Co-working: You and they in a beautiful space

Steve Jobs started out in a garage as did Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos.NEW DELHI: Back in the day, Steve Jobs started out in a garage as did Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos. For India’s growing tribe of “self starters”, that’s a corporate legend gone with the winds of time in these days of increasing urbanisation.

With home spaces shrinking, garages and the like are no longer an option for those without conventional office jobs looking for a quiet corner to get a day’s work in.

Enter co-working spaces — workspaces where diverse groups of freelancers, remote workers and other professionals work together in a shared, convivial setting the happy answer to costly commercial real estate and sky-rocketing rents in tier I and tier II cities.

And all this without hassles such as electricity charges, wi-fi, maintenance and furniture costs.

Boasting plush furniture, glass cabins, ornate-themed interiors, phone booths, lush green plants and hip in-house cafeterias serving the best of coffee and the sweetest of muffins these offices are more than a match for any uptown restaurant in terms of ambience.

On offer are common co-working spaces (bullpen or lounges), dedicated co-work spaces (a standalone desk) or a private cabin for you and team on daily, monthly and yearly basis. The plans are flexible and customers can also ask for custom made offices.

According to a recent Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) study, the co-working industry in India is expected to receive $400 million in investments by 2018 and grow to 15 million desks in about five years.

“We have been offering this platform since 1989. It was earlier called ‘business centre’, then in the early 2000s, the term changed to ‘serviced offices’ and now we have ‘co-working’. So it is a trend evolving since 1989,” said Harsh Lambah, country manager, International Workplace Group (IWG), one of the many co-working companies in India.

An established player in the market, IWG has two brands, Spaces and Regus, operating across 16 cities.

Besides IWG and other acclaimed international players like WeWork, Indian companies, too, have dipped their feet in this business model and are making the most out of it. Smartworks, for instance, has built 15 centres in nine cities across India in just two years.

“Like Uber or Ola, co-working today is more of a requirement…We are basically taking away all the hassle of running the entire office space from you, so you can focus on other important things at hand,” said Smartworks founder Neetish Sarda.

Clients are also happy to share their stories. “Since I am the only person based in India, it is more practical for me to work from a co-working space. Renting a space, internet and telephone connectivity, plus heat and electricity bills and maintenance of a rented space tend to become expensive,” said Akshay Anand from World Hotels.

“Moreover, I am able to concentrate on my responsibilities on sales rather than wasting my time on administrative work,” he added.

Experts say the average cost of co-working spaces is around Rs 9,000 to 12,000 per employee per month. “Today, the Indian market is open to the concept of co-working space because we are between 10 to 15 per cent cheaper than the conventional office space,” said Harsh Binani, Co-Founder, Smartworks.

MNCs are also making a beeline for the trending co-working phenomenon. Market players say that MNCs are not just receptive to the idea of flexible office setups, some also flocking to co-working spaces in search of talent.

“A very important aspect of WeWork India’s growth story is that 50 per cent of our members are large enterprises as compared to the rest of the world where they constitute about 25 per cent. Clearly, even mid-to-large-sized companies in India are embracing this new way of working, not just start-ups,” said WeWork India CEO Karan Virwani.

In India, WeWork enterprise members include brands like GoDaddy, TrueCaller, Discovery India, Jaguar Land Rover, Knowlarity, and Twitter, he added.

Spaces and Smartworks also have an impressive list of enterprises availing their services. According to Binani, 70 per cent of Smartworks’ client base consists of enterprises only.

Most of these places also offer a virtual office. “Virtual office is aimed at professional or entrepreneurs working out of home who want a professional front or service, but not 24/7. So it starts simply as a mail box service or phone answering service… also they can visit a particular centre for five days a month and have their meetings in professional environment,” said Lambha.

Big players are hoping to beat the competition by offering new services to their customers.

While Spaces, for instance, has been organising events like ‘Tea Tasting’ and ‘Office Gol Gappa Champs’ to build camaraderie between the employees of different companies, Smartworks recently introduced indigenous human robot ‘Mitra’ at its Hyderabad facility to streamline the visitor management system.

“We also have weekend programs by the name ‘Smart Weekend’, which are designed differently for different companies. The events include fitness classes like Yoga, art therapy, pet therapy and many more,” Sarda said.

In a bid to try something new, WeWork recently launched ‘The Artist Point of View’ campaign, inviting people to re-imagine their workspace by putting their thoughts on canvas. PTI

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