Walk in the lanes of a metropolitan city of India and you’ll find boards for co-working spaces almost everywhere, people walking in and out of them with laptops or just making these swanky new places their office for the day.
But almost 30 years ago, such was not the scenario. When Mark Dixon walked into a hotel in Brussels in 1989, he was surprised to find people working on their laptops out of the hotel’s lounge. Dixon who earlier ran a hot dog stall and then built a bakery chain (which even supplied to buns to McDonald’s and he later sold the chain), saw a market opportunity here to create spaces for people to work out of. The concept of co-working spaces might not have been popular then, but grew as an idea in Dixon’s head and he went on to build Regus – a serviced office space for businesses.
28 years into the business, Regus is currently present in over 120 countries, 900 cities and 3,000 centres. Now, in an age where co-working spaces are a common sight, Regus is still holding its regal position.
Entrepreneur India caught up Subhasis Roy, Development Director (India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal) and Andrzej Mrozek-Folkierski, Global Corporate Dev Manager, Regus, as they spoke about their over a decade old presence in India and their aim to build 1000 centres by end of 2018.
Co-working Over The Years
While co-working is the buzzword now, with many offices opening up, it was still an alien concept back when Dixon started. But the idea wasn’t just to have a co-working space but a business lounge. With meeting rooms and office spaces along with co-working, the aim was to have a serviced office space where entrepreneurs or employees don’t have to worry about all the arrangements. They walk into a completely furnished space with no hassles. “It’s all about tracing a product that people want and the concept of a shared economy. When recession hit in 2008, people became more cost conscious and started thinking of cheaper options for entry level office spaces,” said Mrozek-Folkierski.
Talking about the Indian scenario, Roy notices a shift in their audience. Initially, they had a lot of new entrants of multinational companies who took up their space when they were entering the Indian market and would later move on to have their own office. “Those companies still use our space for specific projects or as a remote location office in a smaller city. But now, a lot of Indian customers are also coming in. There’s a change in the mindset – the advent of digitization and connect with the Western world has helped us grow,” said Roy.
What Sets Them Apart
At Regus, as part of their serviced offering all of one’s queries are taken care of. Another interesting fact is that a membership with them gives you automatic access to all of their centres across the world. The global network which they have to offer, is another one of their wow factors believes Mrozek-Folkierski. “Eighty per cent of Fortune 500 companies of the world, Google, Uber etc. find their names in our client list. So, when they have a partnership with us and are entering unknown markets, they have a sense of security if a Regus centre is there,” he said.
In India, they plan to now spread their presence through a franchising model. Venus Barak the CEO of Franglobal, their franchising partner, believes that is more than just the world class real estate that sets them apart. “It is a full blown service company and while real estate is a major component, it is their IP that sets them apart from their competition. They have been around for 30 long years and that’s what excites us, their prospective franchises as well as the customers,” she said.
Challenges and Opportunities in India
Regus opened their first centre in India in 2004 and today, they have 100 centres in 18 cities. In the first 10 years of their operations in India, they opened 42 centres but with the growing pace of development and an entrepreneurial wave taking over the country, in the past three-and-a-half years, they have opened over 60 centres. “The business is now well accepted, the way organisations, individuals and entrepreneurs used to work earlier has changed. They are open to function out of a co-working space as there are higher benefits,” said Roy adding that having your own office means you have to lock yourself in for the next 4-5 years along with a recurring capex. “With us, there’s a possibility to book a seat for the day or the entire tenure for which we have the lease,” said Roy.
According to Mrozek-Folkierski, India was a market they couldn’t miss because of the large business community and the entrepreneurial market. However, in the initial years it was difficult to gain the market because of the cultural change. “Even then, over the years we have created a substantial business ground having opened our 100th centre just last week. By next year, we aim to achieve 50 per cent growth. The real estate, opportunity and demand is there, we just need to meet the demands,” said Mrozek-Folkierski.
Talking about the Indian audience, Mrozek-Folkierski believes that the competition offers basic products while Regus offers a premium product with a higher pricing. “We are able to get away and also benefit from that because of the services we offer. As we are growing, we are going to be beyond the prime locations and have a pan India market for middle class consumers,” he said.
News credit : Entrepreneur