What's Keeping Coworking spaces relevant
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With the outbreak of Covid-19, the ensuing security risks and administrative challenges of a largely remote working office culture have proven to be daunting to employees and organizations alike. Providing a solution to ease this, using coworking spaces and workspaces which allow users to book a place to work from near their homes is expected to see a rise. The Government norms around occupancy for private offices are not expected to become lenient any soon. However, industries such as Banking, Financial Services, Insurance, and many more carry huge data security risks which cannot be secured by employees at their homes. This month at Entrepreneur, we analyze how well prepared are coworking spaces to provide COVID-safe and security-enabled spaces near homes, thereby providing the same atmosphere, amenities, and cybersecurity that an entity would have given at its own facility. Will this be the new future of work?
(This article was first published in the May 2021 issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)
Growing Hub-&-Spoke Model of Working
The world of work has changed and we are witnessing a large percentage of firms moving to a flexible structure and operating with a ‘hub and spoke’ model. Witnessing this change, Harsh Lambah, Country Manager India, VP Sales - South Asia at IWG plc observes, “In order to move with the rapidly changing times, we’re providing firms with everything they need to work in the way that suits them, from convenient locations and industry-leading technology so teams can collaborate, to shorter lease commitments, allowing for the ultimate flexibility as circumstances change. Our aim is to give clients a tailored workspace that can be scaled up and down as necessary, depending on their business needs.” As the economy opens up, businesses will be quick to embrace the new ‘hybrid’ working practices and it will mark a real step-change for those industries that have historically had a very traditional view of the office. Distributed workforces will be the new normal as businesses seek to reduce risk and benefit from remote working. “As a business, we have also seen a significant surge in demand for workspaces in suburban areas and small towns in the last few months and that is emerging as a real growth area for us,” shares Lambah. In India, with 110 workspaces across 16 cities, IWG provides the most extensive network of workplaces for customers. They will also look at the opportunity to bring in other differentiated Brands into India so that customers can gain the freedom of choice to choose from a wide range of Brands so that they can find the solution that works best for their business in the new world of work, like HQ, Basepoint, Signature, Stop&Work, No. 18, etc. As the world begins to pull itself upright, businesses are looking for ways to operate and innovate within the new normal. They need to find a balance between what worked before and what they need to pivot towards to succeed in the new normal. The pandemic has certainly had a dramatic and permanent effect, but it’s merely accelerated a trend that’s been underway for several years, as organisations progressively move to a ‘hybrid’ way of working: at home, a local office, anywhere convenient and occasionally at corporate HQ. The flex workspace industry has seen about 1000% of growth over the last decade and it is anticipated to account for 30% of all office space by 2030.
“Globally, we’re seeing the rise of the 15 Minute City and we will need to see continued growth in order to meet the demand for hybrid working. Therefore, we are expanding by franchises in India and globally to fulfill the demands,” concludes Lambah.
Navigating the Great Unknown
315Work Avenue’s mission is to build workspace communities keeping in mind the need for togetherness even in times of social distancing. Talking about the demand for coworking spaces in times of pandemic, Manas Mehrotra, Founder, 315Work Avenue shares with optimism, “Despite the COVID-induced uncertainty, the future of the flex workspace sector remains sound. Medium-to-long-term fundamentals have remained sound as corporate occupiers seek out alternative options to reduce costs and capital expenditure. These corporates have been with us during these tough times and will continue to do so as they seek to save costs.
The potential demand compression from likely increased work from home (WFH) will be offset by increased demand from de-densification of offices, keeping demand robust.” Ever since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the company has been the first mover on many standard operating procedures and safety measures. They have put the best practices in place by consulting a vast panel of experts on our board which also includes several doctors. First is making use of an ‘Ioniser,’ a patented technology that provides hospital standard air filtration and kills all the germs in the air. The second is making use of coatings and paints which always keep the surfaces sanitized. They have also redesigned seating arrangements at workstations and in areas like the cafeteria, lift, breakout lounges, etc. to maintain proper distancing. In a first-of-its-kind initiative, 315Work Avenue has recently announced that it will cover the Covid-19 vaccination cost for all of its clients and their team members working out of 315Work Avenue workspaces.
