those two aspects from my personal experience.
What’s next for the company?
We’re coming up with another exciting residential offering that’s going to be different from what we’ve done before, and this will cater to people who want a more traditional living experience plus all the benefits of being part of the Weave platform. The plan for opening is mid 2021, and that really completes our suite of products.
Hong Kong as a market will continue to be a big focus but we announced last year that we will also be entering Singapore. We think that what we offer is something that works in all the major cities, but we want to grow slowly and strategically as we want the quality of our growth to be good. In Hong Kong, we are looking at a few different schemes to expand the offerings in this city. Housing here is so expensive and it’s not getting any cheaper. As a global city that attracts international talent, I think we’re also contributing to the city’s success by creating accommodation that meets global standards.