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Priya Living CEO: We’re Going Beyond Senior Living’s Typical Offerings With New India Expansion

Priya Living is forging ahead with a strategy to develop a pipeline of unique senior living communities in India, with plans to innovate beyond the industry’s typical services and amenities.

Earlier this month, Priya officially unveiled plans for Priya Flower Valley, a 42-unit community set to open this November in Gurgaon, India. The project is unique in that it is mostly geared toward people who live in the U.S. but want to visit family and friends in India. Prospects can also book their own stays online without the help of a salesperson.

The company’s vision is one of residents “self-actualizing” by choosing how, when and where they live. In the U.S., residents typically must sign lease agreements of 12 months or more at a time, making it a “365 product,” Paul said. But that is like trying to sell a pallet of chocolate bars when someone wants just two or three, he added. That is why prospective residents of the new Priya community in India can book stays for a minimum of 30 days. They also can choose a more traditional 12-month lease.

At the same time, Paul is bullish on the plans in India in part because of the cost of development and staffing there, with costs as low as 10% of what they are in the U.S.

“You’ve got a product that you could say is even better. And, it’s much more affordable in terms of real estate and labor,” Paul said during a recent appearance on the Senior Housing News podcast Transform. “When you have that combination, I mean, it’s very exciting.”

Highlights from Paul’s podcast appearance are included below edited for length and clarity. You can listen to Transform on Soundcloud and Apple Podcasts.

On the genesis behind the new plans to grow in India:

The biggest challenge over the last, call it 12 to 18 months, with our business has been on the development side here in the U.S. That was our focus if you really look back at the last several years. Between construction cost increases over the last 24 months, interest rate increases last year, and then the banking crisis in the first quarter, it made it virtually impossible for us to develop. It’s something that I know a lot of people are dealing with, as well. That reality in the U.S. opened the door for India. The roadblocks that we faced here in the U.S. became the the launching pad for India,

For the last 10-plus years, we’ve been operating here in the U.S. serving this demographic here in the U.S. And you know, there’s obviously things we’ve learned by doing that. One of the things that we realized is that people want to remain connected with India. It’s no different than any expat community, from any country, anywhere in the world. I mean, Americans who live in Tokyo — there’s the American club there. Everyone comes back every year to the U.S. to spend time with family and friends. It’s universal amongst expat communities, this desire to come back home.

I think what we really realized is the aspiration for people to spend time in both places. And that’s the aspiration now. When people are physically able, that’s what people want. They don’t want the ‘365 product’, which is what I call it. I mean, that’s what we offer. It’s: ‘Move in, this will be your one place to go, this is where you’re going to live.’

And so we saw this coming from our own residents, many of them wanting to go back during the year. If you want to spend four months out of a year, six months out of a year, somewhere else, why are you going to pay the 12 month lease? We saw that there’s a very strong aspirational demand for people from the U.S., our current customers, who want to go to India. But also, demand from all over the globe. Because it’s not just people from the U.S., it’s people in the U.K., people in the U.A.E., people in Singapore, people in Australia — all of these people are coming back. So, in a sense, being in India allows you to serve this very global market. That’s very significant and it goes far beyond us.

And of course, India has an enormous domestic market. We thought about India, really not in that way, and we thought about it as a way to serve our existing customers. But some of the demand we’ve been seeing here early for our community is actually coming from within India, which is a pleasant and great surprise.

On building a new community near Dehli:

One of the things that’s unique about India — and I think it’s important for people if they haven’t been there, or even if they have been there, but not recently — is that, what you’re seeing happening in India right now is they’re building cities. So it’s not like in the U.S., where real estate projects are really asset based; a single asset, maybe it’s mixed use if we’re being really ambitious.

In India, the scale of development is entire cities going up all over the country. Unless you see it, it’s really hard to explain. It’s like how in the U.S. in the 50s and 60s, many cities were kind of born in a big way. And what that means is developers are building an asset class called townships. The township is essentially a small or midsize city. It’s a very large master plan development, thousands of acres with lots of very well-done residential product.