This initiative will cover close to 20,000 people including the existing and upcoming clients. What the pandemic has done is created a desire for asset-light models which enable adaptability and agility. This has led to the intent of moving real estate costs to a variable expense as opposed to a fixed one, which would unlock significant cash in hand. Sharing another advantage, Mehrotra says, “Another win for flexible workspaces will also come from the fact that companies will have to practice social distancing within their campuses, which means they might have to station some employees in different locations. We are focused on large organizations as they seek to de-densify and work on a hub and spoke model which will see a center and satellite offices around it.”
The post lockdown scenario is set to bring in a wave of new opportunities for the co-working players who have to reimagine growth through disruptive approaches that factor in the preferences of different audiences. During the pandemic, they signed up more than 4000 seats and are now looking at adding another 5,00,000 sqft by the end of this year and expand to other cities such as Pune, Hyderabad & Mumbai.
YEAR OF INCEPTION:
NO. OF OPERATIONAL CENTERS:
NO. OF CITIES PRESENT IN:
PROFILE OF COWORKERS:
Investors, freelancers, founders, startups, Corporates and professionals
Around 8000 – 18000 depending on varied factors
Tie up with Kara4kids to facilitate crèche and early education for young kids
NO. OF EVENTS HOSTED:
We host 12-40 events in a year
SQUARE-FOOT SPACE COVERED SO FAR:
More than 90 percent
Following a Cautious Approach
Just like corporates, coworking spaces too have had to trim their operations due to the pandemic. The lively, vibrant and cool hangout workplaces are facing an acute drop in coworkers’ numbers. Elaborating on the scenario, Gargi Shah, founder, The Playce, Mulund (Mumbai) says, “We have gone through a rough patch. Before the pandemic, we had a team of seven people, now we are just two. Pre-pandemic, we had about 80 coworkers/ day, now we have about 20.” “Business was buzzing previously and we were thinking of growing. Now we are figuring out how to weather this storm and stay afloat.”
To keep the business up and running since the pandemic, The Playce had to pivot. “What helped the business was, ‘designing a study room’- a ‘Student Pass’ to use the space as a study room. We also saw a rise in ‘Virtual Office’ solutions from those who quit jobs to start businesses. Under this service, we offer parcel collection, manage emails and allow usage of address for GST.” Nevertheless, Shah still finds it difficult to keep the business model relevant. However, she does receive inquiries from WFH professionals, who can’t really WFH. As WFH is the new norm, this calls for more flexibility on the opening hours, the days, and even the desk layout when demand picks up. How is The Playce gearing up? Even as she follows a cautious approach, adds Shah, “A lot more company professionals are signing up. They come with company desktops and collateral. Privacy of data and equipment has now become key in attracting these customers. For that, we have installed a much more reliable internet setup as well as firewalls for safety.”
“Our plans now have flexibility in terms of days and timings. We are seeing more interest in passes like 10 days/ month, 15 days/month instead of monthly passes.” “Our space is being re-designed with creative art and vibes for a fresh post-covid feel.” Besides, she has common community areas, active WhatsApp groups to foster inspiration among those looking to join.
With the trend slowly catching up, how does The Playce manage the Covid-19 protocols? Says Shah, “We follow the standard protocols of physical distancing, wearing masks, and ensuring regular sanitization.” On the way forward for coworking spaces, the consolidation therein, and her vision for The Playce, says Shah, “There has been a sense of unity and a sense of common voice for the coworking sector which was perhaps absent earlier. We have more forums with the operators active.” “We see a bright future for this sector. In the long-term, we anticipate a growth in the co-working sector.” “We believe, people will prefer a flexible setup of part-time WFH and part-time WFO as WFH is not a practical solution in Mumbai with so many distractions.” “We haven’t seen any consolidation yet.” As for The Playce, says Shah, “We don’t have any concrete plans. We are going to wait and watch.”
