Redefining workspace Studies predict that by 2020, coworking spaces will overtake the traditional office format in India. These new generation offices are buzzing with business while redefining work, fun and community
By Rajiv Dogra
The traditional concept of work is changing. Start-ups, freelancers and young entrepreneurs are fuelling this change. In the past couple of years, the number of people telecommuting and working remotely from locations of their choice has increased drastically. The plug and play setup of coworking spaces is proving to be a big draw among the new nomadic workforce. While providing a choice of a dedicated desk, private office or shared office spaces, the format of coworking spaces is also evolving. Free Wi-Fi, tea and coffee vending machines, indoor games area, gyms, conference rooms, seminar halls with audio-video equipment— coworking spaces are offering all of these and more.
“Coworking spaces have completely changed the definition of a workspace by revolutionising and challenging the limits of traditional offices. It has helped to break silos and move away from the closed doors and cubicle culture to an open floor with everyone working together,” says Amit Ramani, CEO and Founder, Awfis, which is one of the largest coworking players with 63 centres spread across 10 cities in the country. “People from varied backgrounds come together to collaborate and network, thus, thriving as a community. This facilitates out-of-the-box thinking, stimulates creativity and further boosts innovation. Engagement in the form of unique experiences, knowledge sharing sessions and fun events keeps the workforce motivated to deliver their best,” he says, adding that startups, established corporates as well as small and marginal enterprises (SMEs) have realised the benefits of coworking as it helps them to reduce operational cost along with flexibility in providing quality workspaces to their employees.
Coworking is rapidly transforming into a mainstream segment owing to the evolving role of technology as well as millennials and generationZ forming an integral part of the workforce in India. “Technology is helping coworking spaces to redefine the modern workplace as it enhances collaboration. By exposing employees to inspired and creative spaces, to coworkers from multiple backgrounds and to cutting edge, tech-enabled ecosystem, coworking spaces are bringing in a sense of independence that is boosting a creative flow of ideas,” says Harsh Lambah, country manager—India, International Workplace Group (IWG), which is a global workspace provider, and its companies include Regus, Space, No 18, Basepoint, Open Office and Signature. “Coworking spaces are often associated with affordability, but in reality, the atmosphere, facilities, location, and networking are some of the reasons why entrepreneurs and large businesses are opting for them,” he says adding that it is important to choose a coworking space carefully so that it suits the personality as well as the needs of a business.
While the bulk of the growth story of coworking spaces is driven by funded start-ups, it is also being equally scripted by the millennial or Gen-Z workforce, who are looking for work, fun and all integrated into one, says Rishi Das, co-founder and chairman, IndiQube, which has 30-plus office spaces in Bengaluru with around 3 million sqft of cumulative workspaces with 40,000 seats. “What used to be luxury a few years ago is a matter of hygiene now. For example, a good food-court, a gym, a crèche— such amenities were not asked for by employees before. However, today their decision to join a particular workspace is getting influenced by the provision for facilities as well,” he says. IndiQube has four office spaces in Pune, one each in Hyderabad and Mumbai. The company is looking at new markets for expansion in Delhi and Chennai.
According to Mayur Saraswat, head of digital, IT and telecom vertical, Teamlease Services, coworking workspaces are an innovation in real estate. “It’s existence is helping start-ups, big
corporates and small set-ups to work closely in small groups, doing client meetings at location convenience and without worrying about having too much of fixed cost,” he says.
Coworking spaces initially attracted start-ups and freelancers but as this trend grew, it is not just confined to them alone, points out Bengaluru based Azaan Feroz Sait, Founder and Chief Happiness Officer, The Hub, which promotes coworking community. “We now have big corporates and multinational companies (MNCs) who want a slice of the cake and approach us to help design open layout offices,” he says, adding that they are moving towards a phase of greater consolidation in the number of players in the next three years.
While retaining the core functions at their respective head-offices, a lot of companies are looking forward to shifting their non-core activities into coworking spaces. According to Barnali Roy Chowdury, vice-president, human resources, Instamojo, which is a digital payments platform bundled with e-commerce features, “We did move some of our functions to a
coworking space as we are growing and scaling up as well. It doesn’t make sense for us to invest in a commercial property for few of the employees and scale to a significant number. We found the move to be aligning with our work culture and our core values. Coworking space companies are professionallydriven and they fertilise productivity and creativity.
Innovation is key
Changing real estate landscape, technological advancements and rise of the millennial workforce are few factors leading to the need for reinventing and continuously innovating in the coworking space. For instance, Awfis is offering innovative solutions through its tailor-made mobile applications to find, review and book workspaces and meeting rooms, mobility solutions that enable working on the go, virtual office, smart access, smart meeting rooms, visitor and space management systems, mobile van, among other it is allowing its members to work seamlessly from anywhere, anytime.
Similarly, IndiQube MiQube application is exclusively designed to make the best use of IndiQube community. “The app allows the user to book partnered space, access events, book transport, gym and community activities, order and track food delivery on a real-time basis,” says Das.
Moreover, flexibility and personalisation are the buzzwords in the coworking space now. “We are witnessing flexibility as being an important reason for the adoption of coworking spaces. Shared workspaces have proved to be a win-win for organisations as well as employees. In the coming years, large corporates are projected to allocate 10 per cent of their office portfolio to agile workspaces owing to the holistic experience a coworking space is able to offer,” says Ramani.
Mumbai-based Vorq Space is a start-up in the coworking space that not only provides booking options from two-to-five hours but also ensures that no two members have the same package. From hourly passes to fixed desks, private cabins, the company offers various packages, including a pass valid for users using the space at night. “All our packages are carefully designed to suit the members’ needs and it is our motto to meet those needs individually,” says Akshit Mehta, Founder, Vorq Space.
In the next few years, with office rents continuing to move up across India, the total space leased by co-working operators in tier-I and tier-II cities could touch 6-10 million sq. ft. by 2020, as per a report by the international commercial real estate services and investment firm, CBRE Group. Leasing by flexi-workplace operators crossed 7 million sqft during 2018, according to Colliers International, accounting for 14 per cent of the total leasing during the year. “The competition amongst the increasing number of coworking space operators is significantly intensifying with more and more centres opening up in the major cities of India,” says Sait. In India, the coworking space sector will play a strong role in shaping the future supply-demand dynamics by changing the way the serviced office industry works, says Lambah.