The co-working concept has been around for many years, providing users with flexible workspaces, built-in community, and networking opportunities. What started as a business model aimed at freelancers and small startups, has now grown to accommodate wider groups of remote employees, as well as big companies embracing the idea of flexible workspaces. One of the pioneers who are offering high-quality functional compliance offices across all markets at the right price is "InstaOffice."

The founders of this company Vikas Lakhani and Devendra Agrawal started their entrepreneurial journey in 2012 and faced a lot of issues in finding a quality office and this led them to a realization that there are going to be more people like them, early-stage start-ups or mature companies who are looking for flexible workplace solutions. They thought that they could solve this problem for themselves and it turned out to be an interesting business opportunity and hence in the year 2015 InstaOffice was started.

The CEO Magazine's Editorial team spoke to one of the founders Vikas Lakhani in line with the journey of InstaOffice till now and future goals:

How Did The Idea Of InstaOffice Coin In Your Mind?

I used to think that all entrepreneurial stories were just cliché until it happened to me. I left my long corporate career and started my journey as an entrepreneur in the year 2012; I didn't have an office to sit out off. Once I was ready to get back to work, I had my lunch box ready and no office to go to. Therefore, I started working by sitting in Regus which is one of the oldest business centres in the region. I realised that Regus was addressing a very small section of a population and it was evident that there were going to be more people like me and many companies who were looking for flexible workplace solutions.

Additionally the office problem was not only lack of availability, most traditional offices are also very poor in infrastructure with long service downtimes, are isolated in nature, and employees have to spend a lot of time travelling, all such things are a big productivity drain on office goers. Traditionally offices had been seen just as Real Estate, but it was evident that increasingly people would like to work out of office that would provide infrastructure and environment conducive to productivity, along with flexible lease solutions allowing companies agility.

Hence with the ambition of "making India's urban working population more productive",InstaOffice started in 2015

Where will the demand of co-working spaces go in future?

Demand of co-working spaces has consistently been on the rise, and there is a huge existing need for offices but there is also a massive latent need which is yet to unlocked.

Traditionally coworking was seen an interim office solution for early stage startups or very small teams of large companies looking for a temporary office space. However now coworking is increasingly becoming an integral part of workplace strategy of all kinds of office seekers. Whether you are an SME looking for a high quality office with enterprise level infrastructure, or a startup seeking a vibrant community to work in, or a large corporate looking for distributed offices for your sales teams, all such use cases are being addressed by coworking.

For Example: When Ola and Uber started their target audience was only the people who were actively looking for cabs but after a few years, people who used to travel in autos and their cars started taking cabs.

What nature of clients does InstaOffice deal with?

When we look at the Indian economy, majorly it is run by SMEs like travel agencies, financial consultants traders or other services led companies. These companies are the engine of the economy as well as our targeted audience.

We are majorly focused on MSMEs, mature start-ups and teams of corporate. Nearly 75% of our clients are SMEs and distributed teams of typical national and multinational corporates, ranging from PSU banks to some of the world's largest tech companies.

Do you feel the influence of technology has amplified over the years in co-working industry?

I believe the influence of technology is not limited to any single business or industry, In any service led business, such as coworking, to be able to deliver a highly standardised level of service, in a commercially and logistically efficient way technology's role is significant andwe at InstaOffice use technology very smartly to deliver what we promise.

At InstaOffice, technology has been at the core of our strategy from day one. To build a dependable and standardised service delivery mechanism, technology becomes all the more critical in a country like India where commercial Real Estate is highly non standardised and market dynamics are unique, both commercially and culturally.

Vikas Lakhani further added, as a generation, we have become more comfortable while engaging with technology; for instance instead of getting a letter I would prefer an email, and instead of an email I would rather like to get a WhatsApp for ease and speed of communication.

What do you feel about the future of the industry?

Coworking industry is still new and most people think that it is only for start-ups, given the use cases and target markets are still very narrowly defined. Soon, you will see a lot of vertical specialization in the industry, like there will be co-working spaces for setting up call centres, while some would be ideal for startups, some will be good at serviced offices and some would focus on delivering high quality functional office spaces across multiple markets at the right price. In summary we will see more clarity in business model and target user segments, which will be very good both for the clients and the industry at large.

What are the future plans for InstaOffice?

Building a company is in chapters, we are still in early chapters of our journey but we are very happy with where we have reached. Currently present in Delhi NCR, Bengaluru and Hyderabad, with 14 centres and many more in opening in next 3 quarters. Just like our centres our member base is also growing very fast as we are serving some of the largest companies across the country, and we are very happy to play a significant role in what we consider to be a fundamental and paradigm change in the Commercial Real Estate space.

We started with simple ambition of providing happy offices to our clients, and we continue to focus on solving core productivity problems of our clients.

In the next 5 years, co-working would be a meaningful part of the traditional commercial real estate and InstaOffice will have a meaningful portion of that industry. We continue to be amongst theleading branded co-working companies and we hope to keep the momentum.

Do you believe that this is the correct time for an entrepreneur to venture into the industry?

Anyone can enter into any industry at any time if they have asolution to the users'problem. There are still many service or product gaps in many industries, including coworking.

For entrepreneurs who want to venture into the co-working space industry, I must add thatsetting up a co-working space is easy, but growth from 1 to multiple centers has far more challenges, hence one needs to be clear what is their real goal. Is it to set up a coworking space for a decent cash flow, or to create a large enterprise and brand solving user problem at large scale.

Vikas Lakhani further added, I will be happy to help anyone, both entrepreneur and landlords, to enter into the co-working space industry.

What is the corporate ethos for the clients in InstaOffice?

  1. We are super customer-focused –For most of the SMEs, offices are just like a piece of real estate. We focus on how we can make people more and more productive with the help of our innovative technology.
  2. Human interface – We use a lot of technology but the endpoint of contact is always human. Our community manager is the go-to person for any problem faced by clients, so you don't have to open an app and file a complaint, our community manager will do it for you.
  3. Transparent – For the longest time Real Estate businesses has earned bad reputation for lack of transparency. We try to maintain highest level of transparency with our clients, landlord partners and every other stake holder, even if that involves admitting our limitations sometimes.

Being a fairly new concept, do you still face hiccups in making people understand the idea?

If there are no hiccups then you are not innovating enough. Education is important in any startup as we have to invest a lot of time and energy in educating stakeholders and landlords. People are aware of the industry, product and services but they are not clear on what to look for.

What changes do you expect to see in the industry?

Real estate is one of the most important economic resources of any economy and co-working space industry is directly having an impact on it. So I believe that government or relevant administration bodies should take cognizance of this fact and have some support for industry.

Vikas ends the conversation saying – "Building a company is like chapters and we are still on the first chapter of InstaOffice."

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