About a year ago, I was sitting in a cafe with my colleagues Nitaya and Ching Ern. We had just visited a potential Colony location in Subang and trying to decide if we should take it up. I like Subang but the problem with the area was the vast availability of office space there at very cheap rates that could undercut us if we were to open there. Colony after all is expensive.
To fit the location, we discussed having a lower-end version of Colony but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my past years is that I need to focus. If Colony is about high-end coworking, then we have to go for high-end all the way until we’ve really made it in that category.
Then Nitaya came up with an idea. “What if instead of going for cheaper and cheaper like the rest of the market, we go for more and more high end?”.
What if instead of just the typical cramped private offices we have in coworking spaces or serviced offices, we had Suites. Big luxurious rooms that really feel like a hotel room. Over time that idea slowly evolved with more and more suggestions on how we can up the game. Today these Suites are built luxuriously and fully decked out with technology. From a Google Home controls everything from the lights to the curtains, to flatscreen TV, to standing tables, to lights that change to whatever colour you want to a butler service.
With that concept in mind we started a prototype called the Jamestown Suite in Colony @ Eco City. With our 3rd location in KL Sentral we had 5 of these Suites. It was a huge risk because the renovation costs for these suites cost a lot more. On top of that because they’re so much more spacious and take so much more real estate, the offices would be really expensive.
I know there’s a market for super luxury high-end bags, cars, clothes, food and experiences. But is there a market for super luxury high-end office? Would someone pay RM13,000 a month for a one person office?
You’re probably wondering now how cheap is cheap and how high end is high end?
Let me give you some reference points. In coworking spaces, a private office can cost anywhere from RM400 per head to RM1,000. Why the range? Because sometimes the published rate can be RM1,000 but if the space is desperate enough they can offer you up to a 60% discount. Colony holds pretty steady about RM900-1,000 per workstation depending on the location.
So RM13,000 per person per month would be 32X more expensive than a low-end coworking space or 13 times more expensive than what Colony already charges in the past.
What’s amazing is that Colony @ KL Sentral just opened a month ago and we’ve already sold 3 out of 5 of our Suites. Our upcoming Colony @ Star Boulevard is going to have more of these Suites.
I feel a sense of relief that this new product seems to have found validation, but also a sense of joy. We took a risk to invent a new category and it didn’t end in disaster. More importantly we’ve created a huge point of differentiation for us among other coworking spaces that will last well… for a while.., until someone else copies the idea.
When I look back at what really made this possible. It wasn’t really me. The idea didn’t come from me. It came from Nitaya and was built on from a collection of ideas and execution from everyone else. My only role was to create a culture in the company where everyone has the space to come up with ideas. We then match these ideas with vigorous debates by other members in the team in the pursuit of the best ideas. Sometimes these debates can get really intense but it’s all part of our commitment to let the best ideas win. We have many other ideas apart from this which we get into arguments for and eventually call off.
I’m glad this one paid off.