With office rent often high for starting startups, working in a shared space is becoming an increasingly attractive option to garner business.
--BY MUNA SUNUWAR
Startup businesses are mushrooming with innovative ideas in Nepal. Setting up an office is a hassle that many startups go through in which they end up spending more money before reaching the stage of productivity.This particular problem is prevalent in a place like the capital valley where scarcity of workplace is high. In the light of this, co-working space has come as a saviour for startup strugglers.
Co-working space service providers in Nepal offer a shared space to their clients where they can work, study and build networks. Dadhi Ram Poudel, cofounder of Work Around, a co-working space service provider, says, “Most people get distracted at home, they unintentionally keep checking social media and the environment itself keeps the person from getting motivated to work but here, you see everyone around you doing their respective jobs, this obliges the individual to do his/hers too.”
“The basics of operating a co-working space is creating an appropriate environment where the person should be able to feel that s/he is working, meeting new people and developing public relations,” says Kushal Bajracharya, marketing director at The Platform Inc, a co-working space service provider. “Using the space not only benefits the clients in terms of business expansion but also broadens their knowledge through interaction with people around them contributing to personal development,” he adds.
The business came into the scene when Biruwa Spaces, previously a co-working space service provider and now a business management consultant, opened the first shared space in 2011. It was popular amongst startups. Similarly, The Platform Inc was established in March, 2015. “Digital nomads were attracted to our service because it was the time when the problem of power cuts was rife and we were equipped with a power backup,” recounts Bajracharya.
People usually opt for cafes and restaurants to work from if not from their home or office. Co-working space as a new option has been added to the list for likeminded people in different locations of Kathmandu and Lalitpur. Co-working space creates an environment to work in and is cheap. “The affordability of the service can be justified given the nominal charge and amenities like fast internet, printer, housekeeping, tea and meeting room,” Poudel adds.
“Co-working makes sense in terms of costs because it would be effective to setup an office after testing the market and the business model,” says Vidhan Rana, managing partner and founder of Biruwa Advisors, a startup business management consultant, adding, “Co-working spaces not only consists of tables and chairs but facilitates its clients with other amenities like printing, cleaning, electricity backup, internet, cleaning and refreshments like tea and coffee along with the space. It minimises the risk of setting up the office for startups that might not operate in the long run.” Rana thinks that the office setup should be initiated after generating enough revenue to hold the operational costs of an office. “The trend of immediately registering a company and setting up an office is not necessary until the company conducts products testing,” he opines.
According to Bajracharya, The Platform Inc provides startups a platform to grow in the initial phase. Rather than spending money on rent, housekeeping, inverters, furniture and other utility expenses, they can simply focus on the productivity. “We want them to spend the money in their business as our main motto is ‘focus on your business while we run your office’,” he shares.
The main objective of co-working spaces is to facilitate startups by creating an environment where they don’t have to worry about expenses and can be productive at low operational costs. Work Around came into operation in 2017. “Startups have innovative ideas, they even form up a team to work but then comes the part of renting which is a direct investment of Rs 25,000 to 30,000 along with utility expenses like internet and housekeeping,” explains Poudel, adding, “The average survival amount of a startup is Rs 40,000. Such high expensesescalate bleeding off the money, sometimes resulting in the disbanding of their group.” He claims that a startup can sustain itself for at least four months if co-working spaces are used instead of traditional offices. Work Around charges Rs 40 per hour to its clients and has schemes in which three persons can rent a table at Rs 10,000 per month. The company has space for 45 persons in an open space plan during events, 14 persons on regular days and 8 to 10 persons in the meeting room.
Raushan Jaiswal, cofounder of Codewing Solutions, a creative digital agency had visited Biruwa Ventures to talk about his business idea, mentoring and investment when he came to know about co-working space. “Using co-working space was cost effective in the beginning, the cost per desk was around Rs 10,000 inclusive of amenities like table, chair, internet etc.,” he recalls, adding, “The cost would have been much higher if I had rented a space, setup an internet and other things.”
Bajracharya believes that clients have grown needier towards the type of service they are delivering. “People even enquire about the availability of the service 24/7 but it is not viable in the context of Nepal for the usual office time is considered to be from 9 am to 6 pm,” says Bajracharya.
The spaces are used as temporary offices by the startups and freelancers while students use them to study. Although, being a startup is not an excuse for not having a proper office or a meeting spacefor the sake of professionalism. An office setup to maintain professionalism is important to leave a positive impression on their clients and attract investments. “Meeting in the confined space of an office makes a difference as the approach and talking style is different when meeting in an office or at a cafe or restaurant. They feel more professional and are primed to seriously deal with their clients,” he states.
Networking is one area for startups that can be developed from simply taking the service. As a newly formed company in the piloting phase, the companies need insights and networks in order to grow. Service providers claim that various types of people from fields like IT, INGOs, photography, engineering etc. are clients. “You can meetyoung people who are creative and unimaginably innovative. Co-working and hot desking can result in exploration of digital and remote workers who are cost effective. If any person or company seeks to take the same service from corporate offices, it is expensive for startups,” mentionsBajracharya.“It is all about collaboration and the environment in which people find their compatible team in the platform is auto-created,” Poudel adds.
According to Rana, the availability of resources, mentoring, creating a community and synergies are a must in co-working space. “There are events happening where synergies are created as the startups get to meet up with new people.”
Jaiswal met his first client and business partner through co-working space. “Biruwa Ventures, as a co-working space service provider played an instrumental role to help its client introduce each other and have events time and again where people from similar backgrounds networked,” he says.
People are free to take a gap and not come to the space every day. “Taking such circumstances into consideration, The Platform Inc has introduced flexible (flex) pass, a digitally printed card for its clients,”Bajracharya informs, adding, “The flex pass of seven days has to be used within 15 days while the pass of 15 days has to be used within 30 days and the pass of 30 days has to be used within two months.” The capacity of Platform’s space is 18 persons on hot desks, 40 plus persons in private rooms, seven people in the meeting room.
Along with the space and basic amenities, the clients are mentored, counselled and assisted in brainstorming sessions if needed. “We help them in grooming with the right stakeholders to balance the laggings caused by lack of market research and implementation of appropriate business models,” states Rana.
The number of co-working spaces has been growing in Nepal. Companies and organisations like Nepal Communitere, Bikalpa Art Center, Mero Office, Lindu, Adda, Regus, OpenGov Hub Nepal are operating in different locations of Kathmandu and Lalitpur.