With promises of modern-day workplace aspirations like state-of-the-art facilities, a new, potentially creative social circle and even workshops to whet hidden talents, the idea has started drawing in more and more Chennaiites.
“When we share an Uber, why not a workplace,” asks 26-year-old advertising professional SK Shyamala, who frequents The Grid in RA Puram and Backyard at Adyar.
“I worked at a regular office for three years before turning a freelancer. The co-working experience works for people like me who prefer their privacy, but also like being social – without the pressure or obligations that come with a traditional workplace atmosphere. Here, I play board games, listen to the bands that play occasionally and meet other people to collaborate with. All this really help my creative process,” she explains.
The idea is pretty straightforward: individuals and groups even corporates can occupy seats (or the whole office) at these spaces for as long as need be – be it an hour, a month, a year or longer. Everything can be customised, from privacy options to additional facilities such as usage of the fridge, gym, yoga therapy, office runners, and so on.
Most spaces can seat close to 500 people and in-house administrators, managers and security ensure smooth operations. The biggest selling point though for users? Affordability and ease of functionality, as maintenance and office regulations fall on the co-working space operators. When they started off two years ago, the demand was mostly from the IT and app developers, says Arjjun Chander, founder of Karya Space in Mylapore. But now, companies outside the tech industry have embraced the concept.
“Now the demand is such that we are opening two more centres this year,” says Chander. “The office is fully open and there are no partitions so as to encourage more of a social interaction that’s where the primary draw is, along with the value for money factor.”
But there are concerns about working in a room full of strangers, especially at late hours, even with the presence of security around. That’s where a space exclusively for women exists, titled WSquare. Offering options such as a crèche, oncall doctor, groceries delivered to desk and ergonomic chairs for pregnant women or new mothers, the initiative was a first in India.
“We want to encourage entrepreneurship amongst women, so we are constantly holding workshops among our own community of users. More than the security aspect, it’s the fact that they are able to connect to other like-minded, driven professionals of their own gender in the same city that makes us click,” says co-founder Vandhana Ramanathan. A few of these facilities are open at all hours, a perfect spot for not only creative minds that work best at night, but also those who want complete solitude.
Priya Goutham, co-founder of Two Trees in Teynampet, the city’s latest option in the stream, says, “We began our venture out of necessity actually, since we couldn’t find any space in the city that wasn’t cramped.
We made it a 24x7 option since people who want to work night shifts should also be taken into account.” Ramthilak Chakra, an entrepreneur with an event management and marketing start-up in the city, articulates the pros.
“Since my team and I are always on the go, we only need to meet once or twice a week to coordinate, that too for a few hours. If we go to someone’s house, it’s awkward if their family is around. At cafes or parks, we don’t have the luxury of Wi-Fi, printers or a conference room. This is where co-working spaces are so efficient, a temporary office that is available only when we need it. I have found the overall expenses work out to be much cheaper when compared to a traditional office space by almost 20 to 30 per cent,” he concludes.
Professionals at work at WSquare