Affordability is a key factor in our success: CEO AWFIS

Awfis, one of India’s largest co-working space provider, is driving the co-working space trend in India with vibrant, flexible office spaces. The company has a constantly growing and evolving list of clients comprising of both - large corporates and budding start-ups. The expansion journey of Awfis from 5,800 desks across 20 centers in July 2017 to 30,000 seats across 63 centers in 9 cities now is a clear indication of the massive opportunity this space presents & the tremendous growth that Awfis has undertaken.


 

Awfis technology platform enables users to book work-desks, private cabins, meeting rooms, and business centres across India on a just-in-time basis for a flexible period ranging from 1 hour to one year. The company recently received a 30-million-dollar equity funding from Chrys Capital. 

 

ObserveNow spoke to Amit Ramani, Founder & CEO AWFIS, where he divulged information on what gives the company an edge over its competitors, their plans for expansion and how AWFIS is understanding the need of office space buyers today. 

 

Edited Excerpts from his interview: 

 

Today, Awfis is an organization with more than 25,000 members but where did it all actually start from? What was the beginning idea for Awfis?


Finding an ideal workspace in India, a few years ago, was a challenging and time-consuming task due to the commercial real estate sector being disorganized and lacking transparency. The Indian workforce is always on the lookout for holistic Grade A workspaces which provide the perfect backdrop for facilitating businesses. We at Awfis, realized this gap which existed in the Indian CRE market & launched shared workspaces with flexibility at its core, thus, proving to be the ideal solution. We started with our first centre at Vasant Kunj, New Delhi and now have a widespread network of 63 centres across 9 cities with 30,000 seats and are receiving an overwhelming response from our users. In addition to presence in cities such as Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune, Delhi, Kolkata, Gurugram etc. we are planning to enter tier 2 cities such as Indore, Bhubaneshwar, Kochi, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, along with deepening our roots further in existing metros. Awfis has been successful in providing customized workplace solutions at affordable prices, therefore, revolutionizing the commercial ecosystem in India. 


With India becoming a hub of start-ups, how do you think co-working spaces contribute to it?

Shared workspaces provide a wide range of services keeping in mind the different needs of the consumer. 

Startups form up to 24% of the clientele while 76% is formed by larger corporates according to a CBRE Research in Q3 of 2018. Start-ups benefit from easy accessibility to Grade A workspace with plug-and-play solutions that minimize the cost, time & effort in setting up their own workspaces. Along with this, shared workspaces are the perfect solution owing to the flexibility of scaling up or downsizing office spaces, entering new markets, having a virtual footprint in a new market, holding meetings in different locations as well as for cross-pollination of ideas & opportunities for business within the co-working community.


Other co-working spaces like 91springboard, WeWork, Regus are also available for entrepreneurs. What makes Awfis different and better than the other co-working spaces in India?


Awfis caters to a range of audiences including startups, independent professionals, SMEs as well as large corporates. We are currently catering to 1500 companies with over 25000+ professionals across sectors such as IT Services, E-commerce, Electronics, Retail, Automobile, Financial Services, Business Services, Telecom, Consulting, Media, Technology etc. “Affordability” is a key differentiator that has given us an edge and kept us ahead in the game. Awfis provides “holistic workplace solutions at value-driven prices” and is spearheading the sector. We are also the largest network of co-working centres in India” with 63 centres across 9 cities thereby allowing for enhanced mobility & flexibility to our members. We intend on continuing the momentum and double our capacity year on year so as to reach 2,00,000 seats by 2022. 


What challenges do you face as the CEO of one of the biggest co-working spaces in India? How do you manage the need of different office buyers?


The growing and ever dynamic ecosystem of the co-working spaces continue to pose newer challenges on a regular basis. While we have witnessed widespread acceptance of the segment, there are also certain companies who are still on the fence to make the switch, with data security and breach on top of their concern list. Despite Awfis’ sophisticated and strict protocols with regards to the same, it remains more of a psychological obstacle for entities. And while there is still a lot of latent commercial real estate space that can be utilized for opening co-working centers, a few developers are still in two minds about foraying into a new segment which poses another challenge for co-working space providers. One of the challenges is also constantly evolving to suit the needs of the young workforce while maintaining the essence of the brand. This helps us to stay ahead of the curve and be one of the market leaders in the segment. Our strength lies in foreseeing trends and innovating products and services to suit the audience.

 

Since India is the first country to make Corporate Social Responsibility mandatory, what are the CSR activities that Awfis has been involved in?

We strongly believe in giving back to society and doing our bit to make the world a better place. We leverage occasions or festivals to engage with hyper-local NGOs. We’ve had children from orphanages visit our centres for Christmas, retailed handicrafts created by underprivileged women for Diwali and have also planned a Pan-India food donation drive with Robinhood Army for Independence Day. Additionally, in case of any natural calamity or any other misfortune the entire Awfis community comes together and contributes in ways to help the society at large. During the Kerala floods we tied up with Goonj and donated for the flood relief. Besides this, we regularly have blood donation camps, toy donation drives, and engagement activities by Unicef and Greenpeace.

 

Awfis recently launched a Small & Medium Enterprises in partnership with Global Linker. Where did this idea of SME come from and how will it benefit Awfis?


Awfis has partnered with GlobalLinker, a unique SME ecosystem, to offer exclusive discounts and offers on Awfis’ 30,000 seats and 250 meeting rooms across Mumbai, Delhi NCR, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune, Kolkata and Chandigarh.  A network of 2,50,000 SMEs on the GlobalLinker platform could benefit from this partnership. The idea arose so as to strengthen Awfis’ commitment to further enable SME businesses. This enables both brands to utilize each other’s core product and networks so as to join hands in facilitating SMEs in the country. SMEs form 40% of Awfis audience and this association, we aim to provide business opportunities and the ideal working environment for this large chunk of audience. 


What are your future plans? Are you planning any other partnerships and expansions like SMEs?


We are highly focused on consistently providing affordable workplace solutions to SMEs. We understand the Indian business ecosystem & the challenges most SMEs face while looking for good workspace options. With our understanding of the Indian CRE market & experience in growing within Tier 1 & Tier 2 cities in India, we provide the ideal office solution to our SME clients. We are well-positioned to doubling our seat capacity & centre network year on year. We aim to grow to over 100 centres with a capacity of 60,000 seats by March 2020 & 2,00,000 seats in the next 36 months. Additionally, we are constantly on the lookout for brand collaborations that will benefit community members at large and will update as and when something materializes.

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