Property

Kafnu - the concept of ultimate sharing economy from NSG

Kafnu

The skyrocketing popularity of co-working spaces among start-ups, small business owners and multinationals alike is evidence they are probably here to stay. When the Hive, Ooosh, CoCoon, Paperclip and blueprint, as just a few, were joined on the office landscape by co-working behemoth WeWork last year, it was a clear sign co-working was officially an option. And co-living is the natural progression.

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Working new

The co-working model is familiar by now. Defined by open, collaborative spaces that cultivate cost-effective communication and professional development, co-working is the physical manifestation of the sharing economy. Even more critically, co-working now exerts an influence on the property sector. As a business incubator for future occupiers and a viable solution for MNCs slowly expanding — or contracting — a co-working tenant quickly became a must-have anchor for many commercial landlords; the Marks & Spencer or MUJI to the mall operator.

With the work element in full swing, Next Story Group plans on opening its first dual co-working and co-living space in Hong Kong later this year. Kafnu, as described in its summer press announcement, “[Synthesizes] the best aspects of co-living, hotel, retail and private club. It is a blended space designed for the new generation of creators, from entrepreneurs to remote workers to artists to global nomads.” A Kafnu “urban community hub” will also be opening in Taipei.


Kafnu


Kafnu


Kafnu

Hong Kong, Taipei and Asia overall seem particularly well positioned to take advantage of the co-working and co-living boom. Millennials and fortysomething professionals are equally mobile, and Hong Kong has a wealth of global citizens that have been unofficially co-working for years; home offices have been on the rise since the 1990s. “With their diverse technology, media, and creative communities, Hong Kong and Taipei were the ideal cities for the first Kafnu shared spaces… A freelancer would fight alone if they only worked at home, but [they] can find someone to help in a Kafnu when facing a problem.That’s why co-working spaces became so popular,” begins Morris Sim, chief marketing officer for Next Story Group, arguing Kafnu (similar to Swire’s blueprint) is a place to find partners and resources, and noting community managers will be on hand to facilitate if needed. And as a home-grown product, NSG understands its end-users. “Our concept is actually very Asian — when you think about villages that shaped much of Asian history, they had all the components of what we’re attempting to put in, plus more. Kafnu is a vertical village very much inspired by our collective heritage.”


Kafnu

So, the question becomes how Kafnu will distinguish itself from a hotel or serviced apartment. Resorts specifically designed for spa treatments and leisure, what few there are, are the only accommodation properties left that lack full business facilities. Co-working spaces are often located within striking distance from amenities like gyms and leisure outlets — and hotels.

“Kafnu is the only shared space for entrepreneurs and creators that is located inside a luxury hotel in Hong Kong,” explains Sim. “The space provides everything you need to work, dine, live, play, learn, and rest — so it’s much more than just a co-working space. Our mission with Kafnu is to connect entrepreneurially-minded people who create new value. To support them, the space provides an ideal creative environment with the tools, content, and connections to help them get there faster.”


Kafnu


Kafnu

Living new

To that end, NSG is partnering with Kerry Hotels to create this professional base camp. Indeed, it’s named for an Indian village that marks the start of Himalayan hiking trails. The Hong Kong property — Kafnu Spoke — will be located inside Kerry’s new Hung Hom property (Taipei’s Kafnu Hub, in Songshan, will be in its own building). Again, how this is not a hotel is confounding. Is Kafnu for long-term or short-term residents? Sim continues: “[Kerry can] provide living services to our members. There are only two private offices in Kafnu Hong Kong with sleeping pods where people can take a rest when they get tired or sleep for hours before going to the airport late at night. The sleeping pods are designed for short-term use,” he says. Additionally, members do not need to be booked in to sleep and work; they can do one or the other — or both. “Those members who have long-term needs can sleep at the hotel with a discount.”

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Kafnu

As opposed to stressing the economic upside of co-working spaces, Sim doesn’t believe rental rates are Kafnu’s selling point. “The price point is not a major incentive of Kafnu. Our price will be around the market average,” he argues. “The major incentive of Kafnu is the community, where every member can connect with their partners and go on the journey together.”

Kafnu certainly looks the part. The pseudo-industrial interiors (by Taiwan’s Horizon Design) are defined by plenty of space-maximising glass, natural woods, casual leisure pockets and funky-chic accents. Swish conference rooms flank fitness centres; sleep pods and shower facilities are down the hall from a whisky bar. An outdoor garden space provides a bit of nature. The on-site services include hot or dedicated desks, private offices and recording studios, as well as comprehensive business amenities such as printing and scanning, storage, mail services, accounting, company registration and security. And like iTunes, in some cases members pay only for what they use and need.


Kafnu


Kafnu

With traditional co-working spaces sprouting like weeds, and moderately-priced business hotels and serviced apartments doing the same, Kafnu has its work cut out for it. Sim agrees, but adds a caveat. “Our biggest challenge is changing people’s preconceived views that a space can only be used for one purpose,” he finishes. “Shared spaces aren’t just about co-working or meeting, but can be used to work, live, play, learn, and more.”

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