A quiet workspace – for meetings or making reports – is top on the agenda for business travelers, freelancers, and small entrepreneurs. A few weeks back, we carried the story of Pune’s first co-working space The Mesh; and the rising demand for shared office places across the country. But what if you do not want to rent a place for a month,butinstead hire one for a few hours or days?
When Kaushal Sanghvi left his job with Amazon in Seattle to set up an office for a non-profit organization in India, his first challenge was finding a workplace.His search for good office space lead to the birth to his brain child, Breathing Room. Along with co-Founder Jacky Chow, Kaushal founded Breathing Room, a mobile application available on iOS and android devices to book premium work spaces on hourly basis across different cities. A soft launch in September 2014,was followed by the official one in November 2014.
“A lot of travelers and entrepreneurs end up working or holding meetings at coffee shops and soon run out of options. Also in Asia, cafes are used as a social gathering space unlike the ones in America, where they can be a good, quite option for work,” says Jacky.
Kaushal, a graduate from UC Berkeley, and Jacky, a post-graduate from Carnegie Mellon University, were teammates for five years at Amazon. While Kaushal returned to India, Jacky quit his job and was backpacking across Asia. “Kaushal called me and shared his idea about Breathing Room and I could instantly connect to it. As a traveler, I was already facing the issue of finding a good work space across the continent,” says Jacky. He started working remotely from Hong Kong since the inception of the idea. While Jacky handles tech development, Kaushal looks after business development and marketing.
Breathing Room lists a variety of options to choose from for your workspace for the day, such as: whiteboard, free internet, office stationery, French press coffee, and even the choice of music. The app allows users to check out rates, photographs of the place, amenities available, and other exclusive offers. Users can book the space anywhere from between 3 days to 30 minutes in advance from the day of usage.
Along with solving the perennial problem of users looking for hourly workspaces, Breathing Room helps businesses (suppliers) generate revenue from their unused space. To help the suppliers know who they will be hosting, the app insists that usersshould login only via Facebook or LinkedIn. Breathing Room is also selective about the suppliers who get listed with them. “Apart from basic contact details, we ask our suppliers to share pictures of their space too. To ensure safety and professionalism of the workspace we personally make a visit, meet the owners, and survey the location. This also helps us to build a personal relationship with our suppliers,” explains Jacky.
Hygiene is another important factor that Breathing Room checks while listing a space. “We ask the space owners to share the picture of their loo,” laughs Jacky, who believes this has proved to be the best factor to judge the cleanliness of a place.
When asked how they ensure safety of women users, Jacky explains: “We are very particular about this. We reject places which do not have a good neighbourhood, or where the owners are not too open about sharing details. We have a tie up with Sheroes and Women’s Web and we have many women users who are entrepreneurs, travellers, authors, and writers”
Breathing Room has recently launched “Open Spaces,” which helps you book a free workspace in a city. Open spaces has a listing of cafés, restaurants, and microbreweries, which offer a quiet ambience to work during certain hours of the day. “We are very excited about Open Spaces and it is first of its kind in the country. You can search a free workspace around you and choose the one that best suits your need. We are working on listing a variety of Open Spaces, so that you can choose if you want to sip a beer while you work or have a quite lunch meeting with your clients,” adds Jacky. Open spaces will soon offer exclusive deals on its bookings, like a free snack when you buy a drink. Sweet!
Breathing Room is present across Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Bangalore, and Hong Kong. They founders plan to expand their presence across these cities before adding any more domestic and international locations. The app has a listing of 21 Breathing Rooms and 14 Open Spaces.
The team includes a developer apart from the founders. They started fundraising three weeks back and are looking for money to accelerate their growth. “For the next one year we will focus on consolidating Open Spaces and understand the demand and supply in depth. We also want to develop better tooling for our suppliers, and partner with complimentary service providers like Ola and Uber,” shares Jacky,who is preparing to launch version 2 of the app in the next few months.
The share economy or the peer economy is estimated to be a $110 billion-plus market globally. While companies like Airbnb and Uber, have been the poster boys of share economy, the industry is seeing more startups exploring this space with services like sharing of car rides, hosting of dogs, hiring people to run errands, and even lending of hard cash. The major challenges that startups in this space face is finding high quality suppliers and services, maintaining safetystandards, and building trust within the community. Spreading the word about the business in a market where people are too used to status-quo is another hurdle.
But with negligible direct competition in India, Breathing Room, has touched a very exciting space and is set to make its mark in the office rental marketplace.