An interview with the Shakot Hakim,founder studentblock
Stuentblock is a student accommodation search engine with a difference. It combines the convenience of property search engine with the very personal,hands on, service provided by a lettings agent. With over 1200 viewings in 2015, student block has been keeping it’s founder Shakot Hakim quite busy. We sit down and have a talk with him about his startup, his experience as a lettings agent and his plans on expanding student block.
Shakot could you please introduce yourself to our readers?
Hi , my name is shak, and I’m the founder of student block a student property site that is set to revolutionize accommodation search forever.
Why did you start studentblock?
I first founded the company when I left a previous employer to embark on a journey to help change the student housing sector , fed up of being told what to do and fed up of old ways that never worked, it was time that I set up my own business which I could run and choose how to operate , a company that would set its ow mission, vision and plans to help students.
What makes London an ideal place for international students?
London has always been home to the worlds most well known universities and has always been at the forefront of education. It’s no wonder why we have over 400,000 full time academic student each year and these do not even include the non academic which are language students, travellers and work places students. I’m not going to bore you with numbers. Fundamentally you need an English degree to be well recognized and get that job. In countries such as China and India, English degrees are prized and help employment. There has also been a increase of South American students who now travel to London to study as they need English to communicate with businesses in USA. But those are just some of the examples I can give. There are many more.
At student block have you seen a particular preference for flat shares as opposed to independent rooms?
Each year has been different and it cannot be said if there is a special preference to flat shares.Last year student block had 1200 viewings generated that were a different mix. But what I can say is going forward there will be a strong demand for cheap beds as low income households will be priced out the market. I am doing what I can to bring affordable rooms but I will need in excess of a few 100k to help build a team that can deliver this. So yes there is room for flat shares . But equally it’s important to understand that it’s a diverse market here in London and demands change every year.
One of the key differentiating factors for student block is it’s not just passive search. It helps student by actively taking them for a viewing at their chosen location. Has this helped in keeping the retention rate high for properties that have advertised on studentblock?
I should think so, from previous experience for example during my time at Unite group I did something similar, and I never had any cancellations nor any complaints. I m still waiting for last year’s results but chasing marketing managers is not an easy job. Watch this space, I’m sure I will have some good examples to give later.
Shakot you have previously worked as a lettings agent. What were the most common problems that you faced?
As student letting consultant it was challenging as its a completey different market to residential. You must be patient and calm as the sales cycle is long and can take up to 6 months before you see any bookings come through. The main difficulty is to overcome the vast amount of choice. But as a good consultant if you advise correctly then both parents and students make take the decision to book with you. I have placed many students into housing both as a consultant and a lettings manager but now it is my turn to place students on a mass scale and last year was a good example of this generating over 1200 across London. People trust student block, people trust me.
Do you have any plans to expand student block beyond London?
I would like to expand to different cities and apply my site to different markets and hopefully if I can secure the right funding with a like minded investor I can expand to different towns. I have already had interest in Scotland and Madrid.Thank you for talking to us Shak!
- On March 15, 2016