In this edition of ‘How to Succeed’, we speak to Sachin Doshi — founder, CEO and Chairman of the Board at Weave Living — on his philosophy on work-life balance (and why he thinks it’s a misnomer), finding importance in casual banter with colleagues and Weave Living’s first multi-family residential offering: the brand-new Weave Residences in Mid-Levels.
It’s a churn that becomes especially potent as one hovers near adulthood. You’re 18. A high-school graduate. You proceed to enrol at university; graduate there, too. With honours, hopefully. You meet someone special; get married; apply for a mortgage; have some babies. The story practically writes itself, unfolding in very familiar beats. Call them pitstops, call them milestones or call them archaic markers of bygone expectations no longer meaningful or pertinent to a life worth living, but these are, and continue to be, markers of significance for big swathes of the population.
Then, the pendulum swings.
Weave Living was founded on this expectation for variance — this understanding that lives are not lived scene-to-scene on the backbones of must-haves and must-dos. Instead, Sachin Doshi built an empire of, now, over a total of 579 units across five locations in Hong Kong, split between Weave Studios, Weave Suites and Weave Residences that cater to the “global citizen”. The nomadic urbanites. The short-term in-betweeners in need of hassle-free accommodation. It was a bet that paid off for Doshi; Weave Living, after all, was only founded a mere four years ago in 2017. Below, we sat down with Doshi for a quick chat — or, in his own words, chewed the fat — on all the things he gleaned from his journey into entrepreneurship and what it really takes to succeed.
Tell us a little bit about your background — how did you enter the rental accommodation space? Was there a moment or event that really influenced you to become an entrepreneur?
I was born in India and graduated from Australian National University. Hong Kong is always my favourite city since my first trip to Hong Kong to visit my sister when I was 13, therefore, I applied for a relocation to Hong Kong while I was working at an investment bank in Sydney. When I first came to Hong Kong in 2007, I managed to find an apartment in a brand-new building on Hollywood Road where I had a troublesome incident. During a work trip to Singapore, I got a call from Hong Kong telling me that one of my bedroom windows had fallen into the adjacent swimming pool during typhoon season. I had almost no help from my landlord, who’s solution was to stick a sheet of cardboard to my window! And I had to figure out how to find a handyman remotely to have this fixed to avoid a flooded apartment upon my return to Hong Kong. At that moment, I felt there had to be a better rental experience for global citizens living in large, expensive cities. That was the point I would say the idea of Weave truly germinated and I wanted to create something to address this housing anomaly in big cities. These hassles of renting, combined with the social aspect of difficulties in meeting like-minded people in a new city led to the further development of Weave Living in my head, before I finally jumped headlong into entrepreneurship.
You’ve had immense success in real estate investment banking prior to your current journey into entrepreneurship. Any words of advice for someone who’s thinking of making the jump from stable employment into a work-life that’s much more uncertain?
One of the key things is to remember that every no brings you closer to a yes. Don’t let a victory make you overexcited, don’t let a setback make you overly disappointed. You’ve got to keep a level head, because it is a marathon, not a sprint. One success or failure is not going to be fatal, but success is incremental.
What prompted the idea for Weave Living? What would you say is the secret sauce to Weave Living’s success in comparison to other service apartments in the city?
Offering a flexible rental solution of well-designed homes, Weave Living has moved beyond its early roots of targeting millennials and first-time home-leavers, as we witnessed the enormous opportunities in the serviced apartment space and in traditional multi-family residential properties. Catering for the different needs of modern city dwellers, we currently have three product lines — co-living studios (Weave Studios), serviced apartments (Weave Suites) and self-contained residences (Weave Residences) — that provide a high-quality, diverse rental solution to a broader demographic of urbanites.
We stand out from other competitors because we are the designer, owner and operator of the properties, which makes us unique. This enables us to fully manage all aspects of the homes we offer, from the look and feel to the service to their operations. All our properties are located in prime locations around Hong Kong, giving our residents the ultimate in convenience and flexibility.
Can you name one person who has been instrumental in your success?
