Spaces that are bigger, busier and frillier

28 September 2017

Spaces that are bigger, busier and frillier

  • The Hindu Business Line

Co-working spaces are expanding – not just in size but in what they offer

The boundaries between work and leisure are totally disintegrating. A visit to one of India’s largest co-working spaces, The Hive, in Whitefield, Bengaluru, shows this. This massive integrated collaborative workspace is set inside a mall (VR Bengaluru) with access to a hotel, a fitness centre, a swimming pool, a jogging track, a cinema theatre, restaurants and food courts.

Vidushi Jain, Deputy General Marketing, Virtuous Retail (the real estate firm that runs the The Hive), is a living example of how this space can be used. For the last one year she has been residing at a studio residence at The Waverley, the hotel within the mall with direct access to The Hive, which is open 24/7. She just walks across a corridor to get to her workdesk. In the day, she takes breaks from work to shop at the mall, use the fitness centre, or simply enjoy a coffee at any of the cafes around. She often pops into The Hive at night to work, ordering dinner through the FoodBox app. Does’nt she miss staying at home? The convenience and comfort I get here is incredible, she says.

What’s different?

Co-working spaces are not new in India -but what’s new is the explosion and evolution taking place in the area. According to JLL India, 2016-17 has seen a massive spike in the growth of the co-working industry, and it’s going to evolve further, with occupancies in many centres touching 100 per cent.

Sumit Lakhani, Chief Marketing Officer of Awfis Space Solutions, one of the largest operators in the country, is pretty gungho about growth, too. He says at present the shared office segment (this includes business centres, too) is just 1 per cent of commercial real estate in India. “We believe this will grow to nearly 5-7 per cent of commercial real estate by 2020”, he says. Along with the big growth, here are some clear trends shaping these flexible, collaborative offices.

Bigger and bigger

When they started in India, co-working spaces were cosy little affairs, tiny friendly units with 20-50 desks, mainly catering to start-ups and freelancers. Over the last couple of years, they have been getting bigger and bigger. For instance, when The Hive was built, at

100.000    sq ft, it was for a short while the largest co-working space in India. But then global player WeWork entered India, and grabbed the honours with a l.4-lakh sq ft workspace in Bengaluru, following it up with a 1.9-lakh sq feet area in Bandra Kurla in Mumbai. And if you think that’s big, now there’s GoWork in Guru gram at 8-lakh sq feet and over 12,000    seats.

But we have not seen anything yet. According to a JLL-WeWork report, The CoWorking Revolution, these alternative work spaces are set to grow by 40-50 per cent to reach over l-million sq ft by the end of the year. And co-working is expected to get $400 million in investments by 2018.

Changing user demographics

A big factor in the growth is the change in user demographics with large conglomerates using these spaces. In the early days, start-ups peopled by young millennials, thronged the co-working spaces. Today, as players like The Hive, Awfis and WeWork set up mammoth spaces, big companies are moving in. At

The Hive for instance, Airbus is an occupant. At Awfis, which talks of opening 100 centres with 35,000 seats in the next 15 months, the portfolio of users, according to Lakhani, is “50 per cent SMEs, 25 per cent corporate and remaining are start-ups, entrepreneurs, mompreneurs and independent workforces.

With conventional officer users converting to spaces like Awfis, Lakhani believes this is just the starting point of the shared office industry.

The average age of occupants of these highly social workspaces is also moving up. At The Hive, its CEO Ankit Samdariya says that people of diverse ages are coming in. I would say the range is from 20-50 years old,” he says. At Awfis, the average is 30 across all centres, says Lalwani. The millennial thought process is getting accepted across all generations. And this is clearly getting reflected in our client portfolio as well,” he says.

Space to stay

As the industry progresses, trend watchers forecast co-working spaces with on-site suites to stay in will pick up. In Asia, quite a few coworking spaces such as 47 East offer this.

Samdariya says a big USP for The Hive is the Waverley Hotel

Years ago, in Delhi, a small player like Moonlighting had tried it offering rooms to stay for outstation users. But now the trend is going to firm up. Along with stay options, operators are also offering a variety of social action.

