We all go to Office, but there are a few that go to Awfis. Nope, that’s not a typo, with co-working becoming all the rage now and proving to be an effective option for growing startups that need to quickly and efficiently get work done, there are a lot of players in this segment. Awfis is one of the established players in the front and today we look at this bright startup that is helping other startups.
So what are the key advantages of working with Awfis? Put very simply, they do whatever your office operations team and administration team have to do and let you do your work in peace. The key USP of their offering is the sheer number of partnerships that they have with various service and product providers that become yours to leverage the minute you set foot here. That is a big and nifty plus given the work and time overheads which you would otherwise have to spend to do these yourself. And office as a service is a good idea from an ops standpoint given the fact that you will pay only for what you use. Given the fact that every startup out there is looking to squeeze and stretch every buck they have, this is good.
Founded in April 2015 by Radha Kapoor and Amit Ramani with an initial capital of $10 million, they currently have 3500+ seats in 15 centres spread across multiple cities. Expansion is still on and they are looking to make their footprint significantly larger. We caught up with Amit Ramani – Founder and CEO of Awfis and had a chat with him.
Can you give us a full backgrounder on Awfis?
The birth of Awfis was driven by an unrelenting desire to provide quality workplaces at best locations on a just-in-time basis. Awfis revolutionizes the commercial real estate by providing ready to use, plug and play offices which can be booked through mobile app making it just-in-time solution to use an office or a work desk, without the complications of a fixed tenure or security deposits, from 1 hour to 11 months at the best locations in metros.
The comprehensive Awfis solution (desk, Wi-Fi, printing, meeting rooms, permanent address etc.) provides everything that an office user will require, at extremely competitive costs making “Awfis as the new office”. Also, members of the Awfis platform will significantly benefit from being part of the “Awfis Community” providing opportunities to network, ideate, and collaborate with like-minded entrepreneurial talent across varied business segments.
Members get benefits of using custom-sized multi-location workspaces on a flexible lease tenur ranging from an hour up to 1 year (or more) depending on their work requirements. Additionally, Awfis has formed various strategic partnerships that provide its community members seamless access to leading service providers in the fields of accounting, legal, recruitment, payments, web services, mail management, healthcare and insurance etc. making it a one-stop-shop for all requirements of an emerging corporate’s set up.
On an average, professionals in a metro city spend 2-4 hours while commuting to and from office. This leads to lack of efficiency. Our 8 seater Mobile Awfis is fully equipped with work desks, meeting table, high speed Wi-Fi, teleconferencing, printing, CCTV, pantry, washroom, appropriate lighting and ergonomic furniture for a comfortable and productive work environment. The bookings can be done through our mobile app. Awfis has developed a tailor-made mobile application that enables users to find, review, book work spaces in its owned/managed centers, as well as in a large repository of listed third-party meeting rooms in hotels across Indian cities on real time basis in a matter of seconds.
Which are the cities where co-working is popular?
From our experience, we have seen that the metros like New Delhi – NCR, Mumbai and Bangalore were the first ones to adopt to co-working as a concept. Tier 1 cities have been at the forefront with increasing entrepreneurial activity. The need for affordable work spaces where you can also get to meet new people is raging these markets at the moment. The acceptance and excitement around co-working has grown tremendously in cities like Pune, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Chandigarh, Jaipur, Ludhiana, Kochi and we are actively exploring these places. Almost every Tier 1 city is now witnessing the birth of a café/pub at night, workspace in day kind of model or full-fledged plug-n-play office spaces in a shared model. That is the beauty of being a part of a sharing economy and India is gaining up to it.
How are IP security concerns handled?
Awfis has a very strong focus for IP and data security for all its clients and provides high security technology enabled infrastructure to all its members. We have the facilities available to meet the tech audit requirements of companies stringent about their IP & IT network security issues (viz., Financial domain).
We are at the forefront of embracing new age technology and thereby driving productivity through strong focus on Data & Network security, tech enabled physical environment (IoT, NFC, CCTV, VC facility etc.), reliable & enterprise speed internet, customizable network solutions for enterprises and tech companies (server spaces, VPN networks, remote access, advanced firewalls etc.) as well as Data analytics & Employee Productivity dashboard.
