Co-working Spaces in Mumbai

It’s only the strength of collective that takes nations forward. We are now seeing it in everyday life, as entrepreneurs are creating co-working spaces to encourage new businesses.

The transition from a personal space to a bigger, collective space has always been a journey to growth and evolution. It catapults a mere individual from his own ego-centric space to a whirlpool of extended boundaries. Take for instance, Sushrut Munje, head of HR and marketing at Sila group, a real estate services company, who dropped out of his engineering college to start his own home cleaning services firm, Hammer and Mop, back in 2011. The inspiration was his visit to ‘Bombay Connect’ in Bandra, a co-working space solution firm, for the first time, from Kalyan, the area he lived in. An idea struck and soon enough, armed with a team of five employees and his co-founder, he landed up at Bombay Connect’s quaint office corner. “And that was the beginning. Everything I’m today, I owe it to Bombay Connect. So much of sharing, caring, exchange of ideas, networking happened there that I did not have to look back,” says Munje.

Initially, Bombay Connect charged him around Rs 5,000 per seat, on a monthly basis. After few months of working out of that space over free cups of tea and coffee over the day on cushy mattresses, he soon realized that the laid-back and productive culture was good for their growth. “It soon became a second home for me. I sort of got out of a cocoon into a larger space. I have made friends with inspiring entrepreneurs like Bharat Ahirwar, founder of Russsh- Get My Peon; Mulchand Dedhia, co-founder of Meter Down; Rishab Gupta, founder of Letsintern. We started servicing a lot of celebrities, businessmen such as Miss Malini (Malini Agarwal), Mr. Piramal, among others,” says Munje. Over a span of three-four years the company built a strong brand and was sold off to Sila group.

“We have seen many a success stories from this space we created. It is very convenient for people who are not established. The energy here is infectious. People connect with each other and learn constantly. There is intermingling of cultures, values, thoughts. We also learnt so much from divergent thought processes,” says Preeti Dawane, co-founder of Bombay Connect, India’s first co-working space solution firm. The company was founded by Pooja Warrior and Richard Alderson, in 2009, with the aim of getting people from diverse sectors together and providing them with an affordable workspace. Guncha Khare, Preeti Dawane and Ricardo Gonsalves soon joined in.

Co-working spaces are set to enter a new growth phase in India, driven by demand from freelance workers who seek a low-cost, flexible work environment, according to a survey by Regus, a global workspace provider. The survey carried out by them clearly shows that while working on the go is very normal globally, only a handful of limited activities can be carried out effectively anywhere. In India, around 74 per cent of the people surveyed said that co-working spaces offered them the inspiration through shared skills or experience.

“India is slowly developing the culture of co-working space. Co-working is beneficial as it allows people to become part of a larger community and has the potential to increase your network. It is also a way to ease your financial strain as you have all your costs include expenses such as furniture, electricity, internet, cleaning, maintenance, printer, coffee, tea, water,” says Natascha Chadha, director of Ministry of New. Ministry of New is a design-inspired collaborative workspace for independent professionals looking to be part of an international creative community, founded by two Dutch women based in India. “We are opening our flagship collaborative space of Ministry of New in Fort next week. After that we will plan to open up other branches across Bandra and other locations. As two Dutch women working out of India, we were motivated to find a more inspiring environment from which to work. My partner, Marlies Bloemendaal started with Ministry of New in Lalbaug as her own studio which developed into a collaborative work space. It kind of grew organically from there,” adds Chadha.

The size of co-working space is Mumbai is miniscule, consisting of around nine-ten players such as ‘The Playce’, Awfis Space Solutions, and Coworkable.com.

Experts say shared workspaces lead to a lot of collaboration that result into shared innovation, progressive thinking and a higher energy field. It also reduces waste of space and resources. “This kind of set up provides business opportunities. It cuts costs and helps in interaction with a diverse and interesting community. One could meet a lot of like-minded people here. With so many young people now starting their own companies, such eco-system is very sustainable,” says Sharin Bhatti, co-founder of CollabWorks, part of ‘The Hive’, which supports mixed performances, co-working and collaborative office areas, workshop and seminar space and an organic canteen, based in Mumbai.

More than anything else, working at a co-working set-up is recreational. Kareena Daruwalla, web-designer with Genius U, who also worked out of ‘The Hive’ for around a year and a half, says, “It’s such a stressbuster. When you are part of a work set-up that allows work with fun, what else do you want?”

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