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How this marketplace is turning cafes into workplaces

Tausif Alam
17th Jun 2016
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The working space is constantly evolving. From offices to co-working spaces, to even cafes. With an aim to revolutionise the office work experience, Qdesq, a marketplace for office workspaces, has introduced business cafes, which are branded and organised work cafes for modern professionals. They are called QCafes.

(From L-R) Paras Arora and Lavesh Bhandari
Paras Arora (L) and Lavesh Bhandari (R)

These QCafes offer their unused space when their footfall is low especially during the office hours. These cafes are finding favour with professionals who need to travel to different locations for meetings and training, and are a wonderful setup for catching up with peers as well. They offer a hassle-free workspace at prime locations and are currently operational in Gurgaon, Delhi, and NCR.

Paras Arora, who has worked as a real estate and asset management professional for more than 14 years, noticed that the requirements of the new-age workforce is very different from those of the traditional workforce. They demand flexibility but do not want to compromise on location or facilities.

The idea clicked when he discussed with Lavesh Bhandari, an IIT-graduate, the possibility of a platform with which they can offer services as well as manage offices at prime locations that were close to the homes of working professionals. This is when his tech expertise came into play, and he suggested these problems can be easily solved with the use of technology. They then started working on a platform where corporates and property owners can sign up and list their unused office space.

In December 2015, the duo launched Qdesq, a marketplace for office workspaces, which allows businesses to rent spaces on daily and monthly bases. It also offers a virtual personal assistant, business concierge, and administration support desk on demand.

Their idea further evolved and they launched QCafes a few months after the launch of Qdesq.

“This is when cafe owners reached out to us with their problems of lesser footfall during the day. We saw the market opportunity there and thought we can provide them with a source of additional revenue, while at the same time empowering the office goer with a beautiful workspace on demand,” says Paras Arora, 37, CEO and Co-founder, Qdesq. He is an alumnus of London Metropolitan University.

He adds that Qcafes are open on all days between 11 am and 6 pm. Occupants are required to confirm and block their workspaces in advance or on the same day. One can buy a QCafes coupon and book a space for Rs 399 a day. Interestingly, the coupon worth Rs 399 is redeemable for eatables and drinks at the café.

Challenging part

He says that the initial struggle was on the supply side, to acquire qualified venues on the marketplace with zero marketing. But now the platform is fully functional and it has doubled the number of venues and visitors on its site in the last three months.

He, however, believes that since it’s a marketplace model, long-term occupancy is another challenge. “We aim to solve this through seamless platform interface and operations. In coming years, we aspire to convert this platform as a demand and supply engine of this space, fuelled by innovative technology solutions.”

Why so bullish on growth?

Currently, there are 1.5 million registered companies, out of which 1 million are active companies. There are 6, 50,000 SMEs, which require 1.3 million desks per month. In additional to this there are 4,200 startups, which are growing at the rate of 25 percent YoY. The overall size of the industry for serviced and managed office space is estimated to be $1,300 million.

“We wish to disrupt this space by making it a new industry with the use of technology and innovative platform,” says Paras.

What Qdesq claims to achieve?

The platform started a business by raising seed funding from a group of investors led by Dheeraj Jain of Redcliffe Capital. Other investors include Jagdish Kumar, former regional director - APAC, DuPont.

The initial investment was spent on building the technology for the platform and on operations to get more unused inventory listed on the platform.

Now, the marketplace platform has more than 135 offices located at prime locations in Delhi-NCR. It claims to provide close to 600 work stations. It has QCafes located at over 30 venues across Delhi NCR.

“We have serviced over 350 short-term bookings in just six months of our launch and have almost 130 workstations under occupation at verified partner venues in Delhi-NCR. On an average, we provide workspace to 25-30 companies across both the formats – on demand and ongoing. We are an alternative office marketplace and have a pre-decided revenue share from our office space provider partners on every workspace occupied using Qdesq platform,” says Paras.

It further claims to be growing at 60 percent MoM in terms of revenue. In terms of supply, it says that it adds around 25 Qdesq verified venues every month. It aims to have 200 monthly bookings in on-demand business and 500 work desks in ongoing monthly occupation before its first year anniversary in December 2016.

Is it that easy to clinch growth?

In the co-working segment, there are many platforms competing to grab the larger chunk.

Besides 91Springboard, Awfis Space Solution, Investopad, Stirring Minds and many similar individual co-working space solution providers, there are discovery platforms as well as marketplaces offering every kind of solution in the co-working space.

In the marketplace segment, MyCuteOffice and Breathing Room directly compete with Qdesq.

In the QCafes space, though the concept is new and not adopted by many, there’s another co-working space OneInternet, which is also exploring the opportunity in cafes.

The competition is tough. It won’t be easy for any startup to emerge as a leader in this space.

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