A surge in start-ups means busi­nesses in In­dia are hav­ing to get cre­ative with of­fice space

7 Days in Dubai - - SPECIAL REPORT -

very week­end, the partiers flood into a New Delhi restau­rant and dance club called So­cial, a three-storey des­ti­na­tion on the edge of Hauz Khas Vil­lage, one of the city’s most pop­u­lar nightlife neigh­bour­hoods.

Af­ter night­fall, the bar is busy and the dance floor is full. The lines reg­u­larly stretch out into the street. The danc­ing goes on un­til 1am.

But just a few hours later, the wa­ter­ing hole will be clean, the ta­bles will be cleared of sil­ver­ware and plates and the night­club will have been trans­formed into a cozy of­fice where no one gets fired for drink­ing at work.

Ev­ery­one shares desks at So­cial – pho­tog­ra­phers, de­sign­ers, jour­nal­ists, soft­ware pro­gram­mers. They bounce ideas off one an­other, hire one an­other and col­lab­o­rate to ex­pand their busi­nesses. Ev­ery­one is ei­ther a free­lancer or work­ing for a small start-up.

As In­dia emerges as one of the big­gest mar­kets in the world for tech-based start-ups, workspaces are trans­form­ing from tra­di­tional and hi­er­ar­chi­cal to re­laxed and bar-like.

“It’s the mil­len­nial per­son­al­ity,” says 29year-old Dinsa Sachan, a free­lance jour­nal­ist who works out of So­cial. “Peo­ple don’t want to bow down to ran­dom bosses in their of­fices. They are seek­ing more mean­ing­ful work. So, I think co-work­ing spaces are like a melt­ing pot for in­di­vid­u­als like th­ese.”

The first co-work­ing of­fices be­gan spring­ing up in In­dia about three years ago. To­day, there are at least a dozen in New Delhi – though So­cial is the only one that also func­tions as a restau­rant – with sim­i­lar num­bers in Mum­bai, Ban­ga­lore and Hy­der­abad, where most In­dian start-ups are based.

With more than 4,200 new tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies, mostly phone apps or web­sites, by the end of last year, In­dia now has the third­largest start-up in­dus­try in the world, be­hind the US and United King­dom, ac­cord­ing to The Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Soft­ware and Ser­vices Com­pa­nies (NASS­COM), an In­dian in­dus­try re­search com­pany.

For­eign-based in­vestors are open­ing their cof­fers, and now com­prise most of the money be­ing pumped into In­dian star­tups, NASS­COM says. Fund­ing for In­dian start-ups is grow­ing at more than 125 per cent a year, with an ad­di­tional $700 mil­lion es­ti­mated to be in­vested be­fore Fe­bru­ary 2017, ac­cord­ing to a 2016 re­port by In­noVen Cap­i­tal, an Asian ven­ture cap­i­tal firm.

Riyaaz Am­lani, the owner of So­cial and a pow­er­ful force in the chang­ing In­dian restau­rant scene, said he no­ticed a de­mand for cheap of­fice space in prime New Delhi lo­ca­tions and de­cided on a fluid con­cept for his restau­rants. There are now 14 So­cial out­lets across In­dia, all of them also co-work­ing spaces.

“In­creas­ingly, of­fices started be­com­ing more like cafes, right? Google, Ya­hoo, Face­book, Twit­ter,” the 41-year-old says.

“If you get into a tra­di­tional of­fice en­vi­ron­ment, you know, it’s all very cut-and-dried. It’s all very hi­er­ar­chal. Your im­por­tance is mea­sured by the amount of square-foot [your of­fice has].”

Mem­ber­ship fees at most shared of­fices are usu­ally less than $100 per month. They also come with free ac­cess to net­work­ing events, in­vestors’ con­fer­ences and even par­ties.

Rishi Jalan, a 25-year-old who started a sports man­age­ment com­pany for stu­dent ath­letes two years ago, said: “I know so many of my friends who ac­tu­ally went to a co-work­ing space and found their co-founders.”

DOU­BLE LIFE: How So­cial looks at night and (right) how it is used dur­ing the day

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