The Office Pass Pioneering Neighborhood Coworking Spaces for a New Era of Work

Mr. Nikhil Madan, Co-Founder – The Office Pass (TOP), Discusses the Evolution of Coworking and Its Impact on Urban Work Cultures

In an ever-evolving professional landscape, The Office Pass (TOP) is pioneering a change with its unique neighborhood coworking model. Designed to enhance accessibility and promote a balanced work-life dynamic, The Office Pass tailors its spaces to the needs of modern professionals, offering a blend of comfort, convenience, and community right in the heart of urban centers. This shift not only reflects the changing preferences of today’s workforce but also signals a broader transformation in how and where we work.

The Genesis of TOP: What inspired the transition from real estate and online marketplaces to creating a neighborhood coworking space model with The Office Pass?

Basically, to run a successful business, one needs to be passionate enough to build a product or service in the industry of his/her interest, decent business intelligence, thorough industry knowledge and a fair amount of understanding about the demand, target audience and market dynamics.

Fortunately, The Office Pass (TOP) founding team had gained a comprehensive understanding and interest in the real estate industry along with the technological know-how by working together extensively at (an online real estate discovery platform) which went on to become a household name specifically in top metro cities in India.

The experience of running a successful real estate business using technology came in extremely handy when we started The Office Pass (TOP) in 2017. After quitting from, as we delved into the dynamics of commercial real estate, particularly office spaces in India, we came across the rising trend of Coworking spaces in the western countries.

We recognized the immense potential of this concept and remodelled the entire concept from India’s perspective, keeping in mind the high density of population, road infra and traffic woes; which in turn lead us to the fundamental premise that people love to work in a high quality office facility close to their place of residence/business rather than commuting long distances.

We are proud to report that TOP business is EBITDA positive and scaling handsomely every passing year. The large part of TOP’s success can be attributed to the experience of running and learnings that came from there.

Neighborhood Coworking Philosophy: Can you elaborate on the philosophy behind #Walk-to-Work and how it aligns with the future of work in urban India?

When we zeroed down on starting a Coworking Space business in 2017, we all agreed to a fact that given an opportunity no one would like to spend 2-3 hours every day, just to commute to work. The peak hours’ rush, road infrastructure, traffic jams etc. are a nightmare for every office goer. These commuting hours are the most unproductive and stressful utilization of time & resources we all had been experiencing day in and out. It is then we decided to go for a different format of coworking spaces instead of the conventional ones, wherein people can access high end office spaces close to their place of residence or business, instead of travelling long distance to reach an office and coming back.

No doubt, this concept was very well received by our members, business was shaping up well at its pace and then the Pandemic hit us which radically changed the way every business – startups, small, medium or large Indian enterprises, MNCs, etc. were used to looking at the workspaces. Our Neighborhood Coworking got wings and the terms like Work from near home, minimum commuting hours, flexi timings, hybrid working, hub & spoke model, etc. have become the new buzzwords for commercial office spaces and have become the new normal by reshaping the future of work in urban India.

Technology at TOP: How has technology been a game-changer in managing operations, member acquisition, and retention at TOP? Can you share insights into any proprietary tools or systems developed in-house?

Today without integrating technology it would be impossible for any business to scale up and manage operations. Our previous stint at building an online real estate discovery platform immensely helped us to plug technology in various functions and do away with manual processes right at the beginning of building The Office Pass (TOP).

Adapting to digital means to attract new customers like digital marketing, social media marketing, search engine optimisation, virtual office tours, etc. keeps our customer acquisition cost extremely low and also reduces our dependence on feet-on-street manpower.

Extensive use of digital tools for a secured environment at our work spaces like access controls, CCTVs, visitor management software, firewalls, advanced routers, face recognition devices at gates, etc. give a peace of mind to our members w.r.t. safety and security of their employees, data and physical assets.

In the very first year of our existence we built in-house tools for lead management and invoicing, subsequently we built mechanisms for feedback management, referral programme and asset management to seamlessly manage day-to-day operations. As an organization, we decided to go paperless by moving to online documentation for both members and vendors plus adopted only digital means to make and accept payments and stayed away from cash and cheques.

So, technology has greatly enhanced the overall efficiency and effectiveness of our coworking spaces as well as deliver an exceptional experience to our members.

Challenges and Innovations: Transitioning the idea of coworking to a neighborhood model must have presented unique challenges. How did TOP navigate these, and what innovative solutions were implemented?

Way back in 2017, the first and foremost challenge was to convince companies to move to coworking spaces instead of conventional offices. The concept was still at a nascent stage in India and was predominantly considered ideal for freelancers, young startups or extremely small businesses which cannot afford to have their own office space.

So, irrespective of immense benefits that coworking spaces offered like zero capital expenditure, optimized operational expenses, flexible terms, shorter lock-ins and low security deposits; the large companies, well-funded startups and established businesses shied away from coworking spaces at large.