The Coworking Discovery Platform
Companies are going to adopt a hybrid remote model of working. Employees are also going to decide where they would work remotely from. As an on-demand workspace platform, GoFloaters is looking at providing this flexibility to companies and their employees along with access to verified, safe, and secured coworking spaces. “At GoFloaters, we are verifying with every partner of ours regarding the protocols through our “COVID Safe Space” certification program. As a platform, providing co-working space at a click, it is also our responsibility to ensure we lead them to the safe workspaces, shares Shyam Sundar Nagarajan, Founder & CEO, GoFloaters.
During the 100% lockdown, like every other business, they took a pause but streamlined and equipped themselves to cater during the pandemic and post-pandemic situation. “Firstly, we ensured that our users had to only pay for the days that they had used the space, especially in the case of monthly and long-term commitments. So, we worked with all our partners and renegotiated the agreements in favor of our customers. Secondly, our focus was on helping our community to embrace remote working. We provided our community of freelancers, startups, and mid-sized businesses with knowledge and enablement. We even created a Work From Anywhere Toolkit that helped companies and more specifically the CHROs to assess their state of readiness for remote work and helped them to transition into a hybrid model of remote working,” claims Rajan.
As they realized that post-lockdown many companies would start to embrace distributed and remote ways of working, they expanded operations to 12 more tier 1 and tier 2 cities. They also started a “COVID Safe Space” program immediately after the first set of guidelines came from the government. “We worked with all our partners and ensured that they were following all the protocols. We added a “Verified Safe” badge to all the spaces that were following the protocols. We even delisted many of our partners who were unable to follow the protocols,” adds Rajan. The business has pivoted through the lockdown to focus only on helping individuals and teams with pay-as-you-go work and meeting spaces across India. GoFloaters come out of the rental segment completely. Their current focus is to help companies give access to safe, professional work and meeting spaces across tier 1 and tier 2 cities to their employees. They have now built the widest network of pay-as-you-use spaces spanning 1800 spaces across 18 Indian cities of which 10 of them are tier 2 cities. To companies, they are offering one all-India pass that they call “GoFloaters for Teams”. Any employee of a company can use this pass to check in into any of the 1800 spaces across 18 cities or work or meet others. Talking about expansion, Rajan says, “As we unlock from wave 2 of the pandemic, our focus would be to ensure that we provide the best experience to our users. Subsequently, we would expand into other tier 2 and tier 3 cities based on demand.”
Investing in the Future
While the first three months of 2020 were profitable for WeWork India, they made strategic changes, keeping in mind the short, medium, and long-term implications of COVID-19 on the sector as a whole, additionally offering spaces to essential and frontline workers at the start of the pandemic. They were quick in reviewing member feedback and worked with industry partners across health and safety, cleaning, construction, and design to provide enhancements and developed a workable plan to safeguard members and employees.
Talking about keeping the community connected Raghuvinder Singh Pathania, Head of Operations, WeWork India mentions, “At WeWork, we ensured that there was a constant line of communication with our members and employees and they felt connected virtually as well. We have hosted virtual events and campaigns to be connected with our community. We have also invested in professional development through workshops, training, and other modules, meeting the need for human connection and collaboration which holds paramount importance. We have also focused on communication and continuous engagement through webinars, online sessions, and fun digital campaigns.” WeWork also focused on reaching out to members through their initiative ‘Stories”, which is an FB live session with some renowned people from different walks sharing their motivational stories. From the customer viewpoint, they also conducted digital tours for potential members.
Through WeWork On-Demand an individual can easily pay & book any WeWork space on its website and access it without any monthly commitments or additional fees to worry about. Available at an introductory price of INR 500, this easy-to-use option provides professionals an opportunity to work from outside of their home set up, and experience the community, collaboration, and work culture of a safe workspace. This offering has seen immense popularity with sales peaking at a month-on-month increase of 39% in the daily passes being sold and 45-50% of members returning for the offering. To contribute beyond workspaces, they launched the ‘Help India fight COVID-19’ to provide much-needed relief on the ground. Through their partnership with GiveIndia, they extended help to everyone affected by this pandemic. They provided funding to their impact partners including Swasth and Doctors For You, who are working on the ground with hospitals, patients, and government institutions and providing hospitals & healthcare institutions with life-saving equipment. In addition to all of this, our impact partners are also working towards setting up fully equipped COVID Care and Isolation Centres along with enabling access to information for all. A sum of INR 50 lakh has already been contributed in this regard. WeWork India recently raised INR 200 crores which is the second round of funding they have secured post an initial round of USD 100 million from WeWork Global.
