This co-working hub run by two sisters hopes to nurture a community that supports women

By Nikita Bameta
January 25, 2023, Updated on : Wed Jan 25 2023 12:22:20 GMT+0000
This co-working hub run by two sisters hopes to nurture a community that supports women
In 2022, Nikita and Rhea Patel founded The Bureau, a women-focused and co-ed coworking space in Dubai. It was launched officially earlier this month.
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Coworking spaces are known to provide a community environment with access to like-minded people and mentors. It is to bring in this very network effect that sisters Nikita and Rhea Patel launched The Bureau Business Center—with a twist.


One of Dubai’s first community-driven, women-focused coworking spaces, the startup was founded in 2022 and officially launched earlier this month.


“Our space is designed with a woman's needs in mind. Apart from building our own community, we are also housing many of the existing ones,” Rhea tells YS Gulf, adding that the coworking space has a vanity room and a pumping room for new mothers.


Nikita chips in, “We want to create a community to support women—personally and professionally.” 


The team, comprising six people along with the facilities support staff, also wants to organise members-only events focused on women’s financial empowerment, independence, and mental and physical health.

The Bureau

The Bureau team

A pandemic baby 

The sisters are third-generation entrepreneurs from the Dubai-based family-run conglomerate Geap Group. They also have a varied work experience.


An alumnus of the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business and London Business School, Rhea had been closely involved with global brands such as Red Bull, Adidas, United Airlines, and Intuit.


Nikita, an alumnus of The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, is a social entrepreneur, having founded a special needs centre for young adults in Dubai in 2015. She also ran a college counselling and advisory company in the UAE and founded the indoor hydroponics vertical farm Oasis Greens.


The two of them launched The Bureau during the pandemic. The idea was derived from their own experiences of using coworking spaces in the US. Nikita had worked out of a women-focused coworking space in Boston, while Rhea has worked across media agencies in Los Angeles and New York City.


The duo took a keen interest in building an authentic work culture, creating inspiring workspaces, and fostering a community at the workplace.


But the pandemic turned work and office culture topsy turvy. Like many others, Nikita and Rhea also moved back home to Dubai after 10 years, amid COVID-19. This provided the sisters with a rare chance of working together in the same space. 


However, they discovered that their working styles were poles apart.


While Nikita needed pin-drop silence, Rhea preferred a more social environment with music. Nikita preferred a traditional desk-and-chair while Rhea loved working on a more relaxed couch. The sisters also disagreed on the ideal room temperature.


Soon they realised they were most productive at different hours of the day. But the one thing they agreed on was this—they missed working around people, especially like-minded women.


It was this realisation that led them to launch The Bureau, a space that brings together people across industries—from freelancers and entrepreneurs to community leaders and professionals. 


While it is a co-ed space and both men and women can work there, the women-focused aspect reflects the founders’ endeavour to nurture a community. It provides private offices, meeting rooms, phone booths, event venues, coworking lounges, high tables, dedicated desks, a cafe, a workout studio, and more. 

The Bureau

The Bureau

Something for everyone

The startup offers several membership plans—monthly, annual, student, and social.


The monthly plan is priced at AED 1,200 ($326.7), the annual plan at AED 950 ($258.64) per month, the student plan at AED 500 ($136.12) per month, and the social plan at AED 350 ($95.90) per month. 


Non-members can purchase a day pass for AED 120 ($32.67), which allows them to book a meeting room, a podcast room, or an event space. 


Private offices and dedicated desks are the largest revenue generators for the team. 

Market scope

The UAE coworking space market is expected to grow at a CAGR of more than 5% between 2022 and 2027, as per a report by Mordor Intelligence. Dubai is witnessing a significant increase in co-working culture, said the report. 


The US has several women-focused coworking spaces, including Hera Hub, The Hivery, and The Wing. 


Rhea says, “A great part of setting up a business in the Middle East, and specifically Dubai, is the sheer number of people that are moving here. Dubai is attracting talent, and making business set up simple and easy.”


An increasing number of SMEs and startups are expected to drive this growth. 

Challenges 

One of the key challenges the sisters faced in building The Bureau was understanding the technical aspect of the physical space’s fit-out process. 


Nikita says, “Whether it be the physics involved in our mezzanines to the challenges of understanding the MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing), it was a steep learning curve.”


“One of our key learnings has been that everyone is not going to believe in your idea, and that is okay. Our advice to all entrepreneurs is to believe in your offerings, and surround yourself with a team who shares your energy and enthusiasm for the business,” Rhea says.

Future Plans

At present, The Bureau is privately funded; it may be open to external funding in future, says Nikita. She also says the current project is just the pilot and “the plan was never to have one Bureau and one location.” 


After honing the existing model, the team plans to expand across MENA, South Asia, and beyond.


Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta

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