New trend: Coworking with beer and free coffee

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Vivek Singh was racking his brain to figure out a way to save his 18-month-old start-up TicnPic, a social discovery platform that connected people through visual searches. Vendor phone calls asking him to pay up had become the order of the day, and Singh was just about managing to pay his credit-card bills and office rent.

It was when he accidentally bumped into Arush Kakkar on the terrace of Innov8, a coworking space in New Delhi’s Connaught Place that things started looking up. Kakkar was struggling equally with his start-up Agrex (which was into video analytics for YouTube), and the chance meeting over a cup of coffee changed things for both. A tie-up helped them raise $1 million, and the duo is currently in talks to build an artificial intelligence company with the help of another Innov8 member.

Similarly,Rohit Jaiswal, who has been working out of Delhi-based 91Springboard’s office for over a year now, recently launched Couch, a lifestyle magazine cum fashion e-commerce app, with the help of investments from three different members from three different companies, working out of the same space.

One can call it rent-a-desk or hot-desking. A concept that is catching up fast, coworking space is where individuals or firms can hire a space, from a single desk to an enclosed team room, for 10 days a month to several months at a time.

According to start-up data tracking firm Tracxn, there are 61 coworking spaces in India, of which 16 were set up in 2016 alone. With 12 centers across India, 3,000 desks and 25,000 active members, Awfis Space Solutions is one of the biggest. 91Springboard has 500 companies, over 1,200 active members and eight centers, while BHIVE Workspace has 172 firms and 800 members. Innov8 has 136 people sharing office space, while SocialOffline has 338 desks across 14 centers.

Most of these coworking spaces mainly house start-ups, in sectors ranging from financial technology and software to hardware and Internet of Things.

“But increasingly small and midsize businesses and large corporates are also using coworking spaces extensively for strategic, logistical and economic reasons,” says Vikas Lakhani, cofounder of InstaOffice, whose clientele ranges from early stage start-ups to typical small and medium enterprises and large domestic and international corporations.”

“We ensure basic services, like uninterrupted 24X7 Internet and power supply,” says Shesh Paplikar, founder and CEO of BHIVE Workspace.

The coming together of businesses is also beneficial for both parties.

Lets Barter’s Pooja Bhayana and Meghna Saraogi of Styledotme were looking for cheaper ways to organize events. During one of their not-so formal discussions at Innov8So, both came up with the idea of organizing the events together. It proved to be a win-win. Around 60 percent of the visitors had something or the other to barter, which made the event a success for Lets Barter (a start-up that helps people barter goods and services), while a number of them received instant fashion advice, helping Styledotme.

Cafés, opening up their spaces during the daytime to members for coworking are an emerging trend. You can rent a desk for as low as R5, 000 a month in these cafés and even redeem it for food and drinks at the café. “During daytime, footfalls are usually low in cafes. It will add value for us if people work out of the space,” says Viraj Lamba, director of Funbar.

Himanshu Bindal, founder of Oneco.Café, says he has tied up with 15 cafés across the country. [email protected] is the first operational one. “Oneco.Café does not hold any equity in the café. They only take care of the entire coworking zone and charges 20 percent of the amount each coworker pays per month.”

The logistics

There are a variety of work settings spread across multiple floors. Colored desks, gleaming floors, colorful wallpapers, well-stacked libraries, bright furniture and informal conversation zones add vibrancy to the atmosphere. These also result in familiarity. Only here, familiarity does not
breed contempt.

For Aman Gupta, cofounder of boAt, a start-up selling mobile electronic goods, it is easier to outsource the job of creating a mobile app to a developer working out of the same space at Social Offline, rather than an unknown company. “We already know that he is into developing amazing apps,” Gupta says.

High real-estate costs are driving demand for coworking spaces.

“In Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, one needs to pay up around 20 lakh for a 600-square-feet office space,” says Samantak Das, national director, research of Knight Frank. Alternatively, one can get four desks at a coworking space in Bangalore for 5 lakh per annum, including services.

Mostly, members are not charged extra for using shared spaces. Explains Innov8’s cofounder Ritesh Malik: “When all of them eat together, they get to share values. When they find value in your workspace, they don’t leave.”

“Chill Zone” at 91Springboard’s basement has a foosball table (a tabletop version of soccer), nap zone, library and canteen that members can use for free. The company charges an average of 9,000 per desk from members. Says Pranay Gupta, one of the cofounders: “Once a member comes in, he should be mentally free.”

Then there are coworking space aggregators, like Spacewhiz. “We have over 45 spaces registered with us,” cofounder Naomi Aggarwal says.

Talking on add-on values these coworking spaces deliver, Marlies Bloemendaal, the founder of Ministry of New, a beautiful coworking space in Mumbai’s Fort area filled with entrepreneurs, designers, scientists and all types of professionals says, “We not only give them a space to work, we also help our members to get their stories out in the media. We also do a lot of events to help them network and connect them to the right people.”

Investors make a beeline

In August 91Springboard raised an undisclosed amount from investors. BHIVE Workspace, too, raised $1 million in a funding round in May.

“I wouldn’t be amazed if India becomes one of the most coworking dense areas globally, in three years,” said Jean-Yves Huwart, founder of Coworking Europe Conference, an annual gathering of 300 coworking space leaders, in August.




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