The idea of office-sharing is a model that is pretty popular across the world, however it has not been explored much in India. More often than none, the focus being on talent and startup folks choosing to telecommute, especially when it comes to the pre-funding stages.
"While working in my previous venture, I faced the most frustrating experience in finding suitable and reasonable cost office space and skilled professionals," said Balakumar Muthu, CEO and chief software architect of Coworkable.com.
According to the founder, it's India's first platform to find, rent or list shared office spaces and skills. Coworkable's platform is completely free.
Well, as lean startup philosophy goes, this model is pretty interesting option to explore, provided it works out for your startup in the overall scheme of things. But that has been changing over a period of time even in the Indian startup ecosystem.
Though as Balakumar stated: "Even most of my friends who are into startups work at their homes and coffeeshops because of the high office rental costs." Also frequenting most startup, tech meetups and events he found this one of the common problems that most startups founders and entrepreneurs faced because of their limited fund reserve especially in the initial stages. That's when he started working on Coworkable.
As of now Coworkable.com's target audiences are startups, individuals, entrepreneurs, freelancers, home offices, Small & Medium Businesses and Big Businesses. In fact quite a lot of customers of theirs are tech startups.
According to Balakumar, even in their beta release they got some good traction and have listings from all major Asia-Pacific countries. They have lists from 17 countries and 54 cities including India, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Australia and many more.
Of course one of the interesting things for existing startups is how Coworkable helps them monetize and earn extra income by renting or sharing their spare or less-used office infrastructures such as desks, skills, conference room, Office supplies which includes projector, printer, coffee machine, etc. with other startups, entrepreneurs, freelancers to save money. By using Coworkable, your idle office resources or infrastructure could be shared with others to earn extra revenue. Although, I wonder how it would work when it comes to managing liabilities especially if they are high end equipment involved like the projectors.
Coworkable provides the option to decide whom their customers want their spaces to be shared or rented out to avoid working with people who could conflict the kind of project they're working on.
According to Coworkable, you can share or rent your office spaces or skills based on an hour or day to weeks or months as you want. You could also decide on which kind of specific skilled professionals you want to share your office space with. The place and timing in working such places are more flexible.
Balakumar highlights an important aspect and states that working from home or coffeeshop seems to be a usual option but they are bit lonely and prone to have more distractions and disturbances, leading to less productivity. While working in shared office space you will be more focused with your work and also provides the opportunity to meet and interact with professionals of various fields and gaining knowledge from their experiences is useful in expanding your business networks and skills.
Of course overall working in a shared office space is less expensive than running your own office space where you have to pay a high rental, advances and other infrastructure costs. While in shared office spaces one would only have the reasonable rental cost, which includes all infrastructure costs such as Internet, electricity and conference room, office supplies like projector, printer, coffee machine, abd etc., for a shoe-string budget. So sharing or renting shared office space is a huge moneysaver for entrepreneurs.
Coworkable is currently bootstrapped and aims to grow aggressively. They are currently looking out for our first round of funding to scale up the product, team and expand business development.
Well, since the model is something that is done before, they need to focus on a specific niche within their offerings, maybe focus more on tech startups as well. It might also help to profile who might be the big customers, rising startups in the tech world themselves, which will draw investor attention to themselves. What do you think?