It was a Herculean task for John Jesudason, Chief Executive Officer of Creative Huddle, a startup digital advertising agency, to build his business while also taking care of the nitty gritty of office administration. He was left with no time for the real work, after supervising the housekeeping and management of office amenities in his own office space. But since the time that he switched to a co-working space called The Executive Zone on Anna Salai, with his four-member team, he has been able to focus singlemindedly on growing his business.
Co-working spaces are slowly catching up in Chennai, providing among other things an exclusive support system for office management. Managers manning the co-working space shoulder the responsibility of day to day administration, thus taking a major burden off their clients, who rent portions of the space as per their need.
“We have different departments. While a few of us work on marketing, relationship managers stay in regular touch with the clients to understand and solve their problems. The housekeeping department also works in stipulated shifts,” explains Sugandha Singhvi, General Manager of the Executive Zone.
A relatively new phenomenon in the city, co-working spaces are emerging in the commercial hubs of Chennai, especially Nungambakkam, Mount Road and Old Mahabalipuram Road, following a model that has already proved successful in other metro cities including Bengaluru and Mumbai. The demand for such centres has been growing steadily against the backdrop of increasing land rates and stringent lease policies. The demand is particularly high among small entrepreneurs, who do not wish to enter long term and costly lease agreements at the very launch of their start-ups.
“Be it security or maintenance, you will have multiple tasks in your own office space. In a co-working space, when the administrative tasks are taken care of, you can just focus on your work. Your performance and productivity are doubled. At the end of the day, you realise that a lot of time and money have been saved,” said John Jesudason.
Team Creative Huddle enjoys the environment of the 8000 square feet office, located on prime Anna Salai. The Executive Zone, with 25 private cabins, two meeting rooms, one business lounge and a co-working space for 35 people has clients from different sectors, under one roof.
Explaining the rules of the space, Sugandha Singhvi said: “While the seat charges are calculated monthly, pre-booking is mandatory for use of the conference and meeting halls. There are no time limits for employees and they can access the space through biometric cards.”
Common concerns amid the advantages
According to real estate experts, co-working spaces are a fitting option for itinerant entrepreneurs in particular. “It is the best option for entrepreneurs from other cities who are testing the waters in Chennai. They don’t have to immediately enter long term contracts, the minimum duration for which is typically two years,” observes Lalith Jain, a real estate consultant for co-working spaces.
“The monthly rent is between Rs 45 and Rs 80 per square feet (depending on the locality) for a co-working space, where as in a dedicated office space, it starts from Rs 40 for a square feet without including the furnishing, GST and maintenance, like that of a co-working space” he says.
Therefore, as an example, a start up with five people could rent 300 square feet for about Rs 18000 a month, whereas a stand alone office (which is likely to be at least 500-600 square feet) would cost Rs 22000-24000 per month, without taking taxes and other expenses like furnishings, maintenance, utility payments etc into account.
However, there is still a huge gap in awareness, a factor that prevents the conventional crowd from adopting such workspaces. According to Jain, the demand is still low in Chennai when compared with Bengaluru.
“There are many vacant office spaces in the city. People seem to have an idea that sharing office space would pose threats to their data and company secrets. The reality is that co-working spaces provide the same security as any other office set up.
Trust is another factor. Praveen Kumar of Egrove Systems in Anna Nagar West points to the fact that employees are often uncomfortable sharing spaces with people from a different organisation and set-up.
The web development company has decided to rent out a part of the first floor of their office-building as co-working space. “Potential customers want the whole floor, as they are not comfortable working with employees from another sector. But, a few of our employees are already using the first floor. This has proved to be a bummer, despite the affordable rates that we offer,” he says.
It is important for companies using co-working spaces to keep cyber security in mind. “Using the computers of the business centres might mean compromising on security of the client’s confidential information. You can opt for a separate data provider. In a co-working space, it is important to be doubly sure of your safety,” said G Abhinav, a techie, who has been studying the market for co-working spaces.
How to choose a co-working space
Conversations with both providers and users reveal that the advantages of a good co-working space far outweigh the minor challenges they pose. But how can you ensure that such an office space is indeed one that will meet all your needs? Here are a few pointers to help you choose.
- Transport plays a major role. Ensure that your office is connected to one or more public transport options.
- Always take a tour of the co-working space, before confirming your choice. Ensure that there is a conducive environment for sharing of both ideas and facilities.
- Check on the housekeeping and building management. Spacious conference halls and cafeteria are a must.
- Ensure that the office space is equipped with CCTV cameras, which are monitored regularly.
- Where data security is of paramount importance, it is better to use your own systems and wi-fi provider.