Beyond Real Estate: How Co-working Spaces Aren't Just About Rental Benefits Anymore
Co-working spaces are moving beyond fancy interiors to offer partnerships with top companies, discounted privileges and more.
There was a time when co-working spaces made heads turn because of being just that – a space that allows people from different companies to come together and work. But today, every city boasts of several co-working spaces all in line with the "cool" start-up culture.
With the growing number of co-working spaces, it's now important to change the narrative from just being a cool centre to work out of being a bigger facilitator for start-ups. Now, co-working spaces too are recognising this and are moving beyond fancy interiors to offer partnerships with top companies, discounted privileges and more.
Entrepreneur India spoke to founders of co-working spaces about how they are doing more and are looking at creating start-up ecosystems.
Not Just About Affordability
Even today one of the biggest advantages of a co-working space is the cheap rent. In today's age of skyrocketing rental prices, having an office in a co-working space works out cheaper for the start-up. Harsh Lambah, India Country Manager, International Workplace Group (IWG), said that while co-working spaces are often associated with affordability, but in reality, flexible working is effective at every level of a business, from individuals to multinational corporates. The flexibility and convenience provided help professionals to collaborate and expand which cannot be done at a traditional office set-up. Often, traditional office spaces can be quite limited by nature. He added that opportunities to interact are less restricted in a co-working office space.
"It can be a challenge in a traditional setting to interact face to face with other employees and have the sorts of conversations that can spark great ideas. In a flexible workspace built on collaboration, this effect is amplified – because people are interacting with fellow workers not simply from within their own business, but more widely," he said.
Meanwhile, Nakul Mathur, MD, Avanta Business Centers, believes that a good co-working space is more than just an office. Apart from providing professional support, it does provide emotional support to the occupants. "Talking about the service provided at a good or high-quality co-working space, prompt, efficient and intuitive response stands out to be its characteristic. A successful co-working space does not appeal its clients with a cookie-cutter approach," said Mathur.
This is definitely what makes co-working spaces so attractive. In a co-working space, you are able to interact with people from different companies and backgrounds under one roof. Over a cup of coffee at the cafeteria or over a game at the fun zone, many interactions take place that makes way for better ideas too.
Meghna Agarwal, Co-Founder & Chief Creative Officer, IndiQube believes that the co-working space scenario has moved beyond just an office space, giving growing companies and professionals an opportunity to network, collaborate and grow with people from different phases of life and levels of professional experiences. It also helps in getting new prospects, guidance, and market help, and in turn, redefine the employee experience.
"By opting coworking spaces, start-ups and SMEs have been able to attract and retain talents, thus increasing the employee engagement. They also offer flexibility in workspaces for anyone, be it a professional, start-ups, SMEs, and large companies, by allowing employees to work from different locations and providing them with a better work-life balance. The new motto of start-ups working out of shared spaces has been to connect, create, collaborate and grow," she said.
Partnerships And Events
A growing trend is for co-working spaces to move beyond just real estate benefits to give their start-ups benefits by partnering with various companies or organizing events. By organizing events, these co-working spaces help their start-ups to interact with industry experts and even work with them. Through partnerships, they bring discounts and credits.
CIE – IIIT Hyderabad's co-working space and incubator have been around for 10 years and they too have moved way beyond being just a co-working space. Today, they are an incubation centre, co-working space, launchpad for startups and have accelerator programs too. They also have domain-specific thrust initiatives for areas like gaming, MedTech and social. "While 300 startups have been directly impacted through incubation, ten times the number may have been impacted through our several events and enablement initiates over the past ten years," said Ramesh Loganathan, COO, IIIT-H Foundation & Prof Co-Innovation, IIIT Hyderabad.
What Makes a Start-up Choose a Co-working Space?
But with the abundance of co-working spaces across the country today, how does one plan to stand out in the crowd and how does a start-up select the right co-working space which will help them grow their business.
Lambah said that co-working spaces offer numerous opportunities for networking and help start-ups and professionals be part of a larger community and interact with like-minded businesses to focus on driving their businesses forward. "Therefore, it is important to choose a space which is suitable for the needs of a business. From a cash flow perspective, co-working space is ideal for start-up entrepreneurs looking for a professional workspace without the high upfront costs. Co-working spaces offer affordable rent, especially in comparison to hiring out a traditional office space," he said.
Agarwal too agrees. She said that scalability and flexibility are the two strong pillars for the next generation workspace. With each passing day, the concept of co-working space is becoming synonymous with the vibrant millennial. "More and more young companies and professionals prefer working out of a co-working space as it allows them to focus on things that really matter to their business and help in leveraging the economies of scale by allowing them to reduce their CAPEX and utilize the same amount on their OPEX," she said.
A co-working space offers the flexibility to increase and decrease in numbers while providing a work environment which is a combination of infrastructure, employee services, community management, events, and networking, thus offering young companies a complete ecosystem where they can grow and thrive with ups and downs being completely managed. Agarwals shared an example from their own space. IndiQube's community app "MiQube' enables client members to enjoy the employee services, benefits, and leverage partnership benefits such as 25 % discount in top restaurants across cities.
It all boils down to the added benefits a co-working space offers a start-up. Mathur said that service provided at co-working spaces is the key to success for them to win the race. "To make them stand out from the crowd, space should be able to add some value to their occupants. Having a unique offering with a clear distinguished USP of maintaining high-quality services distinguishes it from competition," he said.