CALL IT A REAL LIFE SOCIAL NETWORK or perhaps an exclusive playground for jetset creatives – just don’t call Kafnu a co-working space. After all, while chic hotel lobby-style common spaces, collegiate happy hours and thoughtful “turn down” cookies have become the norm at luxury co-working spaces such as The Great Room and Wework, what Kafnu specialises in, is providing avenues for creative expression.
For instance, the 12-storey Kafnu Taipei, which is located in the city’s trendy Minsheng district, houses a music recording studio and a green room for computer wizardry, as well as a rooftop glampsite for urban explorers. At its other location in Hong Kong at the Kerry Hotel, the space is designed with interactive features such as aquariums instead of walls and meeting rooms stocked with games like Jenga, to facilitate easy interaction and spark conversation among members.
“Today, the creative mindset has broadened beyond those in the creative field. Many people, even those with day jobs, pursue their creative interests in their spare time,” observes Morris Sim, chief marketing officer of Singapore-based Next Story Group. The group designs, manages and markets hotels and urban spaces, including the boutique hotels Kiridara in Luang Prabang and Riva Arun in Bangkok.
Kafnu, which launched in October, is a private club meets co-working space which targets jetsetting urbanites, creatives and entrepreneurs who wish to indulge in myriad artistic pursuits while connecting them to other like-minded individuals and groups. This is why Sim, who is spearheading Kafnu’s expansion in the Asia Pacific region, likens the brand to a physical social network.
“In the past decade, virtual social networks have grown humongously but nothing really beats face-to-face interaction when you look a person in the eye and are able to establish a level of trust.”
“Through Kafnu, we would like to form a social network that gives people a chance to connect and collaborate. Think of it as Facebook and LinkedIn tied together – but in real life,” says Sim.
In fact, Kafnu is named after a Himalayan village in India, a traditional starting point for pilgrimages into the mountains. The executive team – including Sim – visited the Indian village and were inspired by the camaraderie they witnessed among the villagers and pilgrims and were moved to apply the “it takes a village” philosophy to their concept.
Besides offering opportunities for partnerships to form organically through social events such as whisky flight tastings and photography workshops, Kafnu also has a system of mentoring and scholarship programmes to help promising entrepreneurs and artists realise their artistic dreams.
Besides the two spaces in Hong Kong and Taipei, properties are slated to open in Bangalore, Sydney, Melbourne, Ho Chi Minh City and Colombo by 2018. Sim says they are also looking at suitable locations for a Singapore outpost. Members will be able to access the spaces in the various countries when they travel.
The idea of community extends beyond Kafnu’s walls, too. Through his experiences with the Next Story Group’s hotels, he noticed that businesses located around the hotels thrived during the peak season but saw a corresponding dip when the hotels were at low occupancy because “there wasn’t enough people-to-people interaction”.
Setting up Kafnu is a way to draw more people to a location, which will in turn benefit the local community, Sim says. “By putting a physical social network into any building we work with, the tenants benefit as it turns the building into a destination. This gives the property a lot more value,” he says.
Acknowledging that this idea of networking in real life might seem radical to the millennial generation, Sim quips wryly, “Over the last decade, we have grown so accustomed to virtual social networks, but humans are social creatures and interaction is not always easily replicated on digital platforms. It is time we brought these networks back into the physical world.”