Challenging the status quo of conventional office environments and big companies, managed and shared workspaces have successfully created a buzz in the market with their wholesome offerings for companies of all sizes, as well as individuals and freelancers across India.
Not only in India but across the globe, coworking spaces cater to corporates and startups by offering workspaces in premium locations, with high-tech infrastructure, conference rooms, IT support and, of course, a wholesome environment to socialise in and network with entrepreneurs, freelancers and diverse individuals.
According to a study by Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), the shared workspace segment in India will receive an investment of $400 million by December 2018. The study also suggests that traditional workspaces will be overtaken by shared workspaces by 2020. However, In India, the shared workspace trend is relatively recent but has become popular in very less time. The study also says that this space has already garnered sizable attention from occupants and operators. With 3–4 startups emerging every day over the past few quarters, India has become the third largest startup hub in the world, with a total employee base of a million. The numbers are expected to more than double by 2020. In addition, the report also mentions that India has a huge freelancer workforce (second in the world), along with 15 million professionals, and growing at a fast pace. Together, these two factors present a potential demand for more than 3.5–4 million seats.
Below is an analysis of three of the leading players, Smartworks, Awfis and Cowrks in the shared workspace industry in India.
Smartworks, within a span of two years, is one of the leading player in the managed workspace industry with a 1 million square feet footprint across India. 75 percent of Smartworks’ member base comprises of enterprises. It has marked a presence across nine cities in India namely Delhi, Gurugram, Noida, Kolkata, Bangalore, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai and Hyderabad. Smartworks aims to create a happy and productive office space where people 'want' to go and not just ‘have’ to go.
Inspired by high employee engagement levels in offices in the US and Singapore, Smartworks Founder, Neetish Sarda, launched the company in 2016, bringing the delightful office experience to Indian firms. Neetish has managed to radically transform the work experience for new age employees and entrepreneurs in the country. His visits to traditional offices across India, with poor aesthetic design, low employee energy levels, limited flexibility, dysfunctional employee culture, reinforced his belief that commercial office spaces need to be disrupted.
Smartworks has a vision to create a “workspace for the future” by indexing heavily on state-of-art infrastructure, stimulating workspace design and latest office technologies combined with value-added services to deliver a personalised “wow” office experience.
With this in mind, the various activities at every centre include in-house F&B services, food tasting days, live bands and djembe classes. The company has also launched SmartWeekendays to boost employee productivity, offering them experiences through curated events and workshops, including skill building workshops, pet at work day and learning new languages and courses. Apart from these, Smartworks is also plugged into the latest technology. Its effective visitor management system ensures smooth processing and tracking of guests through digital registration and identification.
Awfis, another top shared workspace provider in India, was launched in 2015. It is currently present in Delhi, Gurugram, Noida, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Kolkata and Pune. Awfis is leading the segment in terms of the number of centres that are spread across 50 locations (source: company data). Awfis is based on the concept of ‘Waas – Workplace as a service’. The company offers many features like integrated technology, mobility solutions, activity-based settings and design for greater productivity. With a passion to create inspirational workspace solutions, Amit Ramani founded Awfis in April 2015. The aim was to introduce a 'Sharing Economy' business model where one should be able to make 'Just-in-time' bookings for meeting rooms and work desks, and enjoy a flexible, hassle-free, productive work environment.
Established in 2016, Cowrks currently covers over 0.9 million square feet in India across Bangalore, Mumbai, Chennai, Gurgaon and Hyderabad, as per media reports. Cowrks currently has 10 facilities across these cities. This shared workspace focuses on three core areas – incredible workspaces, infectious energy and an ingenious network. Community building and maintaining a fun work environment are taken complete care of at all Cowrks’ facilities. Cowrks is promoted by the Menda family, the owners of real estate company RMZ group.
What makes each of them unique?
Smartworks bets on tailor-made offices while maintaining a happy and entertaining environment at the workplace. This induces high energy and greater productivity which results in increased P&L reading for the business. Along with employee engagement, Smartworks promises top-notch real estate design, technology and hospitality to build and maintain vivacious communities at its centres.
Awfis’s USP stems from its innovative tailor-made mobile application that enables users to find, review, book work spaces in its owned/managed centres on real time basis in a matter of seconds.
Cowrks aims to build a “network of entrepreneurs within India” by providing high energy workspace through curated community. The shared workspace provider has facilities that are designed to fall in line with the company’s aim of stimulating a culture that dwells on collaboration.
All three providers of shared workspaces have large and small enterprises as their clients. Through co-working spaces, large companies try to get a glimpse into the vibrant and youthful culture of startups alongside finding new talent to increase employee base while small companies opt for cost effective ways and less time-consuming methods of leasing an office space via shared workspaces.
While they are slowly catching on, we are yet to see how and if these shared workspace providers can change the face of conventional workspaces in the near future.