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Big push for small startups

Published : May 8, 2016, 10:10 pm IST
Updated : May 8, 2016, 10:10 pm IST

New co-working spaces in the city are helping entrepreneurs and freelancers get productive and have fun — without the trappings of a corporate environment

Awfis at Lower Parel
 Awfis at Lower Parel

New co-working spaces in the city are helping entrepreneurs and freelancers get productive and have fun — without the trappings of a corporate environment

Vishal Gaba makes himself comfortable on a recliner as he brainstorms for the next business strategy for his startup. His colleagues, armed with a cup of coffee, pitch in with a few ideas and take copious notes. A few seats away, a freelance web designer is busy typing away. On the left of his desk is a conference room, where a group of 10 are in the midst of a boardroom meeting. You could be forgiven for assuming that these individuals belong to a team. These freelancers and startups have ditched the quintessential office space and local cafés for Awfis, one of the recent additions to co-working spaces in the city.

These communal workspaces, with guaranteed access to a desk, storage space, legal aid, and, of course WiFi have managed to lure both freelancers and startups. Up In The Air has access to accounting, mentorship and product design for its members on its roll, which includes students, startups, and companies. The Ministry of New, another such workspace, which opened in Fort last month, has a library, locker facility, a shower area and a cafeteria run by Café Zoe.

Apart from legal help and accounting services for startups, the latest outpost for Awfis, at Lower Parel also has a few events to make evenings more cheerful for its regulars. The shared space recently held sessions on cloud computing, a food fest and even a stand up comedy event. Sumit Lakhani, chief marketing officer of Awfis, says “We are looking at building a space that makes it fun for our regulars too. We want to build an ecosystem where individuals and startups can enjoy being at work and collaborate with other startups if they can.”

Regulars at Awfis are already making use of the talent available in their co-working space. Vishal has collaborated with a team and they brainstormed on ideas. With a background in public relations, he helped the startup with some insights on marketing, while receiving information on digital marketing in return. Says Vishal, “If it weren’t for this collaborative environment, I wouldn’t have understood the nuances of digital marketing. Since there are no walls or cubicles around, ideation and brainstorming has got much more flexible and open.” Over 40 odd companies function out of Awfis at Lower Parel today.

Deep Lalvani of Up in the Air believes that the flexible nature of these co-working spaces is why it is becoming a hit among startups. He says, “A coffee shop wouldn’t give you the vibe of a professional space. Sure coffee shops give you free WiFi, but what about peace of mind And of course there’s the added benefit of having an official address instead of having of your home address pasted on your visiting card.”

Dheera Malhotra, brand manager for an upcoming e-commerce website who works out of Up in the Air, believes it is the hybrid model — the best of the corporate and café environment — that works in its favour. She says, “A co-working space gives you the professional vibe without the corporate hangover. When you’re starting out, co-working spaces are your best bet since you don’t want to waste your energy on setting up a space from scratch.”

Up in the Air, At 6, K Dubash Marg, Kala Ghoda, Fort Awfis, Lower Parel, Poddar Chambers, Mathuradas Mills Compound, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel