India is referred to as the third largest startup hub in the world and, according to Nasscom, it is poised to reach 10,500 in number by the year 2020. While the government is attempting to make access to capital and all other processes easier so as to encourage the startup fever, one of the biggest pains for a startup founder remains in finding a suitable office space. Vikas Lakhani, co-founder of Instaoffice faced similar issues, he says, “[I] always had a dabba to take to an office but didn’t have an office to go to.”
With the rise in startups promoted by the Startup India campaign, entrepreneurs are looking out for high-quality productive workspaces but most cannot afford it. This is what Instaoffice is looking to address, they want to provide entrepreneurs, startups, mature companies with small teams, professional consultants and the like with an economically viable office space solution. These include co-working spaces that enable collaborations, virtual offices, meeting rooms and more.
According to Lakhani, there were two kinds of players in the serviced office space. The first was co-working spaces providing cheap offices with wide community but poor functionality. The other option was the typical business centres that offered flexible, small offices but charged premiums over traditional lease offices. Lakhani adds, “What was missing in the market was an office space solution which was a long term economically viable office.” Recognising these gaps, Instaoffice decided to create multiple offerings and products under the same brand to address the office needs of a very diverse user-base.
Disrupting the existing value-chain of commercial leasing is what Instaoffice’s model rests on. They operate as an operator of scale, partnering with land-lord partners. This helps their members save money on office occupancy costs while making more money for the land-lords than traditional rental lease. Commercial real estate has high vacancy, according to Vikas, at the same time there is an increase in businesses and startups and thus the demand for offices. “There is supply which exists in the old from, the demand is in the new form, and that’s where we come in,” Lakhani says, adding, “We bridge this demand-supply gap and bring user experience to our members, at the same time manage properties and increase the rent leads for our land-lord partners.”
Instaoffice started in October 2015 by Vikas Lakhani and Devendra Kumar Agarwal. Talking about the investments they have garnered Vikas point out, “Most of our investors have been industry experts or some investors who’ve had extensive experience in investing in the Indian startup ecosystem.” So far, the company has had just one round of investments where they raised external capital from a investors including Globe Vestor, Zishaan Hayath, Co-Founder Toppr, Karan Chellani, Managing Partner at SQUE Capital and Mohit Satyanand, Director DFM Foods and Chairman Teamwork Arts and more.
The company’s main approach is to create a knowledge-sharing platform through a network of mentors and investors. They have a weekly Unwind Sessions to enable this where entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds gather to share their experiences and other stories.
For the near future, Instaoffice to looking to have a meaningful presence in the National Capital Region (NCR) and Bangalore and some strategic openings in cities like Indore, Jaipur, Mumbai, Pune and Hyderabad.
Vikas believes that everybody is an entrepreneur, he adds, “That’s what I love about these times, there is a brilliant ecosystem for everybody to be or at least try their hands to be an entrepreneur.” Delving in to mistakes and failure in entrepreneurship and the lessons he’s learnt, he says, “It’s an absolutely learning process, you will make a lot of mistakes, you’ll keep making them but you will learn and you get better at it, so the sooner you start the better it is.”
While taking the plunge to start your own venture is becoming common on today’s India, some people are still doubtful. The usual differences aside, most people are afraid of what changes and difference in working-life comes about when one becomes plunges into entrepreneurship. According to his own experiences, Lakhani says, “Before I became a founder, I always had the liberty of postponing a decision as an employee, or I could consult with people but as a founder you’re always making decisions. No matter how much you try, you never have enough data to make an objective decision.” Talking about the burdens of being an entrepreneur and co-founder of a company he adds, “There are a lot of people counting on you, so you’ve got to be responsible, you need to understand that you carry that burden with you as entrepreneur.”