Pivot and Persist: How coworking startup Awfis is replicating office at home
The COVID-19 pandemic caused a seismic shift in the way companies function across the globe. Once startups and enterprises moved to remote working, the debate around the town was on the future of real estate and co-working spaces. However, New-Delhi based coworking startupwas quick to recognise this impending change and innovate to survive a period, which set the real-estate industry clock backward on development.
According to a report by Statista, the finance and real estate sector quarterly change in GDP went down from -5.3 percent to -8.1 percent in Q2, as compared to Q1. Enterprises and companies are now adopting mechanisms that not only lower their capital expenditure, but also ensure the safety and well-being of their employees.
In line with this, Awfis pivoted its business model and is now enabling a smooth transition to remote working by offering innovative solutions to facilitate the functioning of a distributed workforce, may they be working from home or working near home.
In a recent conversation with YourStory, Founder and CEO Amit Ramani said that the startup has launched two new partnership models -- Powered By Awfis and Awfis@Home.
Image Source: Awfis
Pivoting to new business models
"As de-densified workspaces and a distributed workforce environment are here to stay, we have designed a number of solutions to equip and empower our customers to seamlessly embrace this change,” Amit says.
Even before the pandemic, the startup has been evolving into an integrated workspace solutions provider from being just a flex workspace provider. This helped Awfis stay ahead of the curve. In fact, Amit says, “The COVID-19 scenario has helped further accelerate this process as we launched solutions that addressed specific needs across the spectrum of work requirements pertaining to work from home and work near home.”
Its new model -- Powered by Awfis -- helps companies optimise costs by creating workspaces out of their underutilised or unutilised real-estate. This in turn enables companies to generate additional revenue, and on the other hand, enables Awfis to add to its footprint of flex workspaces.
“It is a win-win partnership model,” Amit says.
Amit Ramani, Founder and CEO of Awfis
The company's second offering, Awfis@Home, provides the flexibility to efficiently work from the comfort of one’s home. This model replicated the setting of a productive office work environment, which includes providing a physical infrastructure, IT infrastructure, and tech integration.
Awfis@Home comes in both B2B and B2C packages. The B2C packages consists of just the furniture, and comes with EMI options of three, six, and 12 months, starting at Rs 465. The B2B packages start from Rs 1,149. The startup has already sold 1,000 units of Awfis@Home, via direct sales.
Additionally, the startup has expanded its portfolio to launch Awfis Care, a fully-integrated end-to-end facility management solutions platform. Awfis Care allows hassle-free operations and maintenance of office spaces with a single point of contact for all facility management services on offer. The platform comprises Office Management services, Business support services, and Technical Maintenance and Operations support.
“Through these suites of offerings, we ensure that employees are provided an environment to unleash their true potential and enhance their productivity,” Amit explains.
Awfis@Home | Image source: Awfis
Impact of COVID-19
Immediate disruptions aside, Awfis did not see a substantial impact on its revenues due to the pandemic. This can be attributed to its business models. First, Awfis works with clients that are large-enterprises with long-term leases. Secondly, the majority of its business falls under the profit-sharing or managed aggregation model.
“The strength of our relationship with our landlords has played a significant role in helping us steer through this time,” Amit says.
He adds, “While we are seeking waivers on the fixed rental payments from our landlord partners, we are transferring the benefits to our clients and staying committed to the larger ecosystem in which we operate.”
Therefore, Awfis has continued to make payments towards fixed operating costs such as salaries for its housekeeping staff, security, vendor partners, and utilities such as electricity, and internet. “We did not face any issues in meeting our commitments towards these fixed costs,” Amit adds.
Further, to offer support to its clients, Awfis has restructured deals, allowed a delay in payments, and paused contracts wherever it was required by the client to sustain their businesses.
Inside an Awfis coworking space | Image Source: Awfis
Future of co-working
With organisations focusing on employee safety, adherence to social distancing norms, cost optimisation, and increased flexibility in rental contracts, Amit believes they are increasingly moving away from traditional real estate models and adopting the distributed workspace model.
“We anticipate a further uptake in demand for our flex workspaces,” he says. Awfis has 67 centres across the country, offering convenient and flexible options for companies to ensure ease of operations.
The startup has re-opened all its centres with full preparedness, to ensure 100 percent safety. Along with this, it has also rearranged its spaces to comply with appropriate social distancing norms across collaboration zones, meeting rooms, pantry areas, cafeterias, cabins, and lobby areas.
“We have introduced a tech-enabled app that completely eliminates the need for any surface contact. Through the app, one can mark their attendance, enter the centre premises, and also order food and beverages to their desk to minimise human interaction,” Amit says.
Amit further reveals that the growing demand for satellite offices from corporates has led the startup to partner with alternate real-estate such as hotels and malls, to set up flex workspaces.
Post its last Series D funding round of $30 million, which was led by ChrysCapital in August 2019, Awfis is well-placed to continue its growth objectives for the next 18 months.
“We have committed funds towards building the largest network of futuristic workspaces and adding 2,00,000 seats over the next 36 months across 15 cities,” Amit says.
The startup has deployed the funds towards capturing a larger share of the commercial real estate market through its B2B offerings that come under Awfis Enterprise solutions.
YourStory’s Pivot and Persist series spotlights Indian startups that are pivoting to seize new business opportunities, transforming their business models, and offerings to navigate the current COVID-19 crisis.