EVOLVING SPACE: Welcome to the world of collaborative working or coworking where your nextdoor neighbour is not a colleague from the same company but another start up, medium sized company or an entrepreneur
The traditional office space has for long been characterized by lack of flexibility, scalability and affordability. The constraints of conventional work spaces has translated to opportunity for co-working spaces which has indeed become the buzzword in today’s office real estate. Imagine a space with multiple breakout zones, travel-desk, concierge, café, gym, spa, gaming zone, brewery, crèche, shuttle service to last mile metro station and even ‘meditation and frustration’ zones for warding off Monday blues. No, these are not features of an upmarket lifestyle apartments but rather a fast growing brand operating co-working spaces in the country. According to Sudeep Singh, CEO, GoWork, “We believe in giving significant focus to the individual, apart from the work.” Their current clientele includes the likes of Zomato, Paytm, FlyingFur, Impactify, Lifelong, Fixoo, etc. Flexibility is the name of the game with packages designed for use as varied from a daily to a monthly to an annual basis. For instance they have a package called Day Tripper (at Rs. 350 per day), Tourist (at Rs. 3,750 for ten days), Resident (at Rs. 6,500 for a month), Citizen (an exclusive membership, at a price of Rs. 8,250), Minister (one’s personal space at a price of Rs. 10,000) and Virtual Office (at Rs. 2,500).
Welcome to the world of collaborative working or co-working where your next-door neighbour is not a colleague from the same company but another start up, medium sized company or an entrepreneur. Typically, it is attractive to start ups, small and medium companies or work-at-home professionals, independent practitioners who end up working in relative isolation. Coworking is not only about the physical place, but about establishing a community.
Why and how did this concept happen? Creators of co-working space have us believe that for a long time small and medium scale companies (SMEs) have struggled existing with the conventional office format. “It’s a correction over all the mistakes made by the providers of conventional office spaces as well as business centres.” According to Amit Ramani, Founder, Awfis, a co-working space spread across nine cities- “It’s a huge refinement over the business centre model which could not deliver on its promises of being either reasonable or flexible work space. A business centre was characterised by minimum 12 month lock-in period, an entry fee, an exit fee, and additional charges for tea/coffee and conference rooms with the basic structure designed to be opaque cabins rather than interactive work spaces. Now everything wrong with conventional office real estate in India is sorted with co-working spaces. Co-working spaces allows you to use a space from as low as one hour to five years. The lowest entry point is one hour. Also the charges are as low as Rs 5,000 for a flexi seat per month and you can even use a four seater cabin for a day at Rs 450 with beverages and wi- fi included. The third factor is they are accessible. Co working spaces are present in virtually every popular micromarket in a city – so if I stay in Vasant Kunj, I want my office to be in Vasant Kunj. Hence we make sure our offices are accessible and we are present in major micromarkets such as Mayur Vihar, Vasant Kunj, Gurugram etc.”
The co-working spaces typically offer four formats of working space. First is the flexi seat which is not dedicated work station but has locker space available for a month at Rs 5,000. Second is the fixed seat which comes at Rs 7,000-12,000/month. Third is the Cabin seat with a two seater, four seater, six seater available for anything between Rs 8,000-20,000/month and finally the Bespoke spaces which are the underutilised spaces in hotels and malls converted to shared workspaces example Awfis has some work- space at Taj Deccan and malls in Mumbai, Pune. However the prices vary across coworking space providers. At GoWork, where a standard single cubicle with a couch at a space of 120 sq ft comes at Rs 12,000 per seat for a professional, there is also a package of Rs 16,000 where one can get unlimited beer* (*3 beers a day). For C-level employees, there are premium packages are available at Rs 30,000- 45,000 per seat.
Another co-working space called Co-Offiz which has office centres at Preet Vihar, Netaji Subhash Palce and Janak Puri has very competitive charges. According to Prachi Agrawal Co-Founder- “Our plan starts at Rs 400/day pass. We also offer free trial for our clients. We charge Rs 7,500 per seat for private cabins and Rs 5,500 for open seats.”
Who are the biggest takers of co-working spaces? The biggest consumers are SMEs or small and medium enterprises. Besides, start-ups, freelancers and entrepreneurs are also target audience. Recently Priti Paul, Director Apeejay Surrendra Group launched a co-working space called ABC at Cyber- hub, Gurugram (after Kolkata and Hyderabad) with special privileges tailor made for women entrepreneurs and those that women-led and women owned start-ups. Says Paul, “I feel that women can thrive only in uniquely positioned work spaces. My co-working space is for WWW or “wonder women at work” who have to juggle it all. My aim has been to create a woman and family-friendly collaborative co-working office space and the ‘ABC for Women at Work’ scheme creates the conditions for life-work-health balance with mentoring sessions, Yoga, wellness, self-defence workshops, besides getting books, grocery and healthy food delivered to their ABC work- space at discounted rates. These are a few of life enhancing services.”
An important feature of co-working spaces is interactivity that is attained through inclusive design, and engaging activities. A wine tasting session on the weekend, a culinary week with MasterChef competitions, to a morning fitness party are all ways to build bonds within the co-working community.
Publication: Hindustan Times
Date: 15th September, 2018