YEAR OF INCEPTION:
2017 (WeWork India)
NO. OF OPERATIONAL CENTERS: 35 locations
NO. OF CITIES PRESENT IN: 6 cities
PROFILE OF MEMBERS: Enterprise: 60% - Startups/Freelancers/ SMEs - 40%
PRICING: INR 500 (Introductory price for On-Demand pass)/ Pricing varies across India as per location and membership type.
FOCUS / NICHE: 662,000 members globally - consisting of leading venture capitalists, large enterprises, startups, and SMEs
SQUARE-FOOT SPACE COVERED SO FAR: 5M + Sq ft of space leased across 35 operational spaces in India
OTHER DETAILS: 60,000+ desks and 40,000+ member; 350+ employees in India
Bringing in Unexpected Transformation
The COVID-19 pandemic has been emotionally challenging for people and it has brought unprecedented changes in the day-to-day life of working professionals. The paradigm shift to remote and work-from-home models is going to stay for long. Considering the scenario post- Covid, India Accelerator realized the need to transform the vision of building a workplace community into a hybrid community. Though many organizations are working from home, there are still companies that are going to re-start their operations with a specific percentage of staff. Thus, blended work environments having a whole set of new working models – virtual and in-person workspace will be the key to a successful future of co-working.
Talking about the pandemic impact, Abhay Chawla, Founding Partner, India Accelerator says, “Due to the sudden lockdown announcement last year, like every other player in the coworking industry, we went through membership pauses and cancellations. Though our physical workspace was partially shut, we continued to host virtual events to keep our community members encouraged, inspired, and engaged. Additionally, we focused on revamping our pricing models to make it convenient for each client operating in roster shifts or fewer staff. Further, the community of freelancers who were losing productivity in the work from the home model also reached out to get an isolated space in our coworking office.”
India Accelerator aggressively adopted the sound and safe practices on the amenities and infrastructure front. To enhance the safety standards, they increased the frequency of sanitization practices to disinfect work areas including the installation of sensor-based sanitizer dispensers at multiple points. Furthermore, they have restructured our seating arrangement and workstations for the healthy practice of social distancing. Besides, a list of regular and COVID-19 safety compliances have also been added to work policies to bring safety inclusion in the workplace. With 1050 desks in 3 centers currently in NCR they plan to add 4 more Hubs which are currently in varying degrees of being launched. By end of the next quarter, they plan to have 2100 seats across 7 centers in NCR. “What that means is that we have pipeline visibility on 2400+ desks in Phase-1 across 8 Hubs and a further 3000 seats in Phase-2 spread across 12 centers,” concludes Chawla.
YEAR OF INCEPTION: 2017
NO. OF OPERATIONAL CENTERS: 3 NO. OF CITIES PRESENT IN: 1 PRICING: 6500/- to 14000/-
FOCUS: (startup-friendly/ SME friendly/ backed by accelerator ecosystem)
FACILITIES OFFERED: Free beverages, free internet, meeting rooms, collab areas, ampithiater, free access to accelerator community, Sneak peek into IA’s events round the year
NO. OF EVENTS HOSTED: more the 50
SQUARE-FOOT SPACE COVERED SO FAR: 40000 Occupancy ratio 85%
When a sudden lockdown was announced in Mar’20, the immediate challenge for Indiqube was to ensure Business Continuity for its clients. Even though companies were not working from the office, they ensured 100% uptime for critical infrastructure like Server rooms. They also provided round-the-clock support at client premises for various aspects like fire safety, upkeep of plants, pest control, and essential housekeeping.
