What would you choose?
One land offers you the option of coming out of an investor meeting - the only cheque you received was of the ‘reality’ kind - right out onto the pristine waters of a lake that has no business being in a city, where the only thing freely flowing is sweat and concrete - but the way it defies the norm, gives you newfound inspiration to do so yourself. On the other hand, amateur bands play the blues to help you laugh away your mid-week blues and offer myriad opportunities to connect with top-level management at India Inc., influential journalists, HNIs –as the pitcher in you shares a pitcher, unabashedly, with these intimidating creatures.
One region helps you go back to your basics as well as be amazed and inspired at students racing ahead of the learning curve by becoming pioneers and inventors while still in college; while the other helps you keep your eyes on the prize, as you look up at the ivory-tower offices of India’s who’s who, and strive harder and harder to earn your own spot in there someday.
In a city that has not proven to be the most favorable to startup aspirants, choosing the right location would be a significant headstart to overcome this rumoured friction. A quick search will tell you that most startups have been gravitating towards three locations in Mumbai –lower Parel, Powai, and Andheri. You don’t have to listen just to your heart to make this decision – here are the facts on the ecosystem each area has conjured up, so you can decide what’s best for your fledgling.
Overview: Lower Parel is Mumbai's newest Central Business District and has seen a tectonic transformation over the last decade. Its excellent rail and road connectivity has ensured the proliferation of a large number of corporations, retail outlets and media and entertainment places. This Mumbai startup hub is developing a co-located ecosystem of academia, industry, entrepreneurship and creative capital who will receive support to move from concept to scalable opportunities to conquest.
Talent: Having a school, Indian School of Design and Innovation, as part of the ecosystem is also beneficial, as startups can scout for talent in particular, design-oriented talent - as they grow. Furthermore, the collocation of numerous restaurants and watering holes ensures there are enough meetups and access to talent. The Royal Highnesses after all, chose a lounge in the heart of the suburb, for their debut in the city – in order to best sense the pulse of the youth.“Our core belief is that Design Led Creative Entrepreneurship (DICE) will play a crucial role in ensuring startups and small enterprise are able to generate forever value and our curated network of designers and innovators can support them achieve this,” says Siddharth Shahani, Co-founder of ISDI and LPID.
Events and networks scene: Perhaps the only place where you discuss your startup idea with HNIs and investors at the barrage of watering holes and restaurants situated in large numbers as the offices there. In fact, Siddharth has placed his bets on Lower Parel to become one of India’s first Innovation Districts- by trying to round up the pioneering visionaries amongst the lot to forge conducive environment for them to thrive through incubation and acceleration. They are spearheading this movement with the Lower Parel Innovation District, or LPID. Lower Parel has spaces that are used for socio-cultural debates on everything between gender and cinema by day, and moonlight as venues for legal workshops, financial seminars and startup galas.
Startup’s vantage point: Atharva Sabnis and Ronak Shah, Founders of Fractal Media with their base in Lower Parel, opine, “Lower Parel has some of the best media and advertising agencies, as well the head offices of major organisations. As a startup which is looking for partnerships, it is crucial for us to be close to our prospective clients. A bonus is the incredible energy in the air in Lower Parel.”
They work out of the Indian School of Design and Innovation (ISDI). Consequently, there are many events and conferences in this area - for instance, the RISE Fintech conference, which took place at the RISE coworking space itself. “So, in our case, being in Lower Parel is extremely cost effective. Given the proximity to a wide variety of major institutions in Lower Parel, we can arrange meetings and make connections fairly quickly. With all the new infrastructure being constructed in Lower Parel, there is a rich mix of different businesses, which isn't necessarily the case in other parts of Mumbai.”
Popular sectors: Lower Parel is a hotbed of activity for media and entertainment, retail, financial technologies, design and other creative industries. Lifestyle startups like Style Fiesta and Nykaa have also established a strong foothold there. And Ronak expects more organisations in the sector to migrate from other areas of Mumbai (e.g., Andheri West, to LowerParel). It also happens to be the hub for the headquarters of the country’s most successful companies; and the flyover-strewn piercing through its heart is lined with most of Mumbai’s news publications and channels, law firms, share-broking and consulting agencies.
‘Star’tups of the area: Most PR agencies, right from world renowned Edelman to boutique agencies like Genesis BM, 20:20 MSL, and Perfect Relations have camped out here. ISDI is headquartered here, and so are many lifestyle e-commerce startups like Nykaa and Style Fiesta.
Overview: Powai truly represents the ethos of our generation; youthful, ambitious, adaptive and ever-evolving. Powai has seen a transformation over the last decade and it isn’t done growing just yet. This is the perfect place to be for young entrepreneurs - beautiful township, state-of-the-art infrastructure,plenty of eating and unwinding options within walking distance of each other, and progressive residents constituting mostly migrants who miss the space, greenery and peace and quiet of their hometown, and yet needed Mumbai’s energy.
Feel:“When you have all the peripherals so beautifully set in place for you, it frees up your mind to focus on just your work and be at your most productive,” says Umang Sood, Founder of Of10, one of Mumbai’s premier co-working spaces. Culturally, Powai is witnessing a sort of Renaissance, with the residents starting to organise marathons, donation drives, events like ‘Open streets’.
Talent: “For one, as we mentioned before, Powai is Mumbai’s de facto tech-hub, by virtue of being practically within walking distance of IIT-B. Being within this Mumbai hub allows our tech-centric members to benefit as it connects them with several potentially useful contacts and networks. After all, it is no coincidence that some of the biggest startups in Mumbai either come from Powai or choose to set up shop here.
