The Mesh: story of Pune’s first co-working space and startup community

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You were in deep thoughts to topple Google when the doorbell rang followed by whistles of the cooker and crushed your big dreams in making. You barely got through the morning when your bed invited you for a harmless afternoon nap, fixing you in the endless loop of procrastination. Sounds familiar? Welcome to the world of work-from-home entrepreneurs and freelancers.

Distractions at home, lack of human interaction and losing the sense of community at work are some of the daunting challenges every work from home professional has to face. Though some find their solace in coffee shops, others look for a more professional setup that can help infuse the discipline.

After facing all these challenges herself, 29-year-old Deepti Kasbekar decided to take action and converted a 1000 sqft apartment into a co-working space. “Couple of years back I was diagnosed with Syringomyelia. I left my job as a copywriter with Lintas in Mumbai and moved to Pune for the treatment. I used to sit at home all day with no will to work again,” shares Deepti, who soon got an offer to assist writing a cook book. “I needed a place to work. I needed company to think. So as they rightly say, need is the mother of invention, my need for all the above made The Mesh happen.”

Deepti Kasbekar with her dog Toba

Unlike her belief that it would take her a long time to find co-workers, within a month of opening, her first members (Karthik Sridhar and Bharadwaj Krishnan from Edwave) discovered The Mesh on a social networking platform and finalised their seats immediately after the first visit. “I think my two- month-old dog, Toba, won them over,” laughs Deepti, who calls her Dog, The Chief Love officer at The Mesh. The Mesh started off with an internet connection and few desks and within six months has expanded to 2000 sqft and houses over 12 startups.

Like many other co-working spaces, The Mesh works on a pay per desk model. Members pay a fixed monthly fee which includes high speed internet, tea-coffee, snacks, 25 printouts a month and an office assistant. Sounds like a steal deal but Deepti shares that for her, building a happy and symbiotic community of entrepreneurs was more important than making money. Mesh also offers a day pass for business travellers which includes a seat with internet, 10 printouts , tea-coffee and a meal.

Realising the nocturnal nature of tech entrepreneurs, they have also introduced a moonlighter’s package for people who wish to rent a desk at night. Social entrepreneurs and women entrepreneurs avail special membership rates. “We have a library opening soon and we offer discounted gym and swimming memberships to our startups so they stay mentally & physically fit,” smiles Deepti, who is an ardent Bollywood fan and has tried her hand at screenplay writing too.

However, operating a co-working space is not as easy as it sounds. Handling day to day operations and keeping the facility up to the mark is the biggest challenge. “The internet can go kaput anytime, people might not like the food you are serving and those who are too used to a corporate life would find the place too casual. It is all about managing people at the end of the day and at times it gets difficult with so many strong heads under one roof.” She adds that you need a good capital to start with and need to love and believe in people.

The Mesh houses a variety of startups right from technology, education, financial services to agriculture, clean technology and architecture. Apart from a desk to work, a co-working space opens doors to new connections and builds a sense of community amongst its members. You can brainstorm your ideas with like-minds and also get a friend to share your challenges and pains. “Since I started my solo journey as an entrepreneur I have been hanging out less with my old friends and colleagues. We can no longer connect with each other’s career and personal life. At The Mesh I found friends, co-workers & guides, all at once,” shares a happy member at The Mesh.

The Mesh is a five-member team which includes three office assistants and one communication executive. Deepti received an initial seed funding from her brother and she has broken even within eight months of operation. On her future plans, Deepti shares, “We have an event space coming up soon with a seating capacity of 20 people. We have a sprawling terrace for parties and social events as well. I also have an eye on this huge godown across the road. Someday, I wish to give The Mesh the Silicon Valley edge and wish to take it to rural areas to encourage entrepreneurship everywhere.”

The world of small businesses and entrepreneurs is rising exponentially in India. As per a listing by sumHR there are more than 50 co-working spaces across India with Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai leading the way. With increasing demand and competition, co-working spaces are offering innovative value added services to hook their members.

Jaaga in Bangalore boasts of hosting creative design entrepreneurs and offers workshops, networking opportunities and access to Jaaga mentors to their members. Social offline located in the happening locale of Delhi, Hauz Khas, brags to be an urban hangout which gives its members a combination of a workplace and a café. Bombay Connect another popular space in Mumbai houses social entrepreneurs and engages its community with community lunches, film screenings, and musical performances apart from skill building workshops and peer-to-peer sessions. The Mesh is the first co-working space in Pune and is setting the right benchmarks for others who will enter this space in the future.

Website: The Mesh

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