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Naked ambition never retreats

By Xu Junqian in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2017-08-28 08:06

South African entrepreneur Grant Horsfield always believes, and manages to prove, being "naked" can be pretty and profitable.

And today, the 40-year-old co-founder of Naked Group, a big label in the resort business in East China, is betting big on the future of co-working spaces in China, and Asia as well, aspiring to get global corporate icons out of "their ugly offices" and into his much cooler and lively spaces branded as Naked Hub.

Late in July, Naked Hub, a subsidiary business of the Shanghai-based group, announced its merger with Singapore co-working space brand JustCo.

Together, they are going to form Asia's largest hot-desking office network, covering nine cities in six countries with a total space of 140,000 square meters at 41 locations.

Talking about his recently developed business interest in co-working spaces, Horsfield noted that resorts, as well-designed and popular as they are, could accommodate guests once or twice every year during their vacation. On the other hand, offices are the places that people spend the most time at outside home every day, and most of them are "cubicles" or "gray boxes" that the nature-loving entrepreneur disdains.

Naked ambition never retreats

It was also his dire desire to go back to nature that inspired him to start his hospitality brand, or more precisely a retreat of his own from the hustle and bustle of Shanghai where he used to work as a consultant, back in 2007.

Together with his girlfriend then and wife now, Hong Kong-born architect Delphine Yip, they renovated a farmhouse in the bamboo forest at Moganshan, Zhejiang province, for their own and friends' holiday at first.

But it gradually became a hot spot for both vacation-minded expats in East China and young Chinese.

Today, Naked enjoys wide popularity like well-established international brands such as Banyan Tree. It is now partnering with real estate developers for expansion.

For co-working spaces, Horsfield expects the merger with JustCo to boost the total revenue past $100 million by the end of this year.

Real estate consultancy Colliers International estimated that by 2030, up to 30 percent of the working spaces globally will be transformed into shared or co-working offices. In Shanghai, the figure today is less than five percent.

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