Popular sectors: Broadly speaking, a lot of tech- and app-centric startups dominating the scene here, be it fintech or food-tech. Powai is host to local as well international organisations working in the social development sector. With benefits that Powai provides, the presence of the sector is growing here.
Events and network: Besides the IITians who are always up to something with hackathons, tech galas and entrepreneurship seminars, a whole lot of “startup weekends” are hosted there to turn the sporadically springing up startups in the area, into a community.
Startup’s vantage point: 4th Wheel started its journey in Ahmedabad and recently migrated to Mumbai. “Our criteria to finalise a base included a place having an established startup ecosystem, relevant events, access to networks, good infrastructure, entertainment options and being cost effective. Just the Hiranandani Garden road is home to companies like L&T, Nomura, Crisil, Black & Veatch, Schindler India among many others. This gives us access to one of our biggest target group in such a small space itself. Also, compared to other areas, the cost and quality at which the infrastructure is available here is unmatched,” says Payal Mulchandani, Founder of 4th Wheel.
What can you do from Powai that you may not be able to do from another part of the city perhaps? “Walk by the lake – I doubt other Mumbai startup hub can boast of a serene experience like this,” says Payal.
Overview and feel:If Powai Valley is Mumbai's startup hub, Andheri, especially the east, is cool by association and proximity. Thanks to the setting up of IIT and emergence of incubation centres like Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in IIT, which has further supported best young engineering talents.The vicinity took no time in becoming business hot-spot for sprawling startups ranging from e-commerce, logistics, foodtech, home services, edtech, on-demand service startups among others. This has compelled a sizable investor community to station themselves there, as well.
Infrastructure: Keeping in mind Mumbai’s daily commuter hassle, Andheri is the heart of the city, and easily accessible by local trains as well as the metro - be it the western or harbor lines – not to mention that both the International and Domestic Airports are around 3-4 km, or 20 minutes away. “As Andheri East is a hub for many corporates, hotels and companies, IT startups, networking and collaborating is becoming very accessible, friendly and lot more cost effective for startups compared to stationing themselves in Bandra, BKC or other parts of South Mumbai,” says Dr Apoorv Ranjan Sharma, Co-founder and President of Venture Catalysts, a venture fund that also runs a coworking space in Andheri East.
Popular sectors: Andheri sees hordes of startups in the tech space, just like Powai. But off late, the logistics sector has been avidly settling down in the old industrial complexes of Marol and Sakinaka, along the metro line. Most inventory-based business models pick Andheri to set up their manufacturing and storage units, in spite of the high real estate cost as opposed to the outskirts of the city, due to its connectivity, proximity to networks, and on already existent industrial ecosystem this ensuring easy availability of most materials.
Startup’s vantage point:“Co-working with other startups gives you another level of high, wherein you can discuss your ideas, prototypes over small candid conversations and simply learn from what others are doing. This kind of experience and learning cannot be matched from anywhere else.Easy access to talent because attracting them from a commute point of view is really easy. Being a startup hub, getting introduced to quality talent is also easy in Andheri,which might be really difficult in any other part of city,” says Rahul Jain, Co-founder, Flickstree, a startup working out of VCats' coworking space.
Star’tups of the area: Unicorns Flipkart and Ola have a corporate front here, and so does online fashion bigwig Koovs. Logistics majors like SafeExpress and the Funded Wow Express, Indus OS, Ridlr, Wishberry; Fintech major Transerv and umbrella group Directi are the more prominent ones in the area.
Connectivity: Andheri and Lower Parel have unmatchable local railway connectivity, but Powai will have to sit this one out, as the metro line is the only form of cheap public transport closest to it, the nearest station being 4-5 km away.
All three locations are equidistant to Bandra Kurla Complex – the diamond hub of the city that is also home to the headquarters of India’s foremost banks, alongside the National Stock Exchange, some premium five-star hotels, and soon, the Reliance Jio project.
Talent versus clients: While Powai and Andheri are great for scouting for tech talent with IIT in the neighbourhood, Lower Parel is centrally located too. It is ideal to cast your net for the bigger fish and small, to snag them up as clients.
Finding your kin: The frequency of opportunities for networking and seeking mentorship may be similar in all three areas, but the nature of interaction will differ, owing to the social context offered by all three locations. Lower Parel offers more range and a more vibrant and informal setting; Powai, a fresher and younger environment, while Andheri’s five star hotels around its airport often host international conferences, award ceremonies and high-profile conventions.
Realty and respite: Lastly, realty costs more or less the same in Andheri East and Powai,with Lower Parel commanding almost twice the rates – the Average Locality Prices at each being Rs. 17,000-19,000 persqft in the former, and around Rs. 32,000 in the latter, as of June. But the vast array of co-working spaces equally distributed in all three hubs with relative uniformity in prices, apply ice on the burnt area that the prospect of buying or renting a place in Mumbai may have left on you.
Find your zen: Powai is tranquil but its calm waters are running deeper and deeper, teeming with evolution. Andheri is crowded - not just with concrete and cars, though, but also with activity. The traffic here might single-handedly be responsible for upping Mumbai’s average, but so are its hard-workers, which up the average level of Mumbai’s ambition.It represents the corporate dream and puts you right in the thick of the grind. Lower Parel may well be the Indira Nagar of Mumbai – with commercial complexes that touch the sky, clubs and eateries that meet the sunrise and companies that have a work hard play harder state of mind.