This is not an easy one to answer as in different times in life there have been various people who have influenced and supported me in different ways, be it my parents, friends, old bosses or colleagues. But in terms of being a constant source of encouragement, keeping me grounded and letting me explore, I would say my wife, Gloria.
Can you speak on your thoughts on work-life balance? Does it exist for you? Is there a hard-and-fast rule you have about how you approach work vis-à-vis its relationship to the rest of your life?
I think work-life balance is an often-misused term and a bit of misnomer. Work is a part of life, and as an entrepreneur it’s a very big part of my life. A lot of my energy, creativity and attention goes into building Weave Living and I never stop thinking about it. At the same time, I can’t bring my 110% to my work without spending quality time outside of work, be that with my wife and one-year-old son, Liam, my friends and also getting to know my colleagues outside of the workplace, so to me work and life are intertwined.
I love my work and don’t see the need to “balance” it with life. But yes, I always make time to do things I enjoy, whether it’s going for a run, playing tennis, reading that book on my bookshelf, having a glass of wine talking about sport, movies, politics, books or discovering my next watch! I feel as a person, I can switch my focus easily to things that matter to me – that’s just how I am built, which is a blessing.
Tell us about a significant point where you truly began to feel recognised; that you’ve “made it”.
I still don’t feel like I have “made it”. I am still the same person I was as a kid in India, or a university student in Australia. To me one’s success is measured by how relatable one is to a broad spectrum of people. By that yardstick, I feel I have made it. But that’s about it.
To you, what’s the most important aspect, trait or criteria for someone to succeed?
Hands down perseverance (of course with a bit of luck!). I strongly believe that success is not built on success but by learning from the lessons of failure. Persevering when all odds seem against you, to wake up in the morning without loss of enthusiasm, when many others would give up. That’s what will set you apart in the long run.
Describe one of the lowest points during your career or as you were building your business, what was the most important thing you learned?
I think one of the hardest things as a founder of a business that is very capital intensive is that we have constant funding requirements to grow the business. In our early days, one of the hardest things was explaining to investors why high quality, professionally managed rental accommodation was a viable business in a region where home ownership seems to be everyone’s dream. It’s not an easy thing to do, but I have become quite good at respectfully ending conversations that go nowhere. Of course, this is easier done now that we have two very high quality, globally recognised investors supporting the Weave Living vision.
What did you wish you knew at the start of your career that you know now? What words of advice would you want to give your younger self?
I think when I started off my career, I didn’t fully appreciate the importance of accepting that there were a lot of things I did not know. I have always been a curious person, but in a way working for an investment bank out of college, accepting that you don’t know something was almost seen as a sign of weakness. So, there were times when I look back and think I was simply faking it. As I became more experienced, I began to appreciate that the most successful people surround themselves with people who intellectually challenge them, and knowing what you don’t know is an incredibly powerful thing. Now I simply go ahead and ask as many questions as I need to understand something and I have become very good at seeking help from as many people who are willing to spend their time on me.
Your crucial tip for productivity? Do you use a particular app? Meditate?
I live by the mantra of getting a solid night’s sleep. I am an early riser and don’t need an alarm to be up by 5:30am. Every morning I make a list of things to do and who I need help from. I also shoot messages off to colleagues (but they know it’s just my style and I don’t expect an answer at 6am!). This way I start the day prepared. I am not a big fan of writing notes — it’s all there between my ears.
What does an average work-day look like for you?
I like just chatting to my colleagues. It’s amazing how much you learn about the health of your business by having a conversation with people who make it happen. So, every day I probably spend a couple of hours just chewing the fat. Spending time with my investors and leaders of each key team is something I also do regularly. The part I love the most is design and walking the streets to find the next building we can acquire to transform a neighbourhood and create amazing homes.
What do you like to do when you’re not working, how does it help you or how does it make you feel?
I love playing tennis, running, reading and spending time with my family and friends. It serves as a reminder to me that being and feeling mentally and physically healthy is the most important thing in the world. I am also bit of a watch aficionado, so I am working on growing my collection of fine watches.
Rental prices for residences at Weave Residences in Mid-Levels start at HK$22,050 a month. Click here for more information.