People migrate to cities every single day in search of jobs, education, and better lives. And when they do, one of the significant challenges that they face is finding decent accommodation. Staying in apartments turns out to be difficult since most people cannot afford to pay the high deposits that landlords expect. And the only option left for them is PGs – which are often crowded, not very hygienic, and do not have essential services like Wi-Fi. “Akhil, Sneha & I wanted to change this status quo. People should not have to struggle for basic needs like a safe and comfortable home. With this thought in mind, we set out to start Zolo”, says Dr Nikhil Sikri, Co-founder, and CEO, Zolostays.
A co-living company that provides people with safe, comfortable, and hygienic homes with modern amenities and services like housekeeping, at a reasonable price, Zolostays helps people lead comfortable and stress-free lives, helping them focus on bigger and better things.
Inspired by the word ‘Zeal’, Zolostays aspires to help their customers rediscover their zeal for life. Creating beautiful living spaces with an option to personalize, Dr Nikhil points out, “We are not just a business; we are a family. This strong sense of belonging that Zolo gives to its customers and employees, is what makes us stand out and keeps us going every single day”.
A Doctor Turned Entrepreneur
Having studied MBBS from AIIMS, where Dr Nikhil worked as a residential doctor, he also worked as a psychiatrist at the Institute of Mental Health, Singapore. “From medicine, I moved on to pursue an MBA from ISB, after which I worked in the corporate sector with Deloitte and Cerner Corporation. I have over ten years of experience in everything from medicine to management consulting, sales to startups”, says Dr Nikhil.
Amid his corporate career, Dr Nikhil had an overwhelming urge to do more with his life. He recalls, “I had an overwhelming urge to do more with my life. I felt that I was capable of achieving a lot more than what I was doing at the time. This feeling is probably very common in the corporate world today, and a lot of times could just be delusional thinking on the employee’s part. But I decided to take the plunge to resolve this dilemma for myself and test my beliefs. It was this need to understand my capabilities better that led me towards entrepreneurship”.
Having been greatly influenced by Jeff Bezos and his principle-based leadership, Dr Nikhil was inspired to create a set of 16 principles for himself and his organization as well. An inclusive leader, Nikhil believes in grooming and nurturing his team so that they can take on bigger challenges. He says, “I do not dictate orders to my employees, but instead involve them in the problem-solving process”. Zolostays aims to provide safe housing to people in these difficult times and doing their part to revive the nation’s economy. “My approach, right now, is to do our best to keep our customers safe, to tweak our services to suit the needs of our customers, and to provide them with the flexibility that they need at this time”, adds Dr Nikhil.
Reminiscing about the lessons he learned in his journey, Dr Nikhil says, “One of the biggest lessons that I still draw inspiration from were my mother’s words, ‘It does not matter when you reach, what matters is where you reach. Good things take time, patience, and energy’. This stayed with me and pushed me to aim higher, even if they didn’t give me immediate results”.
Softening the Blow of COVID19
During the Pandemic Outbreak, Zolostays started an initiative, Zolo Care, which provided hundreds of present and past customers, who lost jobs, rent-free stays to help them out during these difficult times. “I was overwhelmed by the gratitude and love that we received from our customers because of this small gesture on our part. For me, this was a milestone that was most meaningful in my entrepreneurial journey”, says Dr Nikhil.
Despite the COVID-19 Pandemic, Zolostays has remained strong as a company. Ramping up their hygiene protocols and working hard to provide their customers with safe and hygienic living spaces. Dr Nikhil remarks, “The pandemic has impacted our business in the short run, owing to customers going back to their hometowns. But our experience in the last few months has led us to believe that the co-living industry might be pandemic-proof. The increased focus on hygiene will encourage more and more customers to pick co-living players like Zolo instead of traditional PGs. The personalization, flexibility, levels of hygiene, and the community that Zolo provides makes it a very appealing option for customers, and we are excited about the future”.
A Journey of Growth
A fast-paced organization, Zolostays moves quickly and evolves every day. “We are more about attitude than ability or pedigree. In our organization, employees are not limited to their domain and are free to contribute to different areas of the company. This makes Zolo an exciting place to work in”, quips Dr Nikhil. But at the same time, Zolostays has a very demanding work culture and is not for the faint-hearted. He opines, “When we decide to do something, we are all about getting the best version of it out, and that makes the work-life at Zolo extremely demanding and challenging as well”.
Zolostays’ success has been primarily because of word-of-mouth. We have gained demand and traction, because of their superior services which led to a lot of customers recommending Zolostays to others. “Although we could not run our business without technology. Being a startup, we relied heavily on digital marketing to grow our business, to spread the world about Zolo and that has worked wonders for us”, opines Dr Nikhil.
Today, co-living is more relevant than ever. In uncertain times, co-living provides people with a community that they can turn to and rely on, while also giving them freedom and flexibility to live life on their terms, without anything holding them back. Looking forward to growing the company achieving 80-100% growth in the coming years, Dr Nikhil says, “We aspire to make managed living a default option for the world, Zolostays wants everyone to enjoy safe, comfortable, and stress-free living”.
Entrepreneurship is a long-game. It is all about delayed gratification. Many a time, people are attracted to entrepreneurship for the wrong reasons like money or a glamorous lifestyle. But the truth is, these things are very superficial, and if these are what motivate you, you will not be able to face the rigour that startup life requires. Advising budding entrepreneurs, Dr Nikhil concludes, “Focus on the right things and start for the right reasons. And when you do start, pay attention to your customers, listen to what they are asking for and constantly reinvent”.