CoWrks and Awfis are keen to adapt their spaces to the design aesthetic of the millennial worker
Building brand stickiness has become both a challenge and necessity for the growing number of co-working spaces in the country. More than location, price and sizes of the spaces on offer, Awfis, CoWrks, WeWork and a host of others are rapidly bundling a set of experiences that they believe will lock in consumers: the millennial self-employed, the start-up community and also, importantly, large traditional organisations.
Notoriously fickle in their consumption habits, these consumers are being wooed with the promise of vibrant community centres and networking opportunities and lured in with a design aesthetic that best suits their sensibilities. For the brands doing that, the task is doubly difficult given that the business of co-working spaces is still nascent and its special features, yet to be defined. But at the same time the number of brands is multiplying; there are close to 200 co-working operators running an estimated 400 shared workspaces across the country today, compared to just Regus and few localised players in 2010, according to Knight Frank, real estate consultants.
So how does a brand build loyalty into its growth plan even before the product and the business have matured?
Following the workforce
“Millennials will soon represent an astounding 50 per cent of the global workforce. While the workforce has evolved, workspaces haven’t,” said Sidharth Menda, chief executive officer, CoWrks. His point is that the nature of the office, be it in large established organisations or in the newly formed ventures is being defined by the new band of people that work there. Co-working brands have to understand their needs when they design the community and the workspace. It is through them that the brand will find an audience with the large workplaces.
Most large companies, the traditional technology and non-technology firms, are adapting to the demand for flexible work timings, e-commute and a greater emphasis on work-life balance. Trapped within the old formal frameworks, they fall short when it comes to meeting the expectations of their young employees. Co-working brands can step in to fill the gap and grab the huge opportunity that is currently untapped. Business volumes of co-working spaces are expected to triple over the next three years, according to a recent report by real estate firm Knight Frank. This is due to the increasing appetite for this format from occupiers, property owners and co-working operators, it said.
While there is no dispute that demand for co-working spaces will grow, how many from the current list of spaces will survive the marketplace crush? And therein lies the need to build differentiators between the brands on offer and also promise customers something more than just a cost benefit.
“We highlight things that show how co-working spaces are different from traditional working spaces. Our main focus, from an advertising or marketing point, is how co-working spaces take away the hassle of setting up an office,” said Amit Ramani, founder-CEO, Awfis. Companies
say they are keen to be seen as more than easy hunting grounds for the start-up and freelancers community while keeping their conveniences in mind.
At present approximately 50 per cent of the client roster of an Indian co-working operator is made up of big corporates. This can go as high as 80 per cent in the more premium priced offerings, said the report. This is at the heart of the stickiness problem say experts, given the low lifespan of start-ups and the mobile nature of temporary employment, these companies
have to aim for the corporate customer but, develop an identity for the brand that young employees buy into.
Build offline networks
While there are numerous factors that contribute to the identity of a working space, the community building and the networking opportunity that the spaces provide are turning out to be key differentiators. “The power of community is an important aspect. The kind of large and diverse communities that co-working spaces provide bring people and opportunities together, both at a professional level and also as a community, said Ramani. Awfis has 10-50 centres that encourage collaborations within the occupant communities and 10 per cent of their total members have partnered internally, he said.
“A culture of collaboration is our main offering and we want to be known for the creativity, productivity, cross-collaboration, knowledge sharing and skill upgrade that our spaces facilitate,” said Menda. Flexibility, form and design and technological facilities are being combined to create a brand that ticks all the right boxes in the list. CoWrks claims to be India’s answer to uninspiring, traditional office spaces that this generation feels tied down to. “We’re the ideal fit for any individual or entity that seeks flexibility, freedom and inspiration,” said Menda.
Flexibility is a major draw, both with respect to time and location. The network of co-working spaces across various locations is attractive for employees and companies
with a busy travel schedule.
Design is an important distinguishing feature too. Visually appealing artwork, tasteful furniture, well designed meeting rooms and vast open workspaces are among some
of the assets being highlighted by these companies. “The design philosophy at CoWrks caters to a modern workforce. Millennials want to work out of spaces that are designed to reflect their values and we draw from pop and local culture for building a space that drives collaboration and fuels inspiration,” said Menda.