The Coworking India Conference held at the American Centre, CP, brought me to my hometown Delhi. The prospect of engaging with people who believe in coworking as much as I do, listening to their inspiring stories and anecdotes, sharing my insights on this industry, exchanging notes and being there to see it all come together was enough to get the adrenalin rush going.
The conference tone and mode couldn’t have been setup in a better way than the talk of Mr Saurabh Kumar (Additional Private Secretary to Minister for Law & Justice & IT) on present and future of digital India and how coworking industry can be a critical enabler. This was followed by talks and panel discussions with the leading players of the coworking industry in India.
I had an opportunity to share my views and learnings on the similarities and difference in coworking across a gamut of different cities across Asia. I compared coworking trends in different Indian cities with the ones in Hong Kong, Singapore, Cambodia and the USA. My co-participants in the panel discussion were the founders of coworking spaces from Bangladesh, Mumbai and Jaipur. They shared their experiences to create an engaging and interactive session. Below is a short summary of some of the topics discussed:
Know your consumer -> Who are the users of coworking spaces?
My International View: While we see startups and SME as the main users of the coworking spaces in India, we cannot deny that the new-age workforce of freelancers, digital nomads, mobile professionals and even perhaps large corporations are also resorting to the benefits of shared workspaces outside India. We need to focus on this large customer segment and channelize our energy into tapping this market.
Dig deeper -> What age brackets form the main chunk of the users of coworking spaces?
My Perspective: In India, the average user age group is around 30-32 whereas outside India we see two distinct age groups – ~28 and ~40 for users from different backgrounds. We need to engage with the younger and the older Indian taskforce and convince them of the benefits of coworking.
Bust- bubble -> What can go wrong with coworking space business model?
My Inferences: Outside India, 90% of the coworking spaces go out of business when the sharks of real estate strike for a rental increase. Alarmingly, in Hong Kong this increase can be as high as 30%! Coworking spaces can’t pass on these costs to users and hence the whole value proposition collapses. New options like profit sharing model with the real estate owner need to be explored to arrive at a viable solution to this problem.
Look within -> Why are coworking platforms like Kowrk needed?
My Outlook: When a friend in need was searching for a coworking space, I accompanied her to the available options. Running pillar to post in the 21st century to find a place that suited her needs didn’t seem right. This inspired me to build a multi country coworking spaces marketplace so that finding a shared workspace becomes as easy as booking a hotel. Platforms like Kowrk are match-makers between a coworking hub and its audience.
How is Kowrk different than other players?
Frankly, this is one of my favorite questions and I was sure glad when an audience member raised it.
Kowrk is a very different from other players in the market as it goes all the way to the very grass root levels. We are one of the key players, with an active contribution towards building a coworking ecosystem in all the countries that we operate in.
We conduct surveys of the founders of coworking spaces and facilitate formation of interactive groups for the CXO of such spaces and setups, giving them a robust and ready networking opportunity to connect with each other and share common ideas.
We have launched a suave contest – titled the ‘Koolest Kospace Contest’ to hunt for and crown the best shared office in the world. Its creating exciting buzz all over!
Takeaways for me
It was great to see the energy and positive vibe at the first Coworking India Conference. There was a healthy exchange of ideas among the teams of incumbents and upcoming coworking spaces. Most of all, this conference reinstated my belief that coworking industry indeed has a very bright future in India too. We are at the helm of a revolutionary avalanche that is set to alter the way people work all over the world! With increased vigor and determination, Kowrk is poised to be a flag bearer in writing the global coworking story.