Daring to do things differently, his company HOMA is a breath of fresh air in Thailand’s hospitality and apartment sector HOMA Phuket Town features a fitness centre, restaurant, rooftop deck and infinity pool, plus a co-working space for the new generation of digital nomads who prefer not to be tied to the office
Sometimes it takes a fresh pair of eyes to see something from a new perspective. In certain industries, imperfections and inefficiencies are so deeply ingrained that they are taken for granted. They are simply “the way things are done”.
In Southeast Asia’s hospitality and apartment sector, one man is disrupting the status quo. Luca Dotti, founder & managing director of HOMA, is on a mission to create a new way of living and working by making the rental experience more user-friendly.
HOMA is a pioneering new co-living concept that provides affordable, full-service apartments that are design-led, community-focused and sustainable. Its aim is to combine the benefits of a contemporary serviced apartment, such as fully-equipped kitchens, high-quality bedding and modern technology, with the facilities of a four-star hotel, like 24-hour reception, laundry services and a “HOMA Host” concierge.
In the case of HOMA Phuket Town, the group’s first location which opened in October, residents can also take advantage of a fitness centre, café, restaurant and a rooftop deck and infinity pool. Importantly, a co-working space caters for the new generation of digital nomads who prefer not to be tied to the office.
For Luca, the inspiration for HOMA came not from a hospitality or real estate background, but from his own practical experiences, entrepreneurial spirit and desire to do things differently. Having trained as an engineer in Europe, he found that he loved the “buzz of Asia” and joined a start-up asset management company in Singapore. Eventually, a combination of strategy and serendipity took him to Thailand where he invested in apartments, met his current partners and hatched – following an incubation period of several years – the vision for HOMA.
“I came in with a very entrepreneurial approach. I think that being an outsider allows you to challenge everything you see. Maybe sometimes I ask stupid questions, because I don’t understand why certain things are done a certain way. But then sometimes you realise that there are embedded inefficiencies in a system, and with this attitude we were able to solve them,” Luca explains.
“I’ve always been thrown into projects where I had to build things from scratch. I enjoy it very much – it allows you to set up things the way you want them and surround yourself with like-minded people,” he adds.
This has very much been the case at HOMA, where Luca and his partners have reimagined the rental experience without any of the usual issues or obstacles.
“If you think about how real estate is designed, it’s the exact opposite of what human nature desires. We are social creatures and we want to be together. But the apartments you see today are mainly segregated. You do have some common areas, but they’re mostly unused and lack social spirit,” Luca laments. “We have created a community atmosphere, while also making the experience for tenants smoother by identifying and eliminating the common pain points endured by modern renters.
“For example, having in-room utensils and amenities that actually suit your lifestyle. Communication was another big one; usually, if you have a problem with your apartment, you contact your landlord and wait hours or days for maintenance people to arrive. With HOMA, you have an app through which you can communicate in real-time with front office to solve any potential issue.”
The company’s customer centric approach is not only embodied in its design and technology, but also in its development and marketing strategies. While it come as little surprise that HOMA’s main target is millennials – the new generation of renters who share its vision of a shared and sustainable lifestyle – each of HOMA’s properties will be tactically positioned to cater for young professionals in a specific market.
The location of HOMA Phuket Town was chosen due to its close proximity to international hospitals, schools and universities, while the group’s next project in Phuket, HOMA Cherngtalay, will focus on the island’s hospitality employees, as well as young city dwellers seeking a better quality of life while being able to work remotely. With this in mind, Luca revealed that this new property is likely to have “more focus on the co-working space and other attractive facilities”.
The third confirmed location, HOMA Sriracha, will target the large number of Japanese engineers working in the business parks of Thailand’s Eastern Seaboard, with facilities expected to include a yakitori bar and golf simulator. Luca acknowledged however, that while each project is tailored to the needs of a certain market, they still need to be flexible and respond to changing market trends.
“The value proposition of HOMA is to provide affordable accommodation to young professionals, so we need to find them. With every project, we need to have a target in mind and build the properties around that. But we also need to be fluid; the last couple of years have taught us that things can change pretty quickly, so I’m sure we’ll have types of tenants we didn’t expect!” he said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been interesting for HOMA. While the company was undoubtedly impacted by the global crisis, it also enabled them to adapt their model and concentrate on different aspects of the design. The co-working space for example, became a much more important element due to the huge rise in the number of people working remotely.
As a result, HOMA Phuket Town has transformed this concept with individual sound-proofed working pods, open 24-7 so guests can maximise their productivity. The pandemic also put greater emphasis on health and wellness, so HOMA’s advanced in-room air-flow systems and integrated environmental solutions (HOMA Phuket Town is the first purpose-built residential project for rent in Thailand to achieve LEED green building certification) became an even bigger USP.
“The pandemic didn’t change the core values of our business,” said Luca. “We’re still what we wanted to be before COVID. But maybe our business now is more relevant because of the aspects we have integrated, and because of the fact that we are new and fresh. Obviously we hoped to open HOMA Phuket Town with a queue outside the door, and that didn’t happen. But we are hopeful for the long-term.”
Whichever market HOMA decides to enter next, the decision is sure to be well thought out. While some disruptors are considered to be opportunists, HOMA seems anything but. Led by Luca and Blake Olafson, a former Lehman Brothers executive, they are pioneers with a plan, innovators who understand their customers. Most importantly, they are entrepreneurs who strive to eliminate inefficiency and dare to do things differently. For many young renters in Thailand, HOMA will be a breath of fresh air.