Talking about taking forward the vision of building workplace communities in the times of social distancing Rishi Das, Co-founder & Chairman, IndiQube comments, “Despite being 6 feet apart, we are taking all the measures to ensure that our workplace communities are closer than ever. As a part of our “Keep in Touch” initiative, we have facilitated companies to stay connected to their employees by sending goodies and gift hampers at regular intervals and for festivities. We have also facilitated the delivery of home-cooked food to employees and their families impacted by COVID.” They also conducted a host of virtual sessions focused on employee health & wellbeing, productivity enhancement, and stress management. Leveraging technology, they have come up with solutions like, walk to work, Hot desking, on-demand parking, and smart meeting rooms to enhance their workspace utilization and to allow seamless connectivity across teams. They have also facilitated a smooth transition for clients to embrace WFH by dispatching desktops and laptops to employee locations along with providing IT support. As things improved and employees were gradually resuming work from the office, they also provided safe and personalized transport services. On the design front, we have come up with Covid safe workspaces that de-densify the office space with staggered seating, enhanced usage of selective surfaces in furniture that support frequent cleaning.
We have also introduced a host of flexible furniture options to our clients with movable workstations, agile scrum areas & flexible workspace partitions, shares Das. On the operations front, they launched a host of measures from mandatory thermal screening, self-declaration of travel and health, touchpoint sanitization, and workplace sterilization.
They also adopted contactless services at various touchpoints to mitigate the risk of infection and constantly monitoring the air quality. In FY 21-22, they plan to add 10,000+ seats to the current portfolio and spread deeper into various micro-markets in the cities where we have a presence. They also see immense potential for their workspace management services business vertical and foresee a growth of over 100% compared to FY 20-21.
YEAR OF INCEPTION: 2015
NO. OF OPERATIONAL CENTERS: 55 Centers
NO. OF CITIES PRESENT IN: 6 Cities
PROFILE OF COWORKERS: Startups, Offshore Development Centers, Enterprises
PRICING: INR 5000 / Desk – INR 15,000 / Desk
FACILITIES OFFERED: Gym, Gaming Zone, Wellness Rooms, Creche, Break out lounge, Reception, Parking, High-speed internet, Printers, CCTV surveillance, and more
NO. OF EVENTS HOSTED: 500+ events including physical and virtual
SQUARE-FOOT SPACE COVERED SO FAR: 3.5 Mn sq.ft.
OCCUPANCY RATIO: 75%+
Chief Reinventor of Office
Ever since May, there has been a significant rise in demand in the coworking sector which has seen consistent month-on-month growth until the second wave. Talking about the changes made in current times, Amit Ramani, Founder, Awfis says, “In the current times and foreseeable future where social distancing will continue to play a significant role in maintaining safety within our workplaces, we are heavily investing in the right technology and relying on virtual events to foster the sense of workplace community.”
Even before the pandemic, Awfis had been evolving from a coworking player to an integrated workspace solutions platform to cater to the evolving workspace demands of discerning clients. “Two months into the pandemic, we understood the challenges associated with WFH and launched our work from the home product, Awfis@Home. It provides the flexibility to efficiently work from the comfort of one’s home while replicating the setting of a productive office work environment, including the physical infrastructure, IT infrastructure & Tech integration. The same has now also been extended on our first-ever D2C platform which offers a curated collection of premium work desks and ergonomic chairs for home office needs,” shares Ramani. The enhanced offerings under Awfis’ Remote Working & Mobility Solutions allows professionals to experience work enrichment by letting them work hassle-free out of a professional fully serviced office setup from wherever they need or have a virtual business address while working from home.
Another solution they introduced is the 'Powered by Awfis model', a comprehensive offering that enables organizations to optimize their unutilized and underutilized real estate space and create an additional revenue source. Through this new model, they partner with them to set up a flex space in the underutilized space within their premises and enter into a revenue-sharing model. Awfis aims to double its footprints from 2.5 Mn Sq Ft to 5 Mn Sq Ft by expanding from 75 centers currently to 150 centers in 2021 and by growing from 40,000 seats to 80,000 seats this year. They will continue to expand business in existing markets of Delhi NCR, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, among others, and venture into new markets like Indore, Jaipur, and Lucknow given the growing demand for shared workspaces across India.
