By Jagmeeta Thind Joy
What does it take to debut as a successful entrepreneur? Apart from a well thought out business plan, for most of us, the answer would also include the terms – hard work, persistence and focus. But ask any young entrepreneur and he/she will also tell you how important it is to work in an environment that’s conducive to creativity and also have access to the necessary infrastructure.
With India becoming the third largest start-up hub in the world and the second largest freelancer workforce in the world, there is a potential demand for more than 3.5 to 4 million seats in the coworking space, states a 2017 study titled, ‘Future of Work – The Coworking Revolution’.
Co-authored by Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), JLL India and WeWork, the study also mentions how India is the youngest start-up nation in the world, where 72 per cent of the founders are less than 35 years old. On demand, flexible places are the preferred places for these millennials, it reports. And that’s where coworking has stepped in and made a world of a difference.
Currently, there are around 200 premium business centres across the country, which are set to double by 2020. The report also states that at present, there are approximately 300 (branded and unbranded/organized) shared workplace operators in India, operating almost 720 centres across urban India.
Closer home, the tricity is changing gears too. At the launch of the all-new ‘Awfis’ coworking space in Zirakpur, founder and CEO Amit Ramani remarked that Tier II markets are projected to grow to “8.5 million seats by 2020 owing to the steady growth of entrepreneurial spirit in these cities, thereby, creating the demand for affordable Grade A coworking spaces.”
FIRST, WHAT IS CO-WORKING?
A coworking space is usually an open floor-format office with shared spaces for meetings, networking and collaborations. “It is not just about offering a workstation and an internet connection,” says Jaswinder Singh Tiwana, co-founder of Starthub Nation. His company offers coworking spaces in Mohali and Panchkula and has emerged as a popular choice with start-ups, freelancers and small business owners. “The conventional system of renting an entire office and locking in capital is phasing out. Increasing real estate prices have spurred the demand for collaborative and coworking workspaces,” explains Tiwana. “Work, Incubate, Conquer is our motto,” says Tiwana. Mentorship and community building events are a regular feature at Starthub Nation, which boasts of a lively ambience and state-of-the-art facilities.
Coworking is not just working in a shared space but also a style of working where individuals have access to each other’s skill set, even though they work independently. “Coworking spaces are gaining popularity in the tricity because remote work culture is on the rise. An increasing number of young entrepreneurs are ready to take risks and want to try out new options other than mainstream careers,” explain Navneet Singh Brar and Vineet Brar, the duo behind ‘Wotta Workspace’.
Started in 2015, this coworking space boasts of a thriving collaborative and interactive community. “A good coworking space is committed towards igniting consciousness through personal transformation, both individually and collectively. We try to get everyone together and bring about a positive change. The aim is to uncover new frameworks and methods enabling businesses to become more impactful and profitable,” says Brar.
While co-working is a currently a “trending topic”, Amitoz Pal Singh, founder of Spacejam, a popular coworking space in Sector 34 admits it’s taken the tricity some time to truly understand the concept. “I worked for a tech company in San Francisco for some years and I worked out of a coworking space. When I came to Chandigarh, I was keen to start something similar. But, we faced a lot of challenges and had to explain to people that coworking didn’t just mean renting out a floor with workstations. It means building a community where professionals can ideate, brainstorm and tap into each other’s skill set,” says Singh who has also designed the space in such a way that it breaks barriers and helps people get to know each other and their work.
ROOM FOR CREATIVITY
Even if the work is not repetitive or boring, a conventional office can sap your energy with its lacklustre ambience and more often than not, uncomfortable furniture. But that’s where coworking spaces lead the way. At Innov8, the coworking space housed in Chandigarh’s City Emporium Mall, it’s a burst of colour that greets you. The interiors are not just inviting but the workspaces are ergonomically designed too. At Next57, another new arrival in the co-working space in Chandigarh, complementing the state-of-the-art facilities is the artistic decor and a fun vibe. According to the ‘The Future of Work…’ study, it is anticipated that by 2020, coworking spaces will overtake the traditional office format.
FUN AT WORK
From comfortable seating, plush ambience, pantry and cafe facilities to even room for games, these workspaces encourage you to enjoy while you are at work. While most young entrepreneurs look for the usual facilities like AC, high-speed WiFi or internet connection, availability of pantry, comfortable furniture and fixtures, power backup and more, the coworking spaces in the tricity are going beyond offering just brick and mortar solutions.
“We try to include workshops based on art, healthy food, fitness, meditation/yoga etc keeping in mind the interests and needs of our workspace community,” explains Brar. At Wotta Workspace, it also translates into a ban on use of plastic for food purposes, replacement of wax-coated paper cups with cutting-chai glasses, making compost from food waste and providing healthy homemade food for co-workers. What’s more, most of the workspaces, like Wotta Workspace, are open round the clock.