Co-working functions on the premise of networking and collaboration. It encourages members to share and grow. Awfis infrastructure however supports both the ends of the spectrum – collaboration & privacy. Awfis has both collaborative areas (Flexi seats) for members who need networking as an essential tool for taking their ideas places and closed seating areas (Private Cabins) that completely supports privacy and protection of sensitive information of its members. There are ample closed spaces, meeting rooms for teams to have such confidential discussions. Most of the bigger players also opt for private cabins that ensure no percolation of important information.
What’s the business model for co-working spaces?
Typically, co-working spaces are focused on providing affordable spaces to startups. Business centres have already existed to cater to the needs of the business community in the last decade.
Largely within the co-working space segment in India, most companies follow the proprietary co-working centre model. Awfis being a later entrant leveraged the shared economy model, starting with the business model to disrupt the Commercial Real Estate space. We started with converting a conventional office goer to a shared workspace user. Our product was designed to offer cost effective, managed offices on a flexible and just-in-time basis. In a short span of time, we have become the trendsetters in leading the co-working revolution in India.
Technology being the backbone of our business, we enabled users to book meeting rooms (Awfis centres, third party meeting rooms, work spaces) on demand basis. Apart from taking properties on straight lease, Awfis uberized real estate by partnering with space owners and leveraging the shared economy business model for our supply side.
We at Awfis are working on a three-pronged strategy in our business model. We have 15 operational proprietary co-working centres across cities in India, providing new age, tech-enabled Work Innovation Centres offering private cabins, fixed desks, flexi-seats, conference rooms and meeting rooms on ‘Just in Time’ basis. Under the Managed Aggregation model, Awfis is aggregating underutilised spaces from owners and converting them into pro-working centres. Underutilized spaces include – spaces lying vacant due to softened demand, spaces that are transitional as committed in future, shadow vacancies, excess capacities, dead zones (uneconomical sizes) etc. The Awfis mobile app allows customers to book meeting rooms, business centres of third party partners through our listing. Currently Awfis has tie-ups with hospitality players like Lemon Tree Hotels, Hyatt, Trident, Marine Plaza, Sarovar, Beatles etc.
How are startups warming up to this?
Every organization including startups are looking at having an efficient work space but are concerned about the charges and additional responsibilities like leasing procedure, customization and fitting, set up and expansion, paying bills and maintain housekeeping etc. Specific to young companies, the problem of setting up own office, managing it and maintaining it is a cumbersome task. Adding to it, there is unpredictability on the business model & growth plans, they find it difficult to map the requirements for setting up an office. Hence the startups have been the early adopters of Coworking spaces and have lapped the concept up giving it a huge boost. These spaces are now adding value to a start-up business by providing ample opportunity of networking with the industry players and collaboration with co-workers to create meaningful conversations. For startups, this is a great opportunity to focus on business innovation and product design, once their office space is taken care of. The response rate from startups in adapting to shared working environment has increased tremendously in 2016. Nasscom reported there are 61 new players in the co-working segment registered last year alone. The demand-supply equation is gradually creating a whole new business segment for shared workspaces as corporates too are looking at this concept to imbibe the culture of a start-up in their business.
Interestingly, Awfis being a pro-working concept than just co-working has been able to attract SMEs, as well as a plethora of startups, building an eclectic community of businessmen across centres. The product offering is so compelling, that even established players and corporates like Snapdeal, Renew Power, BNP Paribas, FICCI have started taking interest and adopting to the concept of shared working.
The Quill: So in our minds, Awfis is cooler than Office. As a company they are striving to keep the first mover advantage going and relying on traditional, digital and mobile channels to grow and expand. We will be watching them closely to see how the “office as a service” sector pans out.
(This Awfis coverage appeared on The Quill on February 20, 2017 under the headline “AWFIS COOLER THAN OFFICE? LOOKS LIKE IT!” )