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In An Exclusive Conversation With Varun Gopinath, Head Of Sales, WeWork India

Kritika Rawat

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Wework

WeWork is an American commercial real estate company that provides shared workspaces for technology startups and services for other enterprises.

Founded in 2010, it is headquartered in New York City. WeWork’s parent company is The We Company.

WeWork has a management agreement with its India affiliate, which is run by Jitu Virwani’s Embassy Group. Under the agreement, the building owner funds all capital expenditures to build out the space according to specifications and maintains full responsibility for the space, while WeWork acts as the manager and receives an agreedupon management fee.

WeWork now has about 57,000 seats in 34 centres across seven cities in India. Read on for excerpts from the conversation.

1. Can you highlight how your business model is different from co-working space providers In India like myHq, CoWrks, QDesq?

WeWork entered India through a joint venture with Embassy Group in July 2017 when the co-working industry was still at a nascent stage. By leveraging Embassy’s extensive land bank across the country as well as real estate know-how, and WeWork’s technology and global experience in design, the company was set on a path to bring a change in the Indian workplace culture. 

One of the strongest USP’s of WeWork is that it is much more than a co-working space. Our co-working and space-as-a-service platform significantly reduces the complexity of leasing real estate to a simplified membership model, whilst delivering a more flexible and premium experience at a lower price relative to traditional alternatives. Using our own design and technology we have expanