The concept of co-working spaces, popularised in India by startups and independent entrepreneurs, is now being picked up by established business houses looking to make use of a millennial workforce.
Today, India is witnessing an explosion of startups and SMEs. This has been accelerated by the government’s intensive efforts to create a sustainable ecosystem for entrepreneurs in the country. A substantial percentage of the workforce, primarily millennials, is turning away from 9-5 work schedules and office cubicles to give wing to their professional aspirations and acquire work experience without compromising on their freedom.
The Indian economy shares this trend with the global business landscape. It is estimated that by 2020, the number of independent workers and freelancers will account for 40% of the global working population. However, to evolve professionally, professionals require a work environment that can expedite interactions, opportunities for networking, engagement with investors, and peer-to-peer competition—all without imposing the restrictions of a formal office space.
Co-working spaces are making all of this possible not just for new-age entrepreneurs but also for remote workers, freelancers and independent professionals, and have become integral to the shared economy that is revolutionising the work culture in India. The 3X growth in the land leased by co-working firms, from mere 6.4 lakh square feet in the first half of 2017 to more than 19 lakh square feet by June 2018, shows that such spaces are finding rapid market adoption and acceptance.
But what is driving the popularity of co-working spaces among Indian professionals? Cost, enhanced flexibility, and access to state-of-the-art infrastructure are some of the primary motivations. Fully functional co-working setups provide flexible working hours and options. Entrepreneurs, freelancers, and independent professionals also have access to premium infrastructure at affordable rents, while the hassles of resource management—such as bill payments, regular system upgrade, asset depreciation etc.— are also taken off their shoulders.
The biggest advantage of these one-stop business ecospheres, however, are the learning opportunities that they offer. Unlike a traditional office with limited guidance and less scope of skill building, co-working spaces consist of members belonging to different companies, ventures and projects. With almost no direct competition or internal politics, the camaraderie aspect of co-working allows entrepreneurs and startups to find their business partners and exchange ideas, challenges and suggestions to learn from one another. In fact co-working spaces have become places where it will be more about having the right connections than mastering a profession.
This is important, particularly in today’s fast-changing socioeconomic environment, where market trends and dynamics can change at the drop of a hat. Moreover, operating amid people from different fields can also make one’s own work identity stronger. To make professionals feel like a part of the community, leading co-working space providers also arrange workshops, seminars and conferences with experts and industry veterans, as well as foreign professionals, on a
At present, startups are the Shared most dominant demographics at a co-working space. One of their biggest challenges is a lack of exposure to stakeholder interaction. Even with high-potential business ideas, entrepreneurs are unable to execute them due to a lack of capital or limited investor meetings. Co-working spaces are plugging this gap by organising investor pitch meetings, along with regular talks and discussion sessions to help entrepreneurs in understanding the complexities of a successful pitch presentation. Additionally, they also get investors onboard on a frequent basis to help entrepreneurs get in touch with them for networking opportunities.
Apart from giving access to a number of resources within their four walls, co-working spaces also open up a lot of scope for enhanced social interactions through facilities like cafeterias, gaming zones, live gigs/performance zones. They are becoming vibrant cultural hotspots for like-minded individuals across organisations to develop strong relationships. While travellers get to meet their fellow travel enthusiasts, book lovers can have endless discussions over coffee about their favorite books. The avenues are vast, limitless.
Moreover, the understanding that develops between professionals working in close contact often results in collaborations and opportunities for joint business ventures. The purpose of co-working is not just about working together professionally but bonding with professionals, regardless of them working on different projects or even in different industries. This can enable access to different areas of professional expertise that creates an atmosphere where the movement of best practices and information can flow seamlessly across traditional business lines. Such knowledge transmission has the potential to bring insights and innovation progressively to multiple fields.
Considering the elaborate list of advantages that they provide to entrepreneurs and independent professionals, co-working spaces as a concept will definitely witness exponential growth in the future. What started as a breeding ground for freelancers, entrepreneurs, and the tech industry has today become relevant to a much broader range of people and organisations. In fact, the notion of co-working is now being incorporated into the business strategies of many established companies. Organisations are either using them as an alternative place for their people to work or are replicating the lessons of co-working spaces within their internal work cultures. The idea is to facilitate more connections and help people interact and form communities beyond work meetings, which can make way for a thriving career and a flourishing business environment.
The author is co-founder, 91springboard, one of India’s largest and most active co-working communities