Interview: Meghna Agarwal, co-founder and COO, IndiQube
In India, the coworking sector is currently in a high-growth phase. Many professionals, startups and emerging companies have started understanding the concept, flexibility and the growth options it offers. Looking at the current growth rate, it is possible to anticipate a maturity level in the market in a couple of years. Meghna Agarwal, co-founder and COO of smart workspace solutions provider IndiQube, in a conversation with Financial Chronicle’s Mini Tejaswi said, she expects big enterprises and corporate leaders to start embracing the trend which would allow their employees the freedom to work from anywhere.
What are the key drivers of coworking industry in India?
Coworking has been revolutionising the office space market across the globe for the past few years. Due to the rapid increase in the prices of commercial spaces across India, coworking was welcomed by a large number of freelancers, emerging companies, and entrepreneurs with high grace to fill the gap and offer workspaces that help them in saving huge operational costs and focus more on business.
The surge of startups and a new generation of employees who prefer a flexible work environment fanned the trend for coworking spaces across key startup hubs in the country including Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, and Hyderabad. Flexibility, growth opportunities, cost effectiveness and collaborative opportunities are some of the key drivers of the coworking industry in India. It is also being shaped and driven by a novel and emerging concept ‘Walk to work.’
What is the current value and size of the Indian coworking market?
As per CBRE reports, there are over 600 shared workspaces in the country with over 1.80 lakh seats and more than 13.5 million square ft of area. The year 2017 itself witnessed the absorption of nearly 1.5 million square ft of space. According to a recent report by JLL, it is estimated that the Indian coworking market would grow by 40 to 50 per cent with a handsome investment of around $400 million by the end of 2018. We, IndiQube are one of the largest coworking space providers in the country with over 2 million square ft of workspaces, 35000 + seats spread across 30+ communes in startup markets like Bangalore, Pune, Mumbai, Chennai, and Hyderabad.
How does the Indian coworking marketplace look like?
Coworking is slowly catching up in India with reports showing around three-fold growth over 2017. The sector which once comprised 5-6 major players, has welcomed a large number of new players over the past few years.
Is coworking emerging as an independent, sizeable revenue earner for realty firms in the country yet?
The coworking scenario has moved beyond just an office space, giving growing companies and professionals an opportunity to network and collaborate with people from different phases of life and levels of professional experiences. It also helps in getting new prospects, guidance, and market help, thus driving towards a service-oriented workspace and redefines the employee experience.
By opting coworking spaces, startups and SMEs have been able to attract and retain talents, thus increasing the employee engagement. They also offer flexibility in workspaces for anyone, be it a professional, startups, SMEs, and large companies, by allowing employees to work from different locations and enabling them to experience a better work life balance. All these factors have helped coworking emerge as an independent, sizeable revenue earner for realty firms in India.
Please give a brief account of the coworking scenario globally, which are the matured geographies in this space?
The concept of coworking is growing at a very fast pace around the world making it a global phenomenon. According to a recent report by GCUC (Global Coworking Unconference Conference), the largest coworking conference series in the world, growing markets like China and India have embraced coworking, making APAC the world's largest coworking market.
Other regions forecast to grow rapidly include South and Central America, Eastern Europe and Russia and parts of Africa. The relatively mature US and European coworking markets are expected to grow more slowly than the overall global rate.
What is the overall outlook for India’s coworking industry in the next five years?
The coworking industry in India has witnessed a steep rise in demand attracting large investments from various angel investors. The flexibility and networking opportunities provided by the coworking spaces have pulled in not just startups but also big enterprises. We are able to continuously experience a remarkable growth trajectory for the coworking industry across all major cities in India, with an approximate annual growth of 50 per cent in recent years. The future clearly holds bright prospects for the coworking industry in India, enabling players to focus more on innovation and empowerment.
How does the coworking model cut cost for enterprises and entrepreneurs with what kind of savings?
The coworking model helps small as well as large corporates reduce their operational expenses by up to 25 per cent through the use of shared facilities. Additionally, in a traditional office space scenario, companies have to lock in unwanted office space, contrary to the very nature of coworking spaces, to offer the flexibility and scalability options.