I no longer work in my underpants...


Shekhar Gurav is a co-founder of The Playce and here he describes what made him start a co:working space for DOers in Mumbai...

That's partially true - I no longer work in just my underpants. And for those of you who don’t know me, I am not kidding.

Imagine a 25-year old strategy consultant who decides to chuck his job one day and shouts out, “Hey, I wanna be an entrepreneur too”. That’s me, alright! Every tom-d-and-harry around me was doing the same. So that i.e. chucking the job was actually the easy part. The difficult part was which business to start, where to start it and most importantly, how to get a team in place & execute. But worst of all, I did not know what to do with my newly found freedom. So I started waking up around noon and mostly surfed the internet from my bedroom after that in the name of work.. of course in just my underpants (ultimate expression of personal and professional freedom according to many).

But hello, I was supposed to be a busy and cool entrepreneur! So though I did not do much, I also avoided meeting friends and other outdoor gatherings. Not surprisingly, a month down the line my social life crumbled around me. I think I even started talking to my dog. And I didn't even have a dog! So I decided to change things.

I started going to a nearby coffee-shop to work. But this fulfilled only half the need – that too the bottom half. Now there were people all around me as I worked on my business plan; but they were mere silhouettes for me. I could not interact with them. So next I found myself attending all sorts of meetups. Alas, meeting people over martinis was not helping me start-up although I really love martinis.

What I needed to get both my spirits and my business up and running was a place. A place where there was a happy chance of serendipity combined with college like enthusiasm from people united by passion for their work. Whatever that work was.

And that’s when I discovered Jelly. Jelly is basically an open meetup where you invite a lot of people from varied backgrounds together and give them the basic necessities – like wi fi and coffee- and that’s it! Due to the sheer diversity of their profiles, people in a jelly meetup mostly end up producing some new ideas and many times, you may also find your co-founder there.

That was it! I wanted a daily jelly. And that, dear readers, is the definition of co:working – it’s a daily jelly. But when I looked around, I could not find a co:working campus in Mumbai. So many other frustrated souls like me were asking for it. And I realized I might be onto something. So I ganged up with Gargi – a globetrotter, techie and teacher – and Alok – an irreverent designer mastermind – and we launched The Playce this November. The Playce is like a "start-up campus" where you can work productively on your next big idea, find collaborators, attend useful workshops, and of course have unlimited wi fi+coffee. Give us a visit; it’s really important for the detailed and complex business plan I've drafted.

Co:working spaces are great for combining productivity with fun, working alone with together, privacy with useful networking, daily routine with happy coincidences. And coincidences are important for a start-up founder. Working in silo is great for coders, but a founder has to be out there among potential collaborators and customers if he wants to gather useful feedback, sustain the momentum and actually sell his product.

“I think when people work at home they have to come up with new ways to interact with people,” says Dan Pink, one of the first authors to write about independent contractors in his 2001 bestseller book Free Agent Nation. “They miss one of the joys and banes of being in an office – the interruptions, the inadvertent contact on the way to the bathroom that sometimes leads to interesting ideas,” Pink says. “Co:working gives a set of colleagues who will interrupt them on the way to the washroom.” For e.g. I am writing this blog post from my workdesk at The Playce. I was actually thinking of writing a detailed informational piece to explain co:working. And just then, one of my co:workers told me to write my own story. Hope it’s been fun to read so far.

In summary I have come a long way from working at home, where there’s no compulsion to put on pants and if need be, no shower. Now, at least, I put on pants.