The idea of co-working spaces has been around for a long time now – earlier this year New York-based WeWork announced its plans to enter India, and there are plenty of Indian co-working spaces in different cities already. Some popular ones include Jaaga and BHive in Bengaluru, 91springboard and The Studio in Delhi, and Coworking Chennai.
These spaces are great for startups looking to save money on rent, small businesses that need a meeting room once in a while, or even freelancers who don’t want to invest too heavily on office infrastructure for the home – after all, if you’re working from home you’ll probably have to spend money on power backup and might even have to spend extra on the Internet just to get a connection that’s both fast and reliable. The problem becomes finding a good space that can work as your office. Enter Awfis.
Founder and CEO Amit Ramani describes Awfis as “Uber for co-working”, and at first glance it does look like that – there are Awfis locations in Delhi, Mumbai, and Bengaluru already, with new locations planned for Hyderabad, Pune, Chennai, and Calcutta, and to book a seat or a meeting room, you need only use the Awfis app – and you don’t need to book in advance either; the company believes in the just in time model.
In the app, you’ll also see that providers include meeting rooms from hotels, making this seem even more like an aggregator like Uber. But actually, that’s where the similarities end. The workspaces that are listed on the app belong to Awfis itself, and a percentage of the meeting rooms do too, with only part of the meeting room inventory coming from hotels.
“In this space, the pure aggregation model like Uber doesn’t really work,” admits Ramani, saying, “when you go to a co-working space that I don’t own, I can’t guarantee the experience, I can’t make sure that the Wi-Fi will be working properly, or that other facilities will be in good order. And that reflects badly on my brand. On the other hand, a Hyatt, or a Trident, their meeting rooms a hugely under-utilised. They’re empty most of the time, so they’re happy to be on a platform, and at the same time, they will ensure the quality, because they’re a bigger brand than I am, so they have more to lose from bad service.”
The company, which claims to have raised $10 million in funding (around Rs. 66 crores), will be using this money to expand, and according to Ramani, the goal is to have 10,000 seats, up from the existing 2,500, by December 2016.
“For us, the scale is very important, and that’s why we have the app as well,” he says, “the idea is that if you have to travel for business, you already know what the Awfis experience is like, and instead of researching different spaces to figure out where you can work or hold a meeting, you just start the app and find the nearest space.”
That’s also why Ramani believes the just in time, or last minute bookings, is going to be the model of the future, although it currently accounts for only a small part of the total users of the Awfis app. “The just in time category is just starting off right now, especially for meeting rooms, because people are not used to the concept,” says Ramani. “But once you use it, people are more likely to do so in the future. It will drive growth in the future. At the same time, just in time is about convenience, but once it introduces new people to the platform, these same people will start to use it for longer, make weekly, or monthly bookings.”