Entrepreneurs love to take the road not taken. Author-cum-startup-advisor-cum-community-builder Ravi Kikan’s entrepreneurial story is no different.
A prominent name in the startup ecosystem – he runs one of the largest digital online communities for startups and entrepreneurs on LinkedIn called Startup Specialists – Ravi was far from the world of real estate or the coworking segment. Till he shouldered the task of leading Plus Offices, a Gurugram-based coworking company boasting 95 percent occupancy, 1,000+ coworkers, and two facilities located in premium locations across the city.
“Everyone in our team is from a non-real estate or coworking background, including me,” says Ravi, Chief Operating Officer at Plus Offices. “However, we all love the energy that startups bring into the facility.”
“We want coworkers to grow in our facilities and not just stay put. Getting them into the acceleration mode… this is a part of our vision,” he adds.
an emerging startup hub
Bengaluru might have established an instant connection with the startup ecosystem but there are several up-and-coming startup hubs across India.
Gurugram is one of them.
According to a report by property consultant CBRE, the northern city ranks among the top five destinations in the APAC region – including the likes of Beijing, Bengaluru, Shanghai, and Singapore – where tech companies prefer to set up their offices. Conditions such as existing business conditions, available talent pool, and real estate factors are said to guide this choice.
This, coupled with the State government’s endeavours to turn the city into the country’s biggest startup hub, makes Gurugram an instant choice for entrepreneurs who are just starting out. Plus Offices, launched in 2018, aims to tap the immense potential of the city’s emerging startup culture.
“The whole objective has been to build growth economies for startups and early-stage companies through handholding and building synergies with Plus Offices,” says Ravi, who is part of the founding team and is currently focused on setting up and expansion of the venture.
A business graduate, Ravi has worked in multinationals such as Citifinancial India, Publicis, and other companies like HT, Sify, Indiabulls, and Karvy. With years of experience under his belt, he is looking to offer customised office spaces catering to the needs of startups, SMBs, and corporates.
“We are micro-focused on details for helping ventures grow and on a macro basis, building tailor-made solutions for enterprises to be more productive and collaborative,” he adds.
Not a brick-and-mortar real estate company
The biggest issue with a startup or a SMB, Ravi says, is customised solutions for work. “We saw this early on and we started working on building workplace solutions for clients and startups at large to do so,” he says.
The result is a luxurious, compact, aesthetically-pleasing office space that keeps in mind the various needs of the coworkers, hailing from different backgrounds, while providing them with all premium amenities.
Their first unit was launched in 2018, a 55,000-sqft property based out of Sector 44 in Gurugram. It’s been just about a year and the coworking company already has a second office, spread across a 1,00,000-sqft property in Gurugram’s Sector 67.
“Plus Offices has so far raised $2 million from a mix of angel investors and friends and family, and is looking to raise another $5 million-$10 million by 2020,” reveals the COO.
The fresh influx of capital will be used for charting their future growth graph and for fueling their expansion into newer regions of the country. While revealing future plans, however, Ravi is quick to point out that the real challenge of a coworking startup is related to the understanding of coworking spaces.
“People still think this is a brick-and-mortar business,” he says, pointing out the rhetoric. “It is much more than that… we believe and act more on collaborative thinking and processing of synergies with coworkers.”
The idea, he explains, is to provide various startups and enterprises with tools of growth. If the coworkers in our space grow, we grow along with them, he adds.
Aiming to increase occupancy and triple revenue
At present, Plus Offices houses more than 150 startups, five to seven SMBs, one large Indian corporate, and two global enterprises. With a 95 percent occupancy rate, it has 1,000+ coworkers. Ravi is hopeful that they will have 3,000 more occupied seats by the end of this financial year.
However, space - as valuable a resource as it is today - is not the only thing Plus Offices has to offer. A holistic space for growth and acceleration, the company is actively fostering a collaborative culture, especially for startups in the incubation stage.
To ensure that startups and SMEs get the required push, Plus Offices has launched the Mentor Plus programme, which has more than 100 senior-level CXOs and executives filling in as mentors and advisors.
“This is one of our strongest differentiators,” Ravi says. “We have collaborated with top mentors from across the globe who can help startups from across different domains in building growth and economies of scale.”
The coworking startup also has introduced numerous incentives to boost and encourage women entrepreneurship: from discounted rates to internal creche services and the latest Plus Fit programme, which is an initiative to ensure all-round wellness with activities like yoga, meditation, and functional workouts.
The future of work: coworking
Real estate advisory firm CBRE says India’s flexible workspaces saw a 277 percent jump in leasing to reach nearly three million square feet in the first quarter of 2019. A JLL report reveals that, in the coming years, coworking spaces will take over conventional office spaces owing to the growing demand.
On their part, entrepreneurs - a large number of them millennials – seek convenience, ease of setting up office, and several amenities, all of which coworking business centres provide.
Industry experts believe that India is at the cusp of a coworking revolution with domestic and global players like WeWork and CoWrks aggressively pushing the India market. There are plenty of other players, national and local, including Awfis, 91Springboard, BHive Workspace, AltF, Collab House, Dextrus, and many others. Even OYO is betting big on the $36B coworking space.
That India is at the peak of a coworking boom is clearly evident. But with new startups and companies mushrooming each new day, it all boils down to the minute details and the extra incentives to determine the fate of the players.
Ravi is confident that the upward spiral and growth are here to stay.
“We have crossed a run rate of $1 million for this year and we are planning to triple it in the next financial year,” Ravi says.
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)