[Startup Bharat] This Chandigarh coworking space aims to transform the startup ecosystem in Tier II and III cities

Starthub Nation is a coworking startup that works out of Mohali, Chandigarh, and Ludhiana, and caters to over 100 member companies.

While the coronavirus pandemic has pushed people into their homes, making it the ‘new workspace,’ coworking firms still believe that they will gain momentum in the post-COVID-19 era, as companies across will reduce the spaces they own and operate. In fact, according to Param Kalra, Co-founder of Starthub Nation, the trend will be prevalent in Tier-II and III cities as well. 

The 29-year-old entrepreneur has 10 years of marketing and sales experience, working with MNCs such as Bharti Airtel and Dish Network. Hailing from Chandigarh, Param saw the capability of coworking spaces which are quite relevant in metro cities, and felt the need to build such spaces in Tier-II and III cities to help bring the momentum in the startup ecosystem. 

Back in the day, Param along with his co-founder Ravish Jamwal was running an IT services set up in a shared office in Chandigarh with two other friends Jaswinder Singh and Simranjeet Singh. During those days, the duo faced challenges in running their business, when the landlord doubled their rent, making it almost impossible for them to continue paying the same.

It was at that moment, Param, Ravish, Jaswinder, and Simranjeet decided to start a coworking space. 

The core team of Starthub Nation

The early days 

“We found a basement of a newly built building, but could not afford for ourselves. So we thought, why not create a shared office space where freelancers too, can join us,” says Param.  

Thus, Starthub Nation was founded in 2014. Started with a 90-seater coworking space, the startup has, today, scaled to four centres with 450 seater facility. It has catered to more than 100 member companies in less than six years. The startup first opened its centres in Mohali and Chandigarh.

However, when it first started, the co-founders had to inform people about the concept of coworking and shared office spaces. The startup organised numerous knowledge events which helped people to get a sense of the startup ecosystem that was building in Mohali. 

The business model 

Starthub Nation’s revenue model works on a simple monthly subscription base which is paid against the real estate rental and virtual offices. The knowledge events are organised with a network of 400+ entrepreneurs, mentor network, and investor support which adds value to its business and customers. 

The startup follows a simple hospitality arrangement. It offers a community mobile app with messaging, connecting, and stories features. The app also facilitates booking meeting rooms and common spaces through it. 

The coworkers have a feature to work from any centre, and accordingly, they can make bookings from the mobile app. It also has a helpdesk feature which showcases all the offers and opportunities that can be availed at the centre. The mobile app is free to use for all Starthub Nation members. 

The market and differentiator  

At present, several coworking players are deep-pocketed and well-funded. As per the Global Coworking Unconference Conference (GCUC), there were around 1.7 million coworking members around the globe in 2017, which is expected to touch the five-million mark by 2022. 

Players like 99Springboard, Cowrks, WeWorks, and Awfis are looking closely at Tier-II and III cities to expand their operations. Besides, local startups like Next57 and Patna-based Work Studio are also in the competition. However, Param says that Starthub is different from its competitors in many ways. 

“As the first mover of the region and the ecosystem catalyst, Starthub is more about community, network, and opportunities. We never focus on real estate as a priority, and always keep the education of the community and hospitality on top. We worked with and helped more than 200 startups, entrepreneurs, and SMEs grow through with our coworking spaces and mentoring. Starthub brings best offers and opportunities to its members, entrepreneurs, and freelancers through partners like Amazon Web Services, Treebo, MyOperator, PHD CCI, Instamojo, IDFC Bank, and more,” explains the co-founder. 

Future plans 

Param says the startup earns a profit margin of 30 percent on average, owing to its capital intensive and high operating expenditure business. 

He explains that activities like events and investment consulting further increases the startup’s expenditure and revenue gap, but that matches in ideal situations and for well-developed community groups. 

“In a Tier-II scenario, we have a unit profit of Rs 2,500 per workstation per month, which is ideal,” the co-founder adds. 

In the early days, Starthub Nation was bootstrapped for three years with borrowed money from friends and families, loans, and personal savings. The co-founders self-funded the first two centres, and five years later, they opened the other two centres.  

It is currently raising funds for its fifth and sixth centre from a Ludhiana-based angel investor. The startup plans to invest in capital and branding. The fifth centre is a 15,000 sqft, 600-seater facility in Mohali that is under construction now.

Moving forward, Param says, “We aim to be present in all major cities of India, and raise the next rounds of funding accordingly; to mark an example as to how a Tier-II startup can enable multiple other startups, and become a leader. We’re now helping startups from Punjab, Chandigarh, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh to showcase themselves and stand in competition with startups from major cities and ecosystems like Bengaluru and Delhi. The dream is to enable 1,000 startups and entrepreneurs in the next five years.”

Edited by Suman Singh