Walking through Connaught Place’s crowded lanes it’s a struggle to find the work cafe we are looking for. It’s then that you realise you are standing right in front of it. While we are looking for a workplace, a work cafe doesn’t look anything like one. As you step in your perception of a workplace and work itself, changes. Partly a coworking space, and partly a restaurant, FLYP@MTV in the heart of New Delhi transforms into a full-fledged bar with a DJ and music after sundown. “It’s the correct utilisation of space,” says Utkarsh Kawatra, the co-founder of myHQ, that has work cafes like this all across the city.
Karan Virwani, the CWeO of WeWork India, defines coworking as, “having shared workspaces for a group of individuals working independently. Unlike a traditional workplace, individuals working here are not employed by the same organisation.”
The coworking movement started in 2005 in San Francisco by Brad Neuberg, reached India almost five years ago, and has only grown since.
Is it a mall? A cafe? No, it’s a coworking space!
In contrast to the work cafe in Connaught Place, the coworking space of 91springboard in Noida looked like a mini-mall. A huge multi-storeyed space, with a basement full of eating joints, I saw vibrant coloured sofas and a pool table occupying the space. There were various desks, cubicles and meeting rooms on every floor, yet no one was working for the same outfit.
At FLYP@MTV, the atmosphere is completely different from regular offices. And that is by design. Each table looks like it’s hosting friends catching up over lunch. There are different people, all in their own worlds, but each table is clearly bustling with ideas.
On one table there is a trio brainstorming about increasing brand visibility and terms like taglines and brand image fly around. This is, I learn, a digital marketing firm at work. On the next table, a girl is busy writing something. Just next to her are two others watching a video on their laptop and discussing improvements.
While it certainly didn’t seem so, in the traditional sense, everyone in this space was working.
“It is the energy that surrounds us every day, it shapes who we are and how we work,” says Karan Virwani, defining the typical culture of coworking spaces.
At WeWork, we have amenities like free lunch, foosball tables, on-site massages, and we encourage inputs that are deeper, more profound, and also more systemic and integrated.
Why work alone when you can work together?
As the start-up industry continues to grow in India, the most common problem companies are facing is with real estate, both in terms of availability and cost.
“We used to work from our home before we discovered myHQ, and honestly this is the cheapest alternative we could find. Working from home was so problematic since me and my partner live in different corners, we needed an affordable place that was at the center,” says Angad, whose merchandise start-up ‘Frankly Wearing’, got a better direction after he moved to his ‘office’ at FLYP@MTV.
We met so many people here, our business expanded and we even made merchandise for the other start-ups that were working in the myHQ community.
Most coworking spaces also try to build an online and offline community where people can interact with each other. “People get to know their ‘colleagues’ and realise that their businesses can complement one another. People can bounce ideas off one another, hire one another and collaborate to expand their businesses,” adds Virwani.
“Indians are very price-conscious and they always look for ways to reduce cost and hassles. That’s where the coworking spaces come in. These are cheap alternatives that also provide start-ups with a pool of resources they can pick their prospective clients from,” says Utkarsh from myHQ.
“Unlike the closed atmosphere that we see in the corporate world, the coworking space is very open and flexible. There have been times when I rush to my coworkers to test a sample product or idea and they give me their honest feedback,” says Jameel, who moved to 91springboard last year.
When work is not stressful anymore
The change that coworking spaces are bringing is not just physical, but also mental. People who work in coworking spaces do not feel stressed and bound by their work. Work for these people is not something that pays the bills, but something that inspires them to do better, stay motivated and makes them happy.
Neha Arora, a regular at myHQ, and owner of a social enterprise ‘Planet Abled’, which helps people with disabilities to travel, say, “work is life, well, only if you enjoy it.”
For Saurabh, who has been coworking at 91springboard for the past two years, work is something that gives him happiness and peace of mind.
91springboard is a beautiful space to work and so different from the corporate world where I come from. There are no rules and I can focus on achieving my goals, and not just on finishing projects.
Is it time to make the switch?
The culture of coworking spaces is very different from a typical corporate set-up and it attracts certain people towards it. “There is a positive vibe to this place and the flexible environment makes it a perfect fit for people who are driven by their work and not the clothes. It is perfect for the people who just need a laptop to work,” says Neha.
The most important reason why people choose cowork is that it gives them the space to be themselves. It is open, flexible and you can work the way you want to. “Being the ideal place to meet new people, work cafes are perfect for freelancers,” says Dishant a freelance architect who spends time at FLYP@MTV.
Jameel and Saurabh recommend coworking spaces of 91springboard to anyone who is willing to experiment. “When small offices get too expensive, coworking spaces come to the rescue. From start-ups to big corporate houses, this place is perfect for everyone,” says Jameel.
“Coworking,” WeWork’s Virwani says, “is ideal for any individual seeking community, purpose, and the opportunity to create their work in today’s age of changing millennials.” He recommends it to freelancers, startups, enterprises, SMEs and basically everyone.
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