Bootstrapped Co-Offiz, which aims to tackle the logistics issue for startups, is also going the extra mile to help women entrepreneurs by offering better rates.Rashi Varshney
Coworking spaces, though a relatively new concept in India, have become a hot property in the real estate sector. And startups were quick to embrace this new concept of shared office spaces, which provides not only shared amenities and resources, but also a sense of community, networking, and idea exchange among other things.
One of the new players to set up shop in the coworking space is Delhi-based Co-Offiz. Started by two female entrepreneurs, Prachi Jain and Mansi Agarwal in January last year, it offers coworking space at strategic locations in Delhi, and promises a ‘fancy’ ambience’ with a hint of feminism.
From unconventional designs, cool sitting arrangement and a place to chill out, to glass conference rooms and colourful interiors, Co-Offiz, unlike vanilla coworking offices, has mainly focused on design.
Besides this, the company, which wants to encourage women entrepreneurs, offers more affordable rates and prices to women employees. At present, 33 percent of Co-Offiz seats are occupied by female entrepreneurs across locations.
Mansi says, the startup has deliberately chosen locations such as Janakpuri, Preet Vihar, and Netaji Subhash Place (Pitampura), as these locations cover areas that are densely populated with working people.
The company currently offers 1,000 seats across four locations covering 100 companies, and the area has grown from 3,000 sq. ft to 50,000 sq. ft in just a year.
Before setting up Co-Offiz, Prachi and Mansi were working in the US and decided to return to India with a feeling to give back to society. After they returned to India around 2012-2013, their idea of coworking spaces seemed way ahead of time.
Hence, they continued to follow their other line of businesses. Prachi is a commercial helicopter pilot and an instructor, and Mansi runs a chain of pre-school, Scottish Early Years, in Delhi NCR.
But we always felt that logistics is a concerned area, says Mansi.
“Logistics is a great problem especially for the company, which is starting up, or a big multinational company, which has a requirement of 500-1,000 seats. Because you must keep multiple managers, vendors,” adds Mansi. We waited for the right time to set up something like this, she says.
Mansi says the reason is not just commercial, but also the fact that startups are already going through so much struggle, and most of them are looking for funding. “So, we thought why we can’t cater to a bigger audience and keep smaller profit margins,” she says.
Overall, the company claims that its membership costs are about 40 percent lesser than the competition. The plan starts from Rs 8,000 per month for an open individual seat. However, Co-Offiz claims that it does not believe in long and stretched out agreements, which doesn’t consider the uncertainty of real-world challenges that startups face. Hence, the company provides customised rental agreements for its users - be it for a day or for a year. In terms of revenues, Mansi says the company has grown 10 times in last one year.
Mansi says the team is trying to revolutionise the whole office space industry for professionals in startups, individual freelancers, and MNCs.
Initially, the co-founders started with a 3,000 sq. ft space in Delhi’s Preet Vihar in early 2018, which is where both the entrepreneurs live. “Backyard is the best place to learn something,” says Mansi.
“We started with a small area with just 70 seats. It was designed and developed as a testing lab to do a litmus test of the coworking business model. We spent the next six months in identifying and resolving key challenges faced by startups and small enterprises,” she says.
She says this research helped them find the recipe of a successful centre, which is accessibility (proximity of metro services), ambience, association (networking), and affordability.
A recent JLL’s Emerging Trends Report indicates that the total amount of space taken up by coworking space providers in seven major cities in India has tripled from 1.1 million sq. ft to 3.4 million sq. ft over a period of just one year.
“The Indian subcontinent is also expected to see exponential growth in the startup ecosystem. We believe a large pie of commercial real estate leasing will transcend into co-working spaces. This will create an opportunity for not only industry leaders but also operators like Co-Offiz that can cater to smaller spaces in densely populated areas,” says Mansi.
At present, coworking spaces in Delhi NCR are mushrooming with small and big players like WeWork, Awfis, CoWorks, etc. Commenting about Co-Offiz’s expansion, Mansi says she does not worry about expansion and success, and the team feels confident about its success.
She adds that the shared economy has been a buzz word globally, and coworking spaces have provided a unique opportunity to medium and large enterprises to be free from the shackles of long-term leasing and lock-in periods without compromising the quality of the workspace.
Bootstrapped Co-Offiz now plans to grow further on a self-funding model. The company has so far invested more than Rs 6 crore in these hubs, and plans to put about Rs 25 crore more by next two years. By 2020, the company is planning to offer 5,000 seats in three lakh sq. ft area, says Mansi. In addition to expansion in Delhi, Noida, and Gurugram, Co-Offiz plans to reach out to underserved markets such as Jaipur, Lucknow, Chandigarh, and Indore shortly.
Besides coworking, the team said it is also looking to start an acceleration programme focusing on early-stage startups this year.