As of February 6, 2020, HostelHunting is officially to be known as LiveIn following a rebranding and its advance into the next phase of its market expansion.
HostelHunting was initially founded in 2015 to tackle long-term room rental issues among students and property owners through its listing website where owners and potential tenants could be matched up.
In 2018, the company changed its direction to focus on value added co-living by offering hassle-free experiences for middle-class students and working professionals across Southeast Asia.
The reason for the rebranding is then because it more clearly defines the company’s identity and wider target market, co-founder and CEO Khai stated in a press release.
Wanting To Do More
According to Hann, its Malaysia Country Manager, LiveIn (or then still known as HostelHunting) did very well when they were operating as a marketplace, even becoming one of the largest room database listing platforms in Malaysia.
“However, matching tenants and landlords weren’t enough and we wanted to do more. That was when we introduced the HH+ brand, a new hassle-free product where we take care of every aspect for tenants,” he said.
“Instead of just searching for a room, we will assist you during that process, ensure your room is fitted according to our HH+ guidelines and criteria, cover furnishing, WiFi, weekly cleaning, maintenance and even include a community manager who can assist you onsite.”
Of course, this change of direction came with its own set of challenges, namely in how LiveIn struggled to introduce the concept to the market.
“It was a new concept to both tenants and landlords, and it was rather difficult explaining to owners why we need to offer basic necessities such as WiFi, fully furnished rooms, and a pleasant room for tenants,” Hann said.
Tenants, on the other hand, who, as happy as they were with this service, still needed some time to fully buy LiveIn’s promise of a hassle-free experience and a community manager for assistance.
Smart Homes For Students & Working Professionals
Despite the years that have passed and the number of similar players who have cropped up, Hann is of the opinion that the market they service is still one that needs the most servicing.
“With housing prices on the rise, it is almost impossible to own a fully furnished place equipped with cleaning, maintenance, WiFi, and a location that’s near enough to the city centre.”
And even with the number of competitors on the rise, Hann and the team remain confident in their standing, thanks to their head start with their very own tenant application in place, their community building, and their smart-home series being launched in a few areas.
The smart-home series is a new initiative which they plan to announce soon, but what it’s basically about is, through a smart-home vendor, LiveIn will be transforming rooms to allow tenants to control most electric appliances in their rental rooms via their tenant application.
It could be anything from turning on the lights to the air-conditioning, or even warming up their drinks, Hann shared. For now, the concept is still being tested as a pilot project in a few of LiveIn’s buildings.
When we enquired how many rooms LiveIn has listed on its platform at the moment, Hann replied, “Our listing on our website has changed completely as we only cover rooms that are managed by us. At this juncture, the number of rooms under our care is still an important metric that we can’t disclose during this stage.”
Establishing A Strong Foothold In Thailand
LiveIn has raised more than US$4.5 million in multiple funding rounds, supported by its new investors like Jungle Ventures, Wavemaker Partners, Aucfan Co., Ltd as well as by its existing investors KK Fund, Incubate Fund, and other investors.
These raised funds as well as the upcoming ones planned for 2020 will go towards further establishing LiveIn’s foothold in Thailand as well as driving forward the company’s expansion plans into Indonesia and the Philippines next year.
Apparently, there wasn’t a real reason behind why they chose to expand regionally to Thailand first (though Hann joked that it was the Thai food). “We explored 4 countries simultaneously, and we found our first deal in Thailand the fastest, and decided that Thailand it is.”
“We haven’t looked back since.”
To overcome the main obstacles of the language barrier and starting a team there, they moved Khai and Joey (the other co-founder) to be based there, which helped a lot.
You might be aware that LiveIn was previously active in Singapore too, but Hann shared that their operations there have been relatively muted as they’re focusing more on Malaysia, Thailand, and other SEA countries for now.
Making A Difference, One Room After Another
Over the 5 years that they’ve been operational, in between the challenges they faced, the team has kept on doing what they do because they’ve noticed how they make a difference for their tenants.
“We get a lot of gratitude from parents of students who are staying with us, as they are assured of a safe environment, and should there be any disturbance from other housemates, we are able to act on it by transferring the affected tenants out to a different available room with no additional charges,” Hann explained.
Following their change in direction, they discovered that they had achieved something by matching tenants from the same hometown too.
Through that, they had actually managed to unintentionally match tenants who were childhood friends that didn’t realise they were staying in the same place until LiveIn organised a tenant dinner.
Hann also looked back on an achievement from their beginnings, sharing, “In terms of number of rooms under our care, we experienced a 4x growth in the first year itself. Something that we are very proud about.”