Are co-working spaces the future for the urban employee?

Anushka Deepak

Upcoming co-working spaces in Chennai | Credits: The Hacker Street

CHENNAI, March 8: With the start-up culture booming in urban India, the culture of co-working spaces is growing. The country’s modern workforce is challenging the archaic and impersonal office setup.

Getting into a space, searching for your workplace and bumping into strangers asking each other addresses is an experience no professional setup can offer. A gym where you can share your pumping fitness passion with the people you see every day but don’t know on a personal level and cafe to just relax and share your ideas and thoughts to enhance your knowledge is all that a co-working space enables you to get, all under one roof.

Rising above the cramped cubicles, today’s professionals are getting inclined towards flexibility and fluidity in the workplace.Small-medium co-working space providers understand the need for mergers with larger companies to enhance their services as compared to the increasing demand.

When small businesses realise that the bigger game changers are about to compete with them, they prefer a merged office space for expansion. Earlier, when the food tech industry realised that Uber cab service is coming up with their own online food delivery service, Food Panda decided to collaborate with Ola cabs and create a bigger market for themselves.

In Chennai, every company has an established setup if they’re standing in the market for long enough, but nowadays even the bigger ones are shifting into co-working spaces to join hands with the smaller firms doing well for themselves. With these space providers trying to grow their market, more IT company areas will be their main target areas.

Workafella: a co-working space provider at Perungudi | Credits: Workafella

‘Workafella’ is one such co-working space provider in Chennai that has 9,000 seats in three cities so far. “Chennai, Hyderabad, and Bengaluru are the hub of start-ups as of now. Our co-working company has become a leading co-working space provider in the South, and hosts workplaces envisioned for great ideas and inspired collaborations,” said Founder and Managing Director GurbinderRattha.

The provider opened its first branch at TTK Road in 2016. Looking at its success, a second branch sprang up in the bustling IT area on Old Mahabalipuram Road, Perungudi. To find a niche, Gurbinder claims Workafella was the first to offer a 24/7 office space with no hidden costs.

Inspiring productivity

An ideal workspace should not be warm and cozy like home, but should be functional and efficient so as to create a working environment. This doesn’t mean that it should be a place where there will be no relaxation for oneself. “Customizing your workspace according to your taste and mood can be done without altering the entire theme. Combine comfort and seriousness to build a productive workspace, where your creative juices can flourish and that is exactly what we aim on doing,” said Rattha. “And there are many takers. Within two months of launch in Hyderabad, the space was filled to capacity, and the company had to set up other two other co-working spaces.”

Gurbinder explains that nuanced spaces were created for each city, keeping in mind the local culture, food habits, and social norms. An example of a region-specific requirement is a terrace space for musicians and DJs to perform in the Bengaluru co-working spots. The spaces that Workafella doesn’t own are taken over on long-term leases and completely transformed to appeal to that particular city’s young professionals.

Future of Work

It is expected that investments of $400 million per year for the next five years will be poured in the co-working space.

At the inaugural day of the eighth TechSparks on 22nd September 2017, Director WeWork India Karan Virwani said in his talk on ‘Future of the Workspace’ that it is this factor that they are banking on for the success of co-working spaces in the world. “Contrary to what people think that with the advent of robots and AI human interactions will become rare, we believe that the future of the workspace is bright,” he said.

Karan Virwani’s WeWork India changing the work space game | Credits: WeWork India

Just like owning a car is no more important, traditional workspaces are also on a way out. As per the data provided by CRE MATRIX, leasing of co-working spaces in 2017 had gone up at an excellent pace, and the trend is bound to continue.

Expert researchers are of the opinion, that co-working culture could be a positive step in the future, which has less to do with the number of labour hours and more to do with hospitality and productivity.

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