Building An Inclusive Organization
Oxfordcaps was co-founded by INSEAD graduate Annu Talreja, CEO and IIMCalcutta alumnus Priyanka Gera, COO. The duo has over two decades of cumulative experience in real estate and hospitality industry across Asia Pacific.
WHAT LED TO THE CHOICE OF YOUR PROFESSIONAL PATH?
Annu: As a child, I always used to love visiting different sorts of monuments and buildings. I have always been very perceptive about how different kinds of spaces impact human psychology and behavior, and have had an eye for design and development. Also, I have experienced the perils of hostel life from the beginning, so I could totally relate to the challenges faced by students. This combination made architecture an obvious choice for my under-graduate studies.
Priyanka: My choice of Housing Planning for graduate studies led to my passion for real estate markets. Subsequently, a decade long career with India’s largest real estate advisory firm – JLL further fueled this passion by giving me both the breadth of exposure and a strong industry network across the length and breadth of the country. I first-hand witnessed the global investor interest in alternative real estate assets in India, especially Student Housing. Understanding the scope of this huge underserved market led to the idea behind Oxfordcaps.
HOW HAS THE JOURNEY BEEN TILL NOW?
Annu: Oxfordcaps started its operations in 2017 from Singapore and India and the journey since the start has been extremely rewarding. We have been successful in expanding to 12+ cities across India and aim to grow our operations across education hubs in India including Delhi, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Pune, Greater Noida, Dehradun, Indore, Jaipur and Ahmedabad. Oxfordcaps has clocked a 75X growth in <11 months since our launch in India and have expanded from 200 beds to over 15,000 beds till date.
Priyanka: Student housing today suffers from a high level of fragmentation, lack of quality solutions, price transparency, reliability and complete lack of tech enablement of processes. We founded Oxfordcaps to address this gap and to fill the unmet demand of 36 million students pursuing higher education in India. Our focus on community building with regular events and engagements is highly appreciated and has special affinity among students. Oxfordcaps has also become Asia’s most loved branded and tech-enabled student housing company as the company provides a hassle-free and technology-driven living experience to Gen Z students
Annu and Priyanka were roommates from their days as architecture students in Delhi. The idea of creating a branded chain of student accommodation germinated as students and finally after their experience in companies such as JLL and Marriott Group, they had a more definite and structured approach to solving this problem that plagues over 100 million students across Asia Pacific.
HOW THE FEMALE SENSIBILITIES HAVE MADE A DIFFERENCE TO THE LINE OF WORK?
Annu: There are <0.2% female-founder only funded companies in India today and we are extremely proud to be one. I believe that while it is challenging, it also is a tremendous opportunity to inspire and break barriers, as well as do things differently. Female sensibilities impact everything we do – right from looking at Student Housing as a service-based business as opposed to a pure brick & mortar real estate. Our sensibilities shape our interactions both in the market as well as within the organization.
Priyanka: Real estate industry probably has one of the worst gender parity. Over a decade long career in real estate helped me develop leadership and communication skills being the only-female in a room full of men, often with much more experience. This skill has helped me tremendously navigate my role as an entrepreneur and build an inclusive organization.
SOME OF THE MAJOR HIGHLIGHTS OF YOUR CAREER.
Annu: Last role: Director of Investment & Asset Management (Asia Pac) – Marriott Vacations
• My recent deal, acquisition of Marriott Surfers Paradise (Australia), was nominated at HICAP as Best Single Asset Transaction in APAC, 2016.
• Closed real estate transactions of over US$250mn
• Delivered real estate projects of over US$150mn.
Priyanka: Last role: Associate Director & North India Head for Real Estate Deal Advisory at KPMG
• Key member of the first-500 employees of JLL’s postmerger India team.
• Founding member of a travel startup focusing on singles and solo travelers in India – WeTravelSolo. I got a successful exit from the company with a strategic incoming investor.
A WORD OF ADVICE FOR THE YOUNG PURSUANT OF THE PROFESSION.
Annu: My biggest learning is how much I don’t know and what all I can learn each day. So my only advice would be to treat each day as a new learning opportunity and rejoice that process.
Priyanka: My advice is to always have a focused longterm goal in your career and work hard to achieve the same. Always be upfront and honest in your approach and learn from your shortcomings.