The demand for co-working spaces in Pune has seen a slow rise in the last couple of months, post the Covid-19 lockdown, especially as work from home becomes the norm. While some co-working spaces’ owners believe the upsurge will be maintained with inquiries from smaller companies, start-ups and freelancers trickling in, others said the constant scare of the virus is still keeping people away from sharing spaces, resulting in low occupancy.
“People are only coming in when it becomes absolutely necessary for them, like when their internet stops working. But most times, they avoid being in a space with someone from another company in the co-working space,” said Manoj Bora, co-owner at Cowork Studio. “As for start-ups, 40 per cent of our members have shut down due to the financial hit, or they have converted to a one-man company. Secondly, small start-ups with employees from other cities are working from home, which helps cut costs when it comes to getting a space.”
He added that while occupancy in Cowork’s five branches in the city was around 95 to 100 per cent before Covid, it has reduced to 30 to 40 per cent now. “We get around 30 per cent calls for inquiries, out of which only some work out. We are hopeful the situation will get better by March, with news around the vaccine and international market beginning,” he said.
Even considering all precautions against the virus, the footfall at The Daftar in Baner has dropped to 50 per cent, said Sunanda Verma, founder. She said that while inquiries from companies ensure more seats, demand has been slightly higher from individuals. “If out of 10, the occupancy was seven to eight, it has now dropped to three or four. Newer inquiries are coming in, wherein people visit the place to ensure safety precautions are being taken. Start-ups have shifted to either work from home or looking into co-working spaces, as several of them lost their previous ones due to financial troubles,” she said.
While co-working spaces with physical distancing and private cubicles and cabins are among top choices, conference halls and meeting rooms are not much in demand due to virtual mediums. Moreover, it has been observed that apart from individual players like freelancers and remote workers, employees of medium-scale companies were also looking at co-working spaces.
“Employees from medium or large-scale companies are higher in number, as the company can cover the expenditure,” said Aditya Kulkarni, owner of The Hub in Kothrud. “Inquiries are higher in the area. But as a business, we hope to break even and keep ourselves above the red line, as we cannot really say if the situation will be better by next July…”
Meanwhile, Rakesh Mangde, research analyst at Bootstart Cowork, said co-working spaces will moderately gain momentum even after the Covid situation eases. “The demand is slow yet inflated, as the co-working model has not only adjusted well given the pandemic, but also suits companies financially. Enterprise organisations such as e-commerce and IT firms might adopt these spaces in the future.”
Varun Khanna, community manager at Starthub, Koregaon Park, and Shankar Salunke, owner of Divine Coworking in Baner, said the requirement among patrons has led to more instances of price negotiations. “In the last one and a half months, we saw more people wanting to work in co-working spaces. The catch is, however, that there is more negotiation when it comes to the packages, as the pandemic has been very hard on every industry,” Salunke said.
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