The Hive, in fact, is selling this proposition heavily. It’s so easy for a member to move from his workspace at 6 pm to the rooftop bar area and carry the team meeting there. Over weekends we get many of our members coming in with their families – while the family shops and watches movies, they get their work done, says Samdariya.

Chains versus standalones

Co-working is currently a very fragmented space in India. The JLL report notes that there are about 300 co-working operators in the country operating around 1,000 centres. And less than 100 are branded spaces. Lakhani believes there are more than 500-plus players. But barring 6-7 players, rest everyone is operating at less than two centres and are more unorganised,” he says.

The advantage with chains is that users when travelling can avail centres in other cities. For instance, if you have an Awfis or InnovS card in Delhi, you could use it in Mumbai, too. This is a winning proposition for the user and the reason the big players are expanding rapidly.

Samdariya says a second Hive is coming up in Anna Nagar, Chennai. It will also be housed in a mall-VR Chennai – and have a mix of facilities from fitness centres, cinema and shopping. The company has plans to set up more such centres across Bengaluru, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, Delhi and Hyderabad.

Designed to collaborate

As these co-working spaces grow big, is the warm cosy friendliness going to be replaced by the impersonality of large offices? The operators are quick to point that the very design of these spaces, however large, will encourage collaboration and meetings.

At Awfis, the aim is to design and provide a space that is vibrant and minimal, at the same time a well-defined collaboration area with interesting furniture, flexible settings for events, enclosed spaces with good acoustics, flexible meeting areas that can be easily reconfigured, says Lakhani.

Samdariya says there has been a lot of art and science and curation put into the designs at The Hive.

“They provide natural light, greenery, are vibrant, open and inspiring”, he says.

Also, even if there are 800 to 10,000 occupants, there is a huge community building effort put in by the operators. Many co-working spaces have apps to connect members, encourage networking over knowledge seminars, events like jazz nights, sufi evenings, food experiences and so on. One thing is for sure – they have totally changed the way we work.

Co-working spaces major Awfis to double seats to 50,000 by July

01 November 2018

Co-working spaces major Awfis to double seats to 50,000 by July

  • Posted by Awfis Editorial

Co-working space major Awfis is on a rapid expansion mode and now plans to double its seats from 25,000 and 55 centres to 50,000 and 100 centres by June-July 2019.

The workspaces provider has grown from its first facility three years ago to 25,000 seats, about five months ahead of its its initial planned March 2019 date, and is now looking at doubling the number each passing year.

Amit Ramani, Chief Executive Officer, Awfis, said, “We have scaled up to 25,000 seats across 55 centres from 5,800 seats in 20 centres in July 2017. Our network, which includes start-ups, small and medium enterprises and leading corporate entities such as Hinduja, Vodafone, Mercedes Benz, and Hitachi, continues to expand.”

Earlier this year, Awfis had raised $20 million in Series C funding from Sequoia India and Innoven Capital and The Three Sisters: Institutional Office TTS:IO led by Radha Kapoor Khanna. with the $20 million Series B funding from Sequoia, the overall funding exceeds $50 million.

Win-win situation

The co-working space as a category has been growing at a rapid pace as it is able to transform under-utilised real estate assets, including spaces in malls and some hospitality projects into efficient work spaces for entrepreneurs and corporate clients. This is a win-win situation for the real estate owner, for Awfis as also for those who take up space.

By 2020, Awfis is looking at 1,00,000 seats and taking this number up to 2,00,000 seats with 400 plus centres a year thereafter. The industry now estimated to be worth about $600 million is projected to grow to $2.2 billion by 2022, thereby offering immense scope for a services provider like Awfis.

The demand is coming not just from micro-markets in large metros and major cities but from a number of Tier II cities, where there is untapped demand.

Over the last 12 months a about 80 per cent of the business has come from small and medium enterprises and corporate entities. This trend is expected to continue, with start ups too accounting for a growing numbers, Ramani said.

Mentioning that they had raised more than $50 million, the funding available and the realty share model with owners will enable to to meet immediate expansion plans, Ramani said that “Last fiscal, we closed with a turnover of ₹55 crore and this fiscal is likely to see a turnover of ₹170 crore.”

