We talk to Nakul Sharma
Hostmaker looks after listings made on sites such as Airbnb, managing the taking of pictures, the guest check-in, maintenance of the property and even providing fresh, hotel style linen. For our clients, investors who are looking to rent out flats within a residential property, Hostmaker will take care of the whole process, allowing for a mix between short, medium and long term rentals in order to maximise profit.
Here, we talk to CEO of Hostmaker Nakul Sharma about what inspired the venture and how it is transforming our interactions with short and medium-term rentals.
Can you tell us what the idea of Hostmaker is and how it works?
Hostmaker is the leading homestay management company in Europe. We remove the hassle of managing rental properties for homeowners and landlords by providing a range of premium hospitality services. Our full end-to-end management services include everything from marketing the property to home maintenance.
We arrange professional photography and write the listings to ensure property profiles are appealing to guests, and even offer an interior design service specifically for homestays. Our dynamic pricing algorithm assesses the market and sets the property price, and our reservations team liaise with potential guests across multiple platforms. Once the bookings have started rolling in, our operations team will look after arranging everything from housekeeping (and hotel-quality linen), to in-person check-ins, to maintenance.
How did the idea of Hostmaker come about?
It was 2014, when I was working within a hospitality company, when the idea for Hostmaker first came about. The industry had started paying serious attention to Airbnb and my wife and I had just become verified superhosts on the platform. I spent some time researching the market and identified a real gap for a full-service management company that offered simplicity to hosts and hotel-style service to guests.
For me, this was the future of hospitality, so I left my job and began testing the Hostmaker concept. It took off really quickly, and now after four years we have over 2,000 homes in our portfolio, and have delivered over £50m of profits for our hosts.
Why was it the right time to create Hostmaker?
As I was already a superhost and had been a guest on Airbnb before, I was well-placed to understand the issues and challenges faced by users on both sides of the platform, and how we could help to solve them.
We were really trail-blazing home rental management as an industry, and being the first out of the blocks allowed us to get a head-start on the competition, which we are still reaping the benefits of today. While other platforms are still playing catch-up, we are looking forward and identifying new ways to shape our market category.
What key forces have enabled Hostmaker to flourish?
Our relentless focus on what's right for our hosts, guests and employees is what drives us day in and day out, and has really helped us to flourish. In hospitality, the classic service profit chain approach rings even truer: if your team is passionate and happy, they will make your clients and guests happy. We spend a lot of time on recruiting the right talent, and we've grown our HR team significantly to support our growth.
More practically, our initial work on developing our own technology where it mattered most - pricing and operations - is really paying off now, as it allows us to scale much quicker than our competitors, and to hit the ground running in new markets each time we expand.
What kind of people do you work with? What are they looking for?
We work with a wide range of homeowners and landlords across our markets, who all have different needs. This varies from expats who want to let their property while they’re out of the country, to landlords looking to maximise their yields, up to investors, like the clients of BNP Paribas Real Estate, with a portfolio of properties, which they hand over for Hostmaker to manage.
You say that Hostmaker ‘redefines the stay experience’, in what ways do you do this?
We have undertaken extensive research into what really matters to a guest when they are renting a property, be it for three nights or three months. Without sharing too many of our closely-guarded secrets(!), some of the key elements when redefining the stay experience for guests are:
- In-person check-ins: we have a team of trained ‘Welcome Wizards’ who greet all guests in person, show them around the property and answer any questions about the local area, things to do, and the ever-important Wi-Fi password!
- 24/7 support: day or night, we have a guest support team available over the phone, and local ‘Rescue Runners’ who can quickly resolve maintenance issues. So if the boiler breaks during your stay, we’ll have it sorted - fast.
- A great night’s sleep: possibly the most important criteria is ensuring our beds are comfortable and are dressed with hotel-quality, crisp linen.
We have always been entirely confident in the strength of our product, and our hosts have seen first-hand the benefits of working with Hostmaker, but having a company like BNP Paribas Real Estate throwing its weight behind us helps to demonstrate this to a new market. I’m really excited to be working together
You are based in nine cities, how were these chosen?
Hostmaker is now operational in eight European cities: London, Paris, Rome, Florence, Madrid, Barcelona, Cannes, and Lisbon. Excitingly, we have just launched in Bangkok, our first foray into Asia. Our growth has been remarkable in just four years!
After establishing Hostmaker in London, these markets were selected as the initial targets for our expansion as they all enjoy a wide range of visitors throughout the year. There are seasonal peaks in holiday months, but they all see a steady flow of leisure and business travellers even in low season.
We will be looking to expand our portfolio further over the coming months, and are assessing other cities that enjoy this year-round seasonality.
Are there differences in how people interact with Hostmaker in different countries?
There are discernible differences between each market - we really take our time researching and gathering local knowledge, and recruiting a team on the ground, before we launch in each new city, to ensure that our positioning and offering is in-line with host expectations.
How do you see the platform developing in the future? What key social or cultural influences will change it?
We have recently undergone a shift in the way we think about our customers - we are no longer just looking at the short-term rentals market and targeting Airbnb hosts, but instead considering the entire rentals market. We have created a brand-new service offering for hosts - a blended lettings model that allows us to optimise occupancy throughout the high and low seasons, regularly adapting between long, mid and short-term leases.
This is a new development for Hostmaker and we are excited to be working with BNP Paribas to roll out this offering.
How does working with companies like BNP Paribas Real Estate develop the idea of Hostmaker?
We have always been entirely confident in the strength of our product, and our hosts have seen first-hand the benefits of working with Hostmaker, but having a company like BNP Paribas Real Estate throwing its weight behind us helps to demonstrate this to a new market. I’m really excited to be working together!
What benefits do these kind of collaborations bring to customers?
This partnership will provide BNP Paribas Real Estate customers with a one-stop shop service for property management. BNP Paribas Real Estate has long offered a range of lease management functions; Hostmaker will now supplement this by offering an innovative blended lettings model, to increase occupancy rates, mitigate risk and increase yields.
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