Co-working spaces essentially provide 3 things that make them a popular phenomenon – competitively priced infrastructure, plenty of networking opportunities, and a relaxed work environment
Tell us everything about your startup, what does it do? What were the challenges of setting up and scale and how did you overcome them?
We are more than year old startup based out of Delhi operating in the Co-working Space segment with an aim to position ourselves as a premium player in the serviced office industry. Products we offer currently include open seat, private office and virtual office. Our clientele includes 20% of Startups and freelancers, and rest is a balanced percentage of SMEs and Corporate. We are currently available in premium locations like Connaught Place, Green Park and Okhla. The total combined area we are operating in currently is 14,000 sq ft with about 300 seats.
While main challenge in setting up ABL Workspaces was right investors and smooth funding, but through our in-depth analysis of the industry and timely plan alteration, we were able to tackle the situation. Instead of going the traditional way of pitching the business model to prospective investors, we started off as a bootstrap startup. However, we knew this is not going to sustain long and we would soon require funds. That’s when we leveraged our connections and associated with investors in our peer group for funding on per project basis. Apart from that, we did face some trouble in finding the right pricing that is ‘premium but convenient’ and ‘elegant yet approachable’.
How did you come up with the idea and what was the Eureka moment?
It’s actually the concept of the segment that impressed me so much. Sometime back I was working on a real estate project of 80,000 sq ft which I had to monetize and garner footfall. But due to a certain inadequacy of the space, it failed to grab the attention of retailers, anchor tenant and fnb enthusiast. Monetizing the project becomes a challenge and I had to study the different methods and ways how the project can be commercialized. That’s when I educated myself to ways co-working spaces are disrupting the traditional real estate market. Naturally as a solution, I proposed a business plan from a serviced office space point, unfortunately, due to lack of budget, the idea didn’t get a green signal from the property owner. Well, the moment when the idea didn’t get an approval became the Eureka moment when I decided to implement it and make it a reality. As not only did the method of co-working seemed to be interesting but being from the real estate background I did realize that it’s going to flourish at lightning speed and there lies a great opportunity to redefine the way co-working space functions currently.
How did you build the core team (co-founders and initial employees) – How did you meet and how did everyone align with the idea? What is the total team size?
As you may know it’s a co-founded company by my wife Akshita and myself. Aksita is from hospitality industry while I have real estate background. To run a co-working space efficiently you need to have great knowledge about designing, management & sales of the space along with the warm and comfortable environment. That’s where both of our expertise lies in and responsibilities are streamlined accordingly. We will try to restrict our core team to both of us only as we want to remain watchdogs to our respective jobs for the sake of keeping up with the quality of our service.
Apart from that, we have outsourced around 20 employees who support us in different verticals and help us execute our thoughts.
Give us a background of your core team and yourself with the age.
As mentioned earlier Akshita and I form the core team and we both are in our early thirties.
A commerce graduate from Meerut University, Akshita is a trained photographer from National Academy of Photography. She always had that instinct of entering the hospitality industry, which is why even after studying business she pursued her dream of becoming a cabin crew and successfully flown with Kingfisher Airlines for around 3 years before enrolling herself into photography. Her first exposure to entrepreneurship happened when she formulated a probiotic drink that became an instant hit. Although due to some initial production glitches, her maiden project discontinued since then there was no looking back and innovation continued in partnership with her entrepreneur sister.
While Akshita had a dynamic career, I groomed myself to fit in my 4-decade old family business of real estate. The foundation stone towards this direction was laid when I went to study Business & Management at The University of Bradford, UK. As mentioned earlier, when the idea of optimizing the space didn’t pan out with the heads of that project, I discussed the business plan with my father who encouraged me to do it myself. This approach inspired me to start up ABL workspaces in Green Park in January 2017 and then there was no looking back.
What has been Revenue, traction and growth from the date of inception till now?
We are fortunate enough that our product was accepted in the market well, therefore the growth has been quite steady since we began. This has been our constant encouragement to come up with new spaces one after another. As we mentioned, the total combined area we are operating in currently is 14,000 sq ft with about 300 seats. Across locations, we were able to sell out 100 percent space in a month’s time from the day of the launch. Approximately the monthly revenue has been around 25 lacs.
What is the one thing that sets you apart from your competitors and what’s your revenue model?
Co-working spaces essentially provide 3 things that make them a popular phenomenon – competitively priced infrastructure, plenty of networking opportunities, and a relaxed work environment. All players do emphasise on these areas but what set us apart from the competition is the approachability to the founders which you would not find in any other serviced office provider. We communicate with our clients directly and there’s no executive or a middleman involved. Even on our website, my personal mobile number is mentioned so that I myself can answer all queries of prospective clients. From visiting the space till conversion and followed by their experience, Akshita and I personally takes care of the consumer’s journey. That not only allows us to provide customized service to each of our users but also helps us improvise our offerings by incorporating their feedback. Apart from the service quality, our direct connection with clients have helped us cut on the time for internal processes and approvals and issues are resolved within the shortest time span. Apart from this, we have a very transparent costing. Unlike others, we don’t have any top-up service for different amenities that we offer at our spaces. It’s a onetime fee that our user has to pay and they can enjoy the entire serviced office for that stipulated time. The client must have peace of mind that they don’t have to worry about extra billings end of the period.
Our revenue model is also quite thought which we think is another most important takeaway for our clients. We often launch various One-Time-Offers for limited bookings like we are running one currently. The package comes for 15,000/- in which you get 150 days of desk + 150 hours of meeting rooms + business address. The pricing comes to as low as 100/per day which is light on the pocket too. Otherwise, there have both fixed and flexible desk options, which can be rented on monthly to yearly basis. We also provide Private Office Spaces with four or more seating, which are again rented on monthly to yearly basis and virtual office.
How are you funded?
As mentioned earlier we have project-specific investors.
Future plans? How you aim to achieve it?
In just about a year we have successfully established ourselves in 3 significant locations and one more in the pipeline. We aim to become a local giant with a prominence in Delhi NCR, then slowly expand in this fashion, capturing the market city-by-city. We aim at launching at least 15 more spaces in Delhi NCR in coming two years time.
We are looking for local partnerships and funding by end of the year. Our experience so far with project wise partnerships has been fruitful and we wish to continue the same model. We are always in search of well-connected locations and good deals. The journey of creating a quality end product begins with an appropriate property.
Talk to us about the industry you are currently working on and its challenges. What has been the brand’s strategy to disrupt the sector?
As reported by CBRE Group, the co-working space segment in India is expected to touch 10 million sq ft by 2020, with 2017 witnessing the absorption of nearly 1.5 million sq ft of space. The way people are shifting from own car to Ola and Uber is how clients are moving from their own offices to serviced office.
Challenges are huge with global brands entering India and the speed in which local players are mushrooming. Apart from the steep industry growth, easy entry to the business is attracting new players every day.
Well, the strategy has been always to offer the best experience to the users even if it comes at a cost. Every aspect of the service is technically sound be it the premium locations to as minimum as the furniture’s that are used in the interior. We are always trying to build a space that we would like to work in and spent 9 hours of the day and not from the perspective of selling them to make money.