YEAR OF INCEPTION: 2015
NO. OF OPERATIONAL CENTERS: 75
NO. OF CITIES PRESENT IN: 12
PROFILE OF COWORKERS: 60%
SMEs, 20% startups
from INR 500/day
FOCUS: Flex Workspaces, Enterprise Workspace Solution, Design & Build Solution (Awfis Transform), Integrated Facility Management (Awfis Care), Remote Working Solutions & Work From Home Solution (Awfis@ Home).
NO. OF EVENTS HOSTED: 500+ exclusive events, workshops, and experiences every year for community members. (pre- Covid). Trying to replicate the same experience in a virtual format.
SQUARE-FOOT SPACE COVERED SO FAR: 2.5 Mn Sq Ft
Supporting Startups with Flexible Spaces
91 Springboard's vision of community is about helping its members prosper. Even through the lockdown periods, they conducted over 50 events that range from Email Etiquettes and Personal Development to Software Implementation and Adoption around various digital disciplines. Stressing on changes brought in the time of the pandemic, Anand Vemuri, CEO, 91springboard says, “We created flexible plans so that we gave members all India access so that if they chose to distribute their workspace, their people could work at hubs closer to their homes. Some members wanted to access hubs at will, so we helped with day passes. And of course, all of this coupled with infrastructure and services that functioned whether there was one person or a hundred in the hub!”
91springboard is more than just a coworking space; it’s a community that encourages learning and collaboration. For startups and new businesses, it brings opportunities to scale while learning new ways to boost their business prospects. In times of pandemic, they have revived service proposition to suit the needs and requirements of its members. Continuing the opportunities to network, they recently collaborated with multiple like-minded organizations to curate a platform-European Union India Innovation Center to provide opportunities for Indian investors to invest in European startups to enter the Indian market.
Commenting on the increased demand during the current scenario, Vemuri says, “We are seeing an increasing number of companies looking for customized solutions instead of mere infrastructure. While the space taken by clients remains the same, they are asking for a change in the contracts – for more services, occupancy period flexibility, etc. Many contracts have changed from monthly retainers to pay-as-you-go.” A section of customers prefers flexibility and is willing to pay a premium for it. It may mean only a three-month commitment; if there’s a lockdown, they don’t lose more than that period’s deposit. Large enterprises prefer long-term commitments – which also entitle them to certain discounts – and they choose to bear the risk. With positivity in mind, 91springboard expects to expand its presence in Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities by the end of next year.
YEAR OF INCORPORATION: 2012
NO. OF OPERATIONAL CENTERS: 24
NO. OF CITIES PRESENT IN: 9 Bangalore, Mumbai, New Delhi, Navi Mumbai, Hyderabad, Gurgaon, Noida, Pune, and Goa
PROFILE OF COWORKERS: right from freelancers to startups to SMEs to large-scale organizations.
PRICING: Day pass starting at Rs 500 and above per desk
NO. OF EVENTS HOSTED: Over 750+ learning events and over 800+ interactive/fun events
The Coworking Marketplace
Unlike the last year, the second wave of the pandemic and the lockdown have been particularly harsh on the coworking spaces across the country. Atul Gupta CEO & Founder, Cofynd says, “The present situation poses a very tough challenge to coworking communities. Coworking industry saw a great boom last year as most of the corporates adapted to the coworking model, because of much more flexibility and adaptability that is offered.”Cofynd is an online marketplace for discovering and booking coworking, coliving, and private office spaces across 22 cities and from +25,000 listings. Cofynd assists coworking space owners listed on its portal with sales, branding and vendor management support. The founder shares a bird’s eye view of the scenario currently and what he foresees for the industry in the future.
While some coworking spaces continue to operate with limited capacity, a majority of them have temporarily shut down as coworkers’ numbers dwindle. How are coworking spaces operating then with limited capacity? He admits, “Sales have dropped since the lockdown. But the sector has adapted in its own way. The existing clients have shown their support and are still with us, which has helped us keep running our business.” Says Gupta, “There are online webinars and programs where the community manager keeps engaging all the clients into activities. Also, if somebody wants to visit the center, proper social distancing and hygiene are maintained to reduce the risk.”
