Co-working spaces are facing tough times during the pandemic but Panaji based MeWo is on the track and running. The co-working facility which is the youngest in the state continues to attract companies and startups during the ongoing crisis, according to Abrar Shaikh, co-promoter, MeWo.
He said that, the facility is running at 50-60 per cent capacity presently which is not a bad thing considering how dire the situation is for larger co-working companies in India.
“Of course things have slowed down but it didn’t impact us as much as it has others for the fact that many of our customers are from outside. Everybody is with us. Not a single customer has walked out. In fact we are signing on more customers even as we go about incubating local startups,” he says.
The co-working facility has several large customers in its kitty, including companies like Naukri.com, 99 Acres which look like stable. Further it also mentors startup and handholds them to stability.
“We actually curate startups before accepting them as customers. We don’t just sign up any customers who walk in. We take time to understand their business so as to increase their prospects of success and hence the probability of sticking around as clients,” says Shaikh.
During the pandemic the facility has managed to increase its startup portfolio to include several Goan startups. This it is done by offering attractive deals. On the table are discounted pricing to encourage them to grow and attractive out-of-the-box amenities.
Over the last few months the facility worked on its café and meeting zone to make it an USP. “Our café is picking up traction. In it we give space not only on daily basis but also on hourly basis. People who have lost their offices are actually coming and working with us for one to two hours. The café has the same facility such as housekeeping, internet, etc. and it is buzzing,” discloses Shaikh.
He adds that, efforts are on to motivate employment from the unemployed by encouraging student interns from local colleges and also pushing companies in the facility to recruit interns.
Shaikh explains that, the differential between MeWo and other co-working spaces in the market is its business model. He believes that in the current pandemic situation conventional models of co-working spaces will not work and the market needs are of a hybrid model. “Of course it all depends on the set-up structure and who your partner is,” says Shaikh who has industrialist Shrinivas Dempo, chairman of Dempo Group as partner.
Co-working companies across India are looking at looking at empty cabins and cubicles as businesses prefer to social distance to avoid catching infection. “We have stopped being pessimistic or negative. We are optimistic that a model like ours will do better because a lot of regular offices have unfortunately shut down. They might move to co-working space like ours. Such companies are looking at plug-in-play offices, something flexible. I have a strong feeling that our model will gain traction in the coming months,” says Shaikh.
The co-working industry in India has several respectable names which have lot of equity from international fund houses. Several among these companies are facing severe cash-flow problems as customers have moved out. Shaikh who also has a 400-seat capacity co-working space in Mumbai says that the sector is currently doing badly.
“My Goa facility is actually doing better than the one in Mumbai. Smaller states should do better because they offer a more controlled environment and lot of people prefer working in smaller locations. We have been getting leads from companies outside Goa who want to come and work here. I am sure once they come they won’t move out because nothing beats Goa,” he says.
He believes that bigger co-working setups are burning lot of money in cash flows. For them things could get tough because the pandemic is showing no signs of easing. Small facilities like us will remain solid and grow up,” he says.
Work from home is the bane of co-working spaces and in fact all physical office spaces. It is killing the co-working sector and making companies fold up.
Shaikh is of the opinion that people will not stop from going to offices. “Lot of people want to actually go to office but cannot because of the COVID situation. Companies will work in rotation or call staff on alternate days. It will be the new normal for companies. They will call less employees to offices even as they work full-throttle,” he says.