Nevertheless, the demand was picking up, business was growing at a steady state, slowly and gradually the mind-set shift of bigger organizations was also happening and that is when COVID 19 impacted every business and industry, forcing even the CXOs of such large organizations to optimize costs, re-evaluate the traditional office leases, consider hub and spoke model, introduce flexible shifts and hybrid work culture for employees.  

As from Day 1 of our operations, we had been promoting flexible terms, #Walk-To-Work and Work from any of TOP’s offices, the demand for our coworking spaces surged manifold as soon as the economic activities resumed post pandemic and this time not only just small and medium enterprises but even the MNCs and large corporations started valuing the numerous benefits that we bring on the table.

Expansion Plans: With plans to open over 50 offices in the next two years, how does TOP intend to maintain the quality and ethos of neighborhood coworking while scaling?

Maintaining consistency of tangibles is never a challenge, the beauty is to work on intangibles and continuously deliver seamless experience and foster a sense of belonging among members, at each of our office – existing or new. And for this, we worked on building a playbook, that we refer to at all our offices and try to replicate the best practices that were picked up when business and operations were small and easy to handle.

To name a few things which we have focussed on and have been following since inception are:

– strong emphasis on building a robust community through periodic networking events and creating opportunities of collaboration for our members.

– choosing new office locations that align with our brand, vision and #Walk-To-Work concept

– regular training of employees and support staff on customer centricity, our brand’s values and culture

– monthly feedback surveys on our amenities and services to gather inputs and improve

– invest in technology & innovation to enhance members’ experience

– maintain high quality amenities across all the offices

and there are many more such areas that we work on through SOPs to maintain the quality and ethos at our current 13 coworking offices in Delhi NCR and would continue to improve & work in a methodological manner till our 50th, 100th and more offices!

Impact of Coworking on Work Culture: How do you believe TOP’s coworking spaces have impacted the work culture among your member companies and individual professionals?

Apart from substantial cost savings, The Office Pass (TOP) coworking spaces also present the opportunities for companies and professionals to collaborate and network with members from various industries. A flexible and diverse environment at our coworking spaces fosters new ways of working and help shape a maodern work culture.

Our members, be it a solopreneur, startup, SMB or a large enterprise, appreciate the cross industry interactions, networking opportunities and cross-pollination of ideas by being under one roof. The community events encourage members to connect, share knowledge and collaborate on projects.

Our spaces offer flexible work hours and freedom to work from our different locations thereby promoting greater flexibility and better work-life balance. The concept of our high end yet affordable multi coworking offices spread in a city makes us an ideal host for new age work concepts like hybrid, remote, work from near home, decentralized, community and collaboration etc.

Future of Coworking Spaces: With the evolving landscape of work post-pandemic, where do you see the future of coworking spaces heading, especially in the context of India?

Pandemic has given a booster shot to the overall Flexible Space industry!
Thereby the demand for coworking spaces has grown leaps and bounds post-pandemic as companies of various shapes and sizes are seeing the value and savings they can derive by adopting coworking spaces for their office space needs.
Moreover, organizations’ decision to return to offices, roll out hybrid work environment for the employees, embrace hub & spoke model instead of centralized offices, more emphasis on cost optimization steps etc. also made even the large corporations to consider flexible workspaces as part of their real estate footprint.

Apart from this, the initiatives like Make in India, Vocal for Local, Digital India and growing startup ecosystem, greater urbanization and infrastructure development beyond major cities of India has fuelled the demand for coworking spaces not only in Tier I but Tier II and III cities as well.

Thus, the future of coworking workspaces looks extremely promising in our country and from the current 18% absorption of all commercial real estate in India, it is expected to go beyond 25-30% penetration over the next 3-5 years.
Sustainability Measures: As TOP expands, are there any sustainability measures or eco-friendly practices being integrated into your coworking spaces?

Absolutely, coworking spaces at large play a pivotal role in paving way for a sustainable future through resource sharing among individuals and businesses like – sharing of office spaces, equipments, amenities, electricity, air conditioning etc. Since these resources are collectively utilized, it results in a significant reduction in overall resource consumption and waste.

At The Office Pass (TOP) in particular we try multiple ways that can help reduce the carbon footprint via use of LED lightings, smart thermostats to regulate temperature, paperless processes, garbage segregation, natural plants, reusable cutlery and provision for ample natural light within the office, to name a few.

Also, our continued focus on strategic placement of our coworking spaces around residential and central business areas which can be conveniently accessed by our members through walking or public transport especially metro train significantly aids towards sustainable future.
The Office Pass is at the forefront of revolutionizing coworking spaces with its neighborhood model, reshaping the future of work in urban India. As they expand and innovate, their commitment to quality, sustainability, and community continues to drive their success. In embracing the changing landscape of work, TOP is not just providing spaces but creating vibrant, productive communities.
Prittle Prattle News composed this article as an Interview.
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