He adds, “To stay relevant, the workspaces listed with us have introduced flexibility; long-term commitments are passe. Fewer tenure contracts would be brought in as people are not sure what is going to happen in the coming months. Hence, shorter lease tenure would be a much more flexible option for customers (lessees).”
“Pay-per-use model has given more power to customers (lessees) to only pay for the days or hours they are using the office space.” “Also, by following all the social distancing protocols, we are making our office space a totally healthy space to work from.” “We also believe it is tough for an individual to work from home as there are many challenges like wi-fi, furniture, data security, etc. We are promoting how better it is to work near home rather than working from home.” Besides the business uncertainty, the other thing common to all businesses anywhere currently is, following Covid-19 protocols. Says Gupta, “We ensure daily cleaning and sanitization of workplaces and occupiers maintain a minimum of six ft. distance between two seats. We offer no-touch access to all facilities; do not permit anyone without mask and record temperature and Spo2 levels daily.”
So, has the pandemic put Cofynd’s future plans on hold? Says Gupta, “We will be operational in six more countries and cover almost 26 Indian cities.” Commenting on the road ahead for the coworking industry, he says,“We are fully confident the same boom will be maintained in the coming future."
India's largest Flexible Workspace for Enterprises
Since its inception four years back, Smartworks has emerged as India’s market leader for flexible workspace for enterprise companies. With a growing market share of 14%, Smartworks is the only flex space provider with a presence in nine key cities Delhi, Noida, Gurugram, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai, and Pune market covering over 400 customers. It caters to several leading global enterprises, including Fortune 500 companies and unicorns across diversified sectors across its 31 locations. In the last quarter of 2019, Smartworks raised US $25 million funding from Singapore’s real estate giant Keppel Land Limited in the Series A round.
Smartworks’ Workspace as-a-service (WaaS) platform offers tailor-made digitally-enabled spaces in four to six weeks (vs typical 6- 9 months) at value pricing to large enterprise customers at zero CAPEX, significant flexibility, standardization, cost savings, and space efficiency. Smartworks, due to economies of scale, turns out to be 25-30 percent less expensive than a traditional office setup. Given its geographical diversity, clients have the flexibility and comfort to set up satellite or regional headquarters quickly or plan new expansions in key cities.
From digital access, visitor management system to IoT enabled meeting room booking, and coffee dispensers, digital desk booking, and pantry solutions, Parking management system, partnerships and discounts, feedback, and service requests, Smartworks’ digitally-enabled spaces offer a hassle-free experience to members with its SW Mobile App.
The fully serviced ecosystem provides all services from basic (utility facility management, tea/coffee, internet, and cafeteria) to value-added (employee engagement, concierge services, etc.). The company’s experience ecosystem appeals to office goers’ aspirations and daily excitement by bundling outdoor/indoor sports infrastructure, entertainment, F&B offerings, crèche, etc., enabling companies to offer a space to uplift employee productivity.
As India’s leading managed flex space provider, Smartworks’ average building size is 2,00,000-4,00,000 sq ft. that gets converted into a sprawling campus catering to the workforce needs and enhancing office experience. The dedicated community team at every location enables collaboration, engagement, and networking between members. Catering to over 400 clients, with over 90 percent being Enterprises, Smartworks has become a preferred flex space partner for them. Smartworks looks to increase its offering to 20 million sq. ft. and provide office solutions for over 2,00,000 working professionals in India in the next three years. The company is also exploring Tier 2 cities such as Bhubaneswar, Cochin, Jaipur, Coimbatore, and Ahmedabad for smaller centers of around 20,000 sq. ft. Leveraging its strong domain expertise and deep occupier relationships, the flexible workspace operator, in parallel, plans to create a commercial real estate platform with expansion into several adjacent allied activities such as international expansion, PropCo, Proptech, facility management, blue-collar tech, fitout leasing, etc.
