Why do KLites live outside the city and spend hours commuting to work while so many apartment units in prime locations remain untenanted? Asking this question led Amanda Sabri to found TrupCotel, writes ZIEMAN.
WHEN Amanda Sabri created TrupCotel, the company that offers relatively affordable, short-term accommodation in the heart of the city, she only had one thing in mind: to help young executives solve their rental problem.
“Most young executives are at the low end of the pay scale, where the bulk of their salary goes to house rental. And many young grads have to move back home because they can’t afford a place of their own. This is why we created TrupCotel,” she says.
Trupcotel, which started operations in June last year, offers apartment units in prime location, including KLCC, from RM1,000 to RM1,500 a month, allowing their customers to walk to work and save on commuting costs, not to mention avoiding hours of traffic jams.
The company looks after every aspect of the units they offer, equipping each with soft furnishings (linen, black-out curtains, crockery, cooking utensils), utilities and high-speed Internet — all included in the rental rates.
“All they have to do is pack their bags and move in!” says the Trupcotel CEO.
For Amanda, who read law, business is what she loves doing best.
“At 14, I already felt the excitement of doing business. I ran a hotdog stand with some friends at our school canteen for six months. We would rush to school at 7am to clean, set-up, count inventory and prepare for customers during the 10am break time. I couldn’t wait to get out of my class, rush out to the canteen to serve some delicious hotdogs.
“We set high financial targets everyday, and aimed to outsell before the day was over.
“We allowed pre-orders so that our friends could book their hotdogs in advance so that they can swing by to collect instead of standing in the queue,” recalls Amanda.
That business venture made Amanda realise what she wanted to do in life. Even though she was sent off to London to read law and ended up spending six years there, she knew business was her true calling. While in London, Amanda and husband, Saify Akhtar, did odd jobs and saved up as much as they could.
“We knew we wanted to come home and start a business. We didn’t know exactly what we wanted to do yet, but we knew KL would be the perfect place to start,” she says.
The idea for TrupCotel came after Amanda moved into a new apartment with 80 units and found only 30% were tenanted.
“Signing a tenancy for a one-bedroom apartment in KLCC will set you back RM3,000 a month, the common salary of entry-level graduates. To start this tenancy, they would also need to pay deposit, which is equivalent to three months of the monthly rental. And most do not have this kind of money,” she says.
There were so many apartments left untenanted around the city. Many had no choice but to live hours outside the city, and spend up to three hours getting to their workplace daily.
Amanda knew she had to do something about it.
“All these developments were built with the right tenants in mind — young executives, expatriates and travellers. But nobody was moving in,” she discloses.
Amanda proposed the idea to her first landlord, guaranteeing a better rental return than market rates. The landlord agreed, and he hasn’t looked back since.
“We cleaned and set up the apartment ourselves from scratch, spending two days preparing the apartment to our standard before we were ready to welcome our first paying customer,” reveals Amanda, who today is assisted by a work force that includes a personal assistant, receptionists and cleaning ladies.
“We kept growing. Every apartment that we put on the market for short-term stays reached an average of 80% occupancy each month. Today we run only six apartments around KLCC. Soon it will be 20 apartments. But with recent interest from investors, we are looking to expand our service to 120 units by end of 2016,” she says.
Rental for each unit starts from RM200 a day.
TrupCotel pays special attention to the furnishing of each individual apartment.
“It’s about creating a living experience of a high standard whilst being in good locations around the city. We test the air-conditioning, the Internet speed, the washing machine, even the bed and pillows to make sure when someone stays in TrupCotel, it’s nothing short of being at home,” she promises.
According to Amanda, it hasn’t been easy convincing landlords to come on board. Many are still set in their ways and prefer long leases.
Some have strong holding power, and this allows them to leave their apartments untenanted but others enter the property market with the intention of seeing returns.
“We’ve worked hard to prepare packages catered to these landlords, to show them that putting their apartments under TrupCotel can not only yield them immediate returns. It could potentially be higher than 10% of the market rate during peak seasons.
“Our brand has a website dedicated to landlords called Tenanted (www.tenanted.my) where they can sign up and list their apartments with us.”
Amanda wants to increase the utilisation of prime apartments around KLCC.
“Today, many drive into the city daily only to sit at their desks and then leave without even having the opportunity to enjoy what the city has to offer. It’s time that we Malaysians enjoy our city for what it is. It all starts with being able to go to bed, wake up the next morning and walk a short distance from your office or your favourite coffee shop,” says Amanda.
Today, TrupCotel has 20 apartments in their list and has hosted hundreds of tenants.
“We aim to add 20 apartments to our system every month. This would in turn enable at least 600 executives to move into the city, and change their lifestyle within a span of six months. And we are not only looking at tackling the Klang Valley.
“We have bigger dreams and would like to do the same for areas like Shah Alam, Damansara Heights, Penang, Malacca and Johor Bahru,” she says.
Amanda says she considers her goals achieved when prime property around KLCC is utilised to its maximum potential.
“We will be done when we no longer hear complaints about living conditions, about lost hours in a day due to geographical restraints. Until then, we will be pushing on. We’re here to make a difference.
“We’d like to see more entrepreneurs do the same in their own cities. Malaysia alone has wonderful cities that could benefit from TrupCotel. In five years, we hope to be regional and apply TrupCotel’s business models to Asean countries whilst encouraging entrepreneurship,” states Amanda.
To Amanda, it’s not just about doing business but being someone who can create solutions for the problems in our daily lives.
“I first started by giving my classmates more social time during the morning break, instead of wasting time queuing up to buy food. Today, I have TrupCotel,” beams Amanda.