And this is something I think would surprise people as well: The quality of the residential product is actually very, very good. Schools, medical clinics, pharmacies, or stables, swimming pools, fitness centers, large outdoor park areas — these are the environments that are being created from a senior perspective.

The amenities we can provide in India far exceed what we could do in the U.S. In the U.S., our projects — it’s the amenities that we put inside our building, right? And hopefully, we’re in an area where there are some other amenities too. But there’s nothing like this [in India], where now you’re in a naturally intergenerational community. These townships are drawing in large numbers of young families. I mean, that’s the primary group. So it’s really very interesting from that perspective. You could argue that it’s actually a better product for that reason.

The other reason is that the service levels that we can provide in India are much, much higher than what we can do in the U.S. So, you’ve got a product that you could say is even better. And, it’s much more affordable in terms of real estate and labor. The costs are 10% to 15% of what they are in the U.S.

When you have that combination, I mean, it’s very exciting. A big part of it for us was obviously the fact that our product here in the U.S. that we designed also works in India. The service package is food, housekeeping, laundry and transportation, which in India means a private driver who takes you exactly where you want to go anytime you want. The housekeeping is done daily. What we feel is it really opens people up to be able to self-actualize. Because that’s what we’re trying to do is create these great programs, these great activities.

On the online booking process for Priya’s new community

You can think of this as self-checkout. And yes, it is entirely automated: Click, click, click, and your stay is booked. You can certainly call in if you have questions. We have 24/7 humans who will answer questions and do a very good job and can walk people through it. But the idea is that people are very used to doing this nowadays, especially with this product because we do see a lot of demand coming from people who are going to be there for a few months. And people are very used to doing this for hotels, or for flights for vacations. If you provide enough information and answer questions, certainly we want people to feel that it’s easy. We’re trying to make that process as easy as possible for folks, because no one likes to deal with applications.

We have found that people want to be in multiple locations, not in one location. And they want to spend their time in multiple locations because everyone has family, or friends or people they grew up with. And the aspiration is there. These are like global families.

The only thing we’ve offered, folks, is, again, this 365 product. What if somebody just wants 90 days? It’s like somebody’s saying, I want to buy a couple chocolate bars, and we sell chocolate, but I’m saying you have to take the whole palette. I think it’s this idea of engaging with people where they are, and giving them what they really want.

Our community in India also welcomes folks who want to move in for 12 months. And you can certainly book that as well, online. So it’s flexible in that way. And we do see demand for this also coming for people who want to be there for 12 months. Making it flexible, that was really our goal.

On Priya’s unique marketing style:

These are real residents [on our website]. And we think that our residents, the people that come live with us, they’re the stars. And all we’re doing is we’re building the stage, we’re setting the lights, we’re making sure that A.V. system works — but they’re the stars, it’s their performance. When they open the door, we want them to feel like they’re stepping on onto a stage: Bollywood, Broadway theater, that kind of feeling.

We want to be driven by people and have a people focus. It’s not just the real estate. And I think too many times people get that confused, showing pictures of empty buildings or empty rooms. I mean, it’s not what people are looking for, as nice as the finishes might be. And we don’t use stock images. I think people can tell when it’s stock.

On future growth plans in India and exporting U.S. senior living models:

We are looking at a number of cities all across India. We see certainly a lot of demand coming for it, but also a lot of opportunities. Because as I said earlier, you’ve got all this development happening, and that creates opportunities. What we found is there are developers there that understand what we do, and want to work with us. So that’s been helpful. But you know, I would say, we’re looking at close to 15 cities in India right now, and building a pipeline. And we certainly expect to open in multiple new cities next year.

The reality is the U.S. Senior Living industry is very advanced globally. We’ve actually got a great product when you think when you think globally. So why aren’t we exporting our product? Every other industry that’s U.S. based, if they have a great product, is thinking about exporting. It’s thinking about the global market. So I’d encourage folks to think about, Why aren’t we exporters?

The post Priya Living CEO: We’re Going Beyond Senior Living’s Typical Offerings With New India Expansion appeared first on Senior Housing News.

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