Being obsessed with everything coworking, we at Mumbai Coworking got thinking – How do we get more insights to spread knowledge on the industry? And whom do we approach? The right person just immediately clicked. We’re excited to tell you that we recently had the chance to exclusively interview Pranay Gupta, the Co-Founder of 91springboard.
In this interview, the startup enthusiast talks about his take on the coworking industry, his experience, his future plans for his company. He also shares noteworthy tips for budding coworking spaces to succeed. Read on to find out everything you need to know about coworking and the business:
1. Are there too many or too few coworking spaces these days?
Coworking has been around globally for much longer but in India, it’s about 4-5 years old as a concept. We were fortunate enough to be the first player in India and since then we’ve seen a lot of growth in the space, more so over the last one year. That said, we think it’s still at a very nascent phase. It just doesn’t make sense for even upto 150-200 people companies to have their own office and manage it. This is both from an economics point of view and from collaboration & growth support point of view. Thus you will see many more coworking spaces come up making it much more easier for startups and companies to operate and focus on growing their business.
2. How profitable is coworking as an industry to invest in right now?
Profitability depends from company to company and a lot depends on the entrepreneurial discipline. That said, this is not one of the burn-a-lot-of-money-and-profits-will-be-in-future kind of a business. Along with this, it has potential to have multiple super big companies. Definitely worth looking at from investment perspective. Maybe a bit late for an early stage investor now though.
3. What changes do you expect to see in coworking spaces in 2017?
I expect more players to come and honestly, I also expect some smaller ones to fade away. You see, coworking isn’t just about purchasing real estate and giving people office space in a shared basis. It’s about creating a community, cultivating an environment that’s collaborative and geared to inspire innovation. You will see coworking companies finding their own sweet spot in customers mind and starting to differentiate from each other to that extent. I also think more and more companies will also start to consider coworking as a viable alternative to their own office space as the benefits become more and more clear and proven. We have seen this already with many 50-100 people teams working out of our spaces too. Thus, people will start associating coworking more with building your enterprise rather than just as a place meant for ‘startups’.
4. What’s the latest coworking trend?
Of late, we have seen a rising trend of larger companies, corporates or MNC’s if you will, taking to the coworking format. I think more and more companies are realising this isn’t a format just for startups, rather it’s a new way of working that’s disrupting the age-old formula and can be beneficial to the company in more ways than one might think.
5. What are your future plans for 91springboard?
91springboard has been on an explosive growth path for the last 2 years and we very much intend on continuing this growth trajectory. We now have fully functional hubs in most major cities in India (Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Bangalore, and Hyderabad). We intend on expanding our footprint in these cities to begin with and then possibly even head into the other cities, including Tier II in the near future. Along with this, we want to also increase the amount of business growth benefits a company can get when they are at 91springboard. We have been selected & supported by Atal Innovation Mission to scale up our incubation activities and that will be another key focus for us.
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6. What has been your top learning experience while running this coworking business?
I think what we’ve learnt most is that the only thing that’s constant is change. We are in a very dynamic business space and one that is constantly evolving and we have to evolve with it. I think it’s also to do with the fact that the kind of crowd we cater to, those with an entrepreneurial bent of mind are dynamic themselves so they need an environment that keeps up with them. So, we do our best to stay ahead of the curve and give our members what they want, before they even know they want it.
7. Unlike other startup businesses that faded away with time, do you think coworking is here to stay? And why?
Most definitely it’s here to stay. For the simple reason that it makes sense as a model not just economically, but also from a psychological and productivity point of view it’s been proven to have happier workers than a typical office space that’s old school.
8. What do you think is the top reason businesses are attracted towards coworking spaces?
Like I mentioned above, it makes sense economically for most individuals and organizations as coworking spaces bring in the efficiency of scale. Also, it’s a format that allows them to focus on their work while not having to worry about overhead and maintenance hassles. Aside from this, one of the top attractors that I know works for 91springboard is the culture we build and cultivate at each of our hubs.
9. What are the perks budding coworking spaces need to start offering to succeed?
Focus on your product and create a space with an identity and culture that’s reflective of the kind of people you want to attract. Do this for the right reasons. In our case, this is ‘how can we help you / your business grow’ rather than with a pure profit motive. If you do it with the right intentions, the money and success will follow. Foster partnerships that will be valuable to your members and build a network with the same aim.
10. What according to you are the different ways coworking spaces can generate revenue apart from renting seats?
Well, we don’t call it ‘renting seats’ because that’s what a business center does. We have members and growing our membership is what is important to us. For now, I think that’s what coworking spaces should focus on. As a coworking space, you are a platform which provides various support to your members and there could be an opportunity to monetize many of these too.
11. What are the challenges you think the coworking industry would face in the future?
As I mentioned previously, coworking isn’t an easy business to succeed in. Any moneyed individual or organization that has any space free can rent it out on a shared basis but that doesn’t mean they will be an attractive coworking space for potential customers. Many of these will provide space for super cheap too as the rent will be a sunk cost for them and they may operate the space with just a peon or receptionist. I think the challenge will be for a professional well run space to communicate the benefits to potential members such that they understand the value rather than just go for a cheap offering.
12. How do you see the role of aggregators like coworkable, etc in the coworking ecosystem?
Any successful business vertical will see the advent of aggregators as it makes sense from a discovery point of view. That said, in case of a hotel or a flight, an aggregator helps in selling to a client every time a purchase decision is being taken. Whereas in coworking case, once a client has taken the decision, there will be no need for a new decision for a long time. Thus we see aggregators evolve into two clear models – one will be the true aggregator kinds who will focus on short term use, like meeting rooms, days passes etc as the client will search for this multiple times in a year. The other will be more like listing/lead platforms (like justdial) which will operate more like any other property broking site working on leads rather than as a true aggregation platform.
Thanks for taking the time out to talk to us, Pranay!