The ‘gig economy’, where people opt for short-term contracts or freelance work over 9-to-5 jobs, is on the rise, both globally and in India as well. Companies like Uber and Ola, Fiverr, freelancer.com, and other marketplaces are giving people the ability to be their own bosses and better manage their personal and professional lives. There are both upsides and downsides to this arrangement.
While these ‘modern mercenaries’ have a wide variety of ‘missions’ available, should they choose to accept them, finding the right work environment is a challenge for many. Multiple research reports note that ‘work from home’ arrangements are not very effective as they have high chances of reducing productivity and happiness, while also hampering innovation and creativity.
With their uniquely positioned offering of ‘Starbucks meets co-working space’, Delhi-based MyHQ thinks they have found the sweet spot for these ‘new-age outlaws’ of the gig economy. Here is their story.
Founded by Utkarsh Kawatra and Vinayak Agarawal in April 2016, myHQ turns everyday coffee spaces into lounges, workplaces or meeting zones. For prices ranging between Rs 300 per day to Rs 5,500 per month, subscribers can use these spaces to read books, work, host meetings or network, while consuming food or beverages at discounted rates.
The venture has so far tied up with six spaces across Delhi, all of which are optimised with WiFi, comfortable seating decor, office stationery and exclusive FnB offers (to ensure they are pocket-friendly).
Utkarsh and Vinayak are both graduates from IIT Delhi. While Vinayak has prior experience in the corporate space, having worked at companies like Adobe and Goldman Sachs, Utkarsh has experience in both the corporate and startup spheres, having worked at Opera Solutions and through his role as an investment analyst at Helion Ventures.
Assisted by the advancements in modern technology, more and more individuals are now becoming a part of the gig economy to gain primary or secondary incomes. Utkarsh and Vinayak noted that these individuals, not tied down to one office, are always on the lookout for affordable work spaces or meeting rooms to go about their business.
Coffee houses and cafes, on the other hand, see a large volume of customers frequenting their spaces during peak hours, but generally, see low occupancy at other times. So, looking at the supply and demand sides, Utkarsh and Vinayak decided to venture into this space with myHQ, which is positioned as a ‘Starbucks meets co-working space’ offering.
myHQ currently consists of a team of six, and Utkarsh noted that while their main target audience includes freelancers, college students and startups, they are also focused on adding enterprise sales teams as customers as well, in the near future.
For customers: A freelancer or working professional looking to find a temporary working space or a place to relax and eat can download myHQ’s Android or iOS app to find nearby ‘myHQ spaces’. Users need to sign up through Facebook or email to see relevant details like photos, amenities, and other facilities of a space. Then they have the option of reserving that space by opting for one of the available passes, which range from a one-day pass to a monthly pass. Opting for a pass entitles a customer to go and work out of any of the spaces in myHq’s network.
For coffee shops: Utkarsh noted that since they follow a subscription model and want customers to have a standardised experience across all their partner cafes, the myHQ team visits and ensures that these spaces have been optimised to cater to their target audience. Talking about their checklist, Utkarsh told YourStory,
We ensure that the lighting and seating is optimal and comfortable, the music from the cafe or nearby establishments is not too loud, and that there is certain variety in the menu. We’ve found that a more diverse menu ensures people keep visiting and are not bored with the food.
Working on a revenue share model, myHQ’s value proposition for cafes is that they can increase occupancy rates during odd hours and also ensure that their cafe is booked optimally. The constant crowd is also an assurance for potential customers that they can network and is more inviting than a relatively empty cafe. Some coffee shops on myHQ’s network also offer exclusive areas for customers to work out of undisturbed.
While the initial few months since their launch were spent laying the groundwork — partnering with cafes and launching the app — Utkarsh noted that they currently have over 150 paying subscribers, with 80 percent of them on five-day passes or monthly passes (equally split between the two). myHQ’s current monthly sales run-rate stands at about Rs 4.5 lakh, and the team plans to expand to five more spaces and reach over 250 paying customers by the end of January 2017.
While the current focus is on capturing the Delhi market, myHQ aims to expand to another city within the next three months and multiple cities by the end of 2017. Utkarsh admitted that providing their offering in multiple cities would obviously enhance the appeal for frequent travellers, who could benefit from a multi-city pass.
To reach out to potential customers, myHQ has so far relied on word of mouth and also experimented with targeted marketing and advertising on Facebook and Google. Their most active customers at the moment seem to be in the 25-35 age bracket.
myHQ had earlier raised an angel round from undisclosed investors, and Utkarsh noted that they plan to raise another round in six months or so, once they have more traction on both the supply and demand sides.
The focus on the demand side is to create a network effect through myHQ’s in-app social network. The startup aims to build a rich community of like-minded people and position it as an added advantage of being on their network. This is critical because, at the moment, their positioning as an intersection of Starbucks and a co-working space brings down their addressable market considerably.
YourStory spoke to a few potential myHQ customers, and some noted that, at this early stage, they don’t find the value proposition too appealing, as their priority is convenience and not price optimisation. Others found the working space and F&B redemption combination interesting and said they would consider giving the day plan a try. So, myHQ will indirectly be competing with both the Starbucks and WeWorks of the world. To appeal to a larger swathe of customers, myHQ will need to expand to more partner cafes and multiple cities and ensure that ‘network effects’ kick in.