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Changing scenario: These workplaces let you grin and beer it



As Akshay Vats, 25, sits hunched over his laptop at his workplace in Connaught Place, music plays softly and the bartender polishes a beer mug close by.

A campaign manager for a Sydney-based digital marketing firm, Vats is among a growing number of professionals who are opting for hip yet low-cost options such as pubs and restaurants instead of traditional workspaces.

For Rs 299 a day, including Rs 200 that can be redeemed on food and beverage, he has access to more than 80 restaurants, cafes and pubs in the city through a subscription with startup MyHQ, which has tie-ups with bars and cafes and turns them into co-working spaces during the day. MyInstapass, another Delhibased startup, offers a similar service and has tied up with around 20 establishments.

With growing demand from mostly millennials working for startups or small and medium enterprises, more than 13 million people are forecast to operate out of co-working spaces in India by 2020, according to a projection by professional services firm JLL India last year. Real estate services firm Knight Frank separately projected a threefold jump in co-working spaces in India in three years by 2021.

Restaurants are increasingly warming up to the concept because it allows them to monetise unused real estate, said MyHQ co-founder Vinayak Agrawal.

A case in point is the Qahwa café in south Delhi’s SDA Market which, according to owner Shikha Pahwa, has seen a 20% increase in footfall during lean hours. “Revenue hasn’t increased much, but some business is still better than no business,” she said.

Pebble Street restaurant in Connaught Place in the heart of the Capital has also seen a small increase in revenue. “Co-workers have added Rs 20,000-25,000 a month to revenue,” said general manager Dhruv Khattar. “Moreover, not having the restaurant empty gives off a different vibe.”

While Vats referred to the “cool factor” of working out of a pub, along with a nice ambience minus the noise, others spoke about the convenience of usual office facilities such as printers that are being made available in co-working spaces, as well as subsidised food on offer.

The flexibility to choose from multiple locations is a boon, too, for instance on days when a meeting may be scheduled in a different part of the city.

“Everyone wants to give themselves the option to change,” said Varun Chawla, founder of co-working company 91springboard, which has offices around the country. He said that although nearly all 91springboard members stay for at least a year, about 95% of them opt for monthly subscription plans, although these are costlier than long-term plans.

Consultants Pavan Kumar and Vikram Singh Rathod said their travel time has reduced more than two hours every day ever since they switched from their office in Dwarka to a pub in central Delhi.

Further, unlike in bigger, exclusively co-working spaces, they don’t have to keep paying for their seat when they take a vacation. “The only drawback is that we have to wrap up our work before 6.30 pm every day,” said Kumar, 38.

Co-working spaces are not all work and no play, though. “Every month, we have around three-four office groups who come here for presentations, and then celebrate in the evening,” said Sameer Dhar, owner of Nowhere Terrace BrewPub Café in Gurgaon, which has a dedicated co-working space. Besides, at least a quarter of the regular coworking customers celebrate with drinks once a week, he said.

Meanwhile, operators of other co-working spaces are also trying to make these workspaces more fun. “Team heads have said that productivity has improved ever since we introduced an all-day café and bar,” said Sudeep Singh, chief evangelist at GoWork, a Gurgaon-based co-working company. He said members no longer rush out straight after work because they know they can go for a drink any time.

Since convenience is key to the success of co-working spaces, it is perhaps natural that such workspaces should sprout in shopping malls as well given the proximity to amenities such as a choice of restaurants, retail stores and cinemas.

“We expect co-workers to contribute to higher food, beverage and furniture sales,” said Mahesh M, CEO of Creaticity, a mall in Pune rebranded as a “creative living campus”, where 91sprinboard has a 50,000 square feet office. The founder of 91springboard said the company decided to open a coworking space in a mall after its members said in a poll that they spent too much time on the road.

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