‘From small beginnings come great things’ reads the wall art at Starthub Nation’s office in Mohali. “We truly believe in that,” says Tiwana as he goes on to add, “We try and Lhelp in any way we can. For most young investors, finances and professional guidance are the main worries. We regularly organise mentorship talks and investor meet-ups.”
Also to encourage the spirit of community building and helping each other, these coworking spaces regularly organise group activities, brainstorming and interactive sessions.
The average age group of people who use the coworking spaces is 25 to 45 years. “Mostly young professionals working on their start-ups and small business owners,” informs Amitoz Pal Singh. Also in the mix are freelancers, IT professionals and consultants who need a community to grow and a system that could support them financially and professionally.
Apart from providing infrastructural facilities, coworking spaces have become support systems for start-ups as well. Leading the way is Chitkara Innovation Incubator Foundation (CIIF) in Manimajra. “We have as many as 56 start-ups working from our premises,” informs Sumeer Walia, Director, CIIF. The well spread out space has open workstations as well as cabins where entrepreneurs can be seen at work. “Unlike the notion that there are only IT start-ups that use co-working spaces, we have start-ups from across different categories like farm tech, health science, aerospace, art e-commerce, to list a few,” informs Walia, who mentions that the space is not only for students or alumni of Chitkara University but open to all. Recently, two teams from CIIF won the Ingenuity 2018 innovation challenge at Ningbo, China. “They won prize money of 200 thousand YUAN (around INR 20 lakhs) and now have their own companies registered with desired license in China,” informs Walia, who feels coworking spaces offer the right environment for ideation and development. It’s a melting pot of talent and skills with co-workers not just from the region but from other parts of the country as well. “We connect people with the right opportunities and encourage collaborations and networking. Mentoring increases a company’s success rate. The idea is to encourage innovation and creativity. We also assess start-ups at an early stage for seed money,” explains Walia.
Offering business development workshops, digital marketing seminars are what prospective co-workers should look at when choosing a coworking space. “Starthub Nation regularly hosts networking events that can help people boost their business. For a new start-up or a young entrepreneur, it is very important to manage finances. Our aim is to make sure startups and freelancers get the best ecosystem for their ideas,” says Tiwana. Coworking spaces such as these also provide digital marketing services, design assistance and investor meet-ups.
CAFES JOIN THE PARTY
Buoyed by the sudden spurt in demand for places where people can not only meet up for a quick coffee but also work alongside, restaurants and cafes are offering plug and play services. Leading the way is The Hedgehog Cafe in Sector 7, Chandigarh. There is the facility of desktops and charging stations and even a library of books should one need a reference. Dedicating an entire section of the restaurant for a coworking space is Social in Sector 7.
Combining work and play, the place doubles up as an “urban hangout” and a collaborative workspace for artists and innovators. They even facilitate meet-ups and workshops. Also offering a dedicated co-working area is Lumos in Industrial Area, Chandigarh. The restaurant which encourages entrepreneurs, remote workers and freelancers, also moonlights as a “multidimensional events space”.
Within a month of joining a leading multinational company, city-based Sharad Dabra knew he wanted to pursue an artistic journey of his own. A fresh engineering graduate, cash-strapped for funds, he decided to use a coworking space, CIIF, in 2014. “I liked the fact that it was very easy to find fellow professionals who could help me with what I was looking for – be it designing my website or back end support,” reminisces Dabra, founder of SD Fine Arts, an online art portal. From a one-man show, today, Dabra has of a team of 10 artists working with him. “Apart from customised graphic artwork that we supply globally, we also do artistic interiors,” informs Dabra who feels it was easier to branch out on his own thanks to the coworking space.
Also starting solo, Rohan Singh, a software developer, now steers a team of developers. Working out of the Starthub Nation premises in Mohali, the IT expert has global clients and he speaks highly of working out of a coworking space. “We have clients around the world and we have to be available 24/7 and I able to do that here,” says Singh.
THE COST OF CO-WORKING
For those looking to work out of a coworking space, there are many options. One can choose from flexible seats, fixed seats, private cabins and meeting rooms. Most of the coworking spaces offer benefits like multiple services in one plan, no heavy deposits, flexible plans and no extra maintenance cost. A vibrant office and a fun work culture are added benefits. You can also choose a day pass in most places. Prices average at Rs 300 for an hourly pass to Rs 4,000 for a month.
(This article first appeared in The Indian Express, Chandigarh)