Establishing Feet in India
Whizdom Club by MQDC India organizes a number of business mentorship and skill development webinars that allow them to create a special connection with the Whizdom community at large. Due to the lockdown, they have increased their presence on online platforms so that they don’t miss any opportunity to create community engagement and remain in touch with all members and stakeholders. MQDC as a brand stands for ‘For All Well-Being’ and has been constantly working to create better and sustainable workspaces to ensure overall well-being for all stakeholders. Even before the start of the pandemic, Whizdom Club was designed to promote health and safety. Talking about following the protocols, CHULAMAS JITPATIMA, COUNTRY DIRECTOR, MQDC INDIA says, “We have witnessed an increase in the occupancy levels since the start of the pandemic. We not only provide a space to work but enable our patrons to build a community where there is a strong sense of belonging and purpose along with a concerted focus on the overall well-being of all our stakeholders.”
The co-working space has been pre-equipped with Treated Fresh Air Facility. The space was specially designed for creating a more breathable environment even during times of high pollution in the city. They have also been religiously adhering to best practices of safety and precaution wherein gloves and masks for all employees, regular sanitization of the entire space and even sanitization of every table post its use by any customer have been mandatory. Furthermore, their meeting rooms and event spaces can be booked by non—members as well on an hourly basis. They also have a café on premises called Whiz Café that provides healthy meals and various drink options that attract customers. They also have several open spaces and breakout zones in the center for all members. Commenting on the industry at large, JITPATIMA says, “We will need to adapt to the changing landscape in accordance with the current scenario. The membership plans and offerings would evolve in order to offer flexibility to potential clients, the spaces will have to be re-shuffled to create a more spacious area and most importantly a safe and hygienic work environment would be imperative. We are also currently in talks with our partners to grow and expand in NCR.”
YEAR OF INCEPTION:
August 2019 (Launched in India)
NO. OF OPERATIONAL CENTERS:
1 in G.K.-2, New Delhi
PROFILE OF COWORKERS:
Enterprise clients, start-ups and freelancers
based on the desk type, no. of workstation and tenure
FOCUS / NICHE:
Startup Incubation and mentorship
SQUARE-FOOT SPACE COVERED SO FAR:
22000 sq ft
Complying with Client Concerns
Elaborating on some of the measures the coworking platform undertook, says Karthik, “We pro-actively designed flexible working schedule programs for our members which included a mix of members working from office (30% to 40%) and the others from home. These batches were alternating each other every subsequent week. Moving forward, we continue to do the same with enhanced digital member collaboration by using highly interactive tools like Hopin, etc.”
Like other coworking spaces, The Hive Flexible Workspaces’ model has been quick to comply with client’s concerns. In order to stay relevant, Karthik shares, “Our business model has evolved currently to be very agile and handle specific client requests which are extremely relevant in the current market scenario.” “We assist them to easily as an integrated workspace ecosystem, The Hive Flexible Workspaces is committed to providing a hassle-free experience to their exclusive clients to aid productivity and social interaction, needless to say, with the utmost caution. “We have implemented a 4-step process under The Hive CARE Program that includes all the measures to provide a safe and hygienic working environment for all The Hivers. The program includes specific guidelines to be followed across its checkpoints of, Community, AC Maintenance, Real Estate and Emergency Preparedness. On gearing up for increased demand, says Karthik, “The Hive shall be flexible on the contract terms depending on the client requirements to enable them to have a cost-effective tailored solution. We are also adding up our amenities, wherein members can avail/ order for meals, groceries, medical consultation, and other essentials from the workplace using the exclusive Hive member app.”
The last year was tough on most small and some large operators who were forced to shut shop. They are now in the market but have few takers. In the times to come, Karthik foresees, “Increased demand for quality flexible workspaces in the long run, as more and more enterprises, realize the importance of an asset-light model (zero CAPEX) with flexible contractual terms.”
As for their own plans, says Karthik, “We foresee some expansions happening in the existing properties. Also, we have been evaluating certain acquisitions which fit our brand identity and philosophy to fuel our inorganic growth strategy.”