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Awfis taking its co-working spaces to small towns, malls

06 September 2018

Awfis taking its co-working spaces to small towns, malls

  • Posted by Awfis Editorial

Co-working space provider Awfis is eyeing expansion into Tier-II towns and consolidating its presence in Tier-I cities.
But it is not just office spaces that the company is planning to tap.
Awfis will also utilise commercial spaces such as shopping malls, hotels and other unconventional asset classes as co-working spaces. Low rentals are one prime reason for the company to explore these alternatives, sources said.
Some of the Tier-II towns it is currently eyeing include Kochi, Jaipur, Bhubaneshwar, Ahmedabad and Indore.
According to Amit Ramani, CEO & Founder, Awfis is planning a 60 per cent increase in seats to 40,000 over the next 10-12 months spread across 100 centres.
Its current capacity stands at 25,000 seats, about 1.5 million sq ft, across 55 centres, which makes it the largest in the country.
“Commercial office spaces apart, we are also looking at idle capacities in unconventional asset classes like a shopping mall or hotel or even educational institutions where co-working spaces can come up,” he told BusinessLine.
Ideally, the company would look at taking up 25,000 sq ft, accommodating 500 seats and other facilities like cafeteria and meeting rooms. Awfis either leases space or opts for a managed aggregator model. Upcoming spaces will mostly focus on the managed aggregator model that includes rent-sharing JVs or management contracts.
“We are in discussions with some of the landlords who own such unconventional assets for conversion,” Ramani said.
Co-working space is expected to be a $2.2-billion market in India by 2022.

Unconventional assets
Awfis has already established a presence in malls that have seen a dip in footfalls and have under-utilised spaces, such as the top floors. It has set up co-working offices at Ambience Mall in Gurugram, Raghuleela and Heera Panna malls in Mumbai, and Nucleus mall in Pune.
It also has a presence at the Taj Deccan hotel in Hyderabad and at the DERBI Foundation, Dayanand Sagar University in Bengaluru. Approximately, 10 per cent (or 2,500) of its 25,000 seats are located in such unconventional assets.

The co-working space provider reported revenues of₹57 crore in FY18 with 85 per cent coming from primary activities such as seat rentals, meeting room facilities and parking space rentals. The remaining comes from canteen and catering services.
It is expecting a three-fold jump in revenues to ₹170 crore by the end of this fiscal (FY19). The company is expecting to report net profits (at a company level) from October onwards.
“Of the 55-odd centres that we have, 42-47 are profitable,” Ramani said.

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Awfis raises fresh funding of $20 mn from Sequoia, others

26 July 2018

Awfis raises fresh funding of $20 mn from Sequoia, others

  • Posted by Awfis Editorial

Awfis, a shared workspace provider, has raised $20 million in series C funding from Sequoia India and Innoven Capital and The Three Sisters: Institutional office (TTS:IO) led by Radha Kapoor Khanna. Sequoia Capital had earlier invested $20 million in Awfis as part of a Series B funding.

Awfis Space Solutions was jointly incubated by Amit Ramani and The Three Sisters: Institutional Office with a capital of $11 million in April 2015. The fresh capital infusion will be used to bolster and deepen the Awfis network across India, launch new and innovative products/services and further enhance the existing technology platform.

In the last fiscal year, Awfis scaed up to 25,000 seats across 55 centres, with a member base of 15,000+ as compared to 5,800 seats in 20 centres with a member base of 4000+ in July 2017.

The member base at Awfis includes a growing network of more than 1,200 companies ranging from India’s leading start-ups/ MSMEs to Fortune 500 companies, forming the largest co-working community in India. Companies such as Hinduja, Vodafone, Mercedes Benz, RBI, Hitachi, ShareKhan, Zomato and Practo operate from various Awfis centres.

Amit Ramani, Founder & CEO of Awfis in a statement said, “With the growing demand for co-working spaces, there is a focus on transforming under-utilised real estate assets and providing affordable work spaces for entrepreneurs. The additional capital will aid us in expanding our footprint in India with 100+ centres with 40,000+ seats in the next 12 months.”

Abhay Pandey, Managing Director, Sequoia Capital – India said: “Awfis has generated tremendous momentum with its unique supply acquisition models. It is re-creating the workspace landscape for the benefit of both tenants and landlords. Sequoia strongly believes in the opportunity created by Amit and the team, and will continue to back Awfis to retain its leadership position in the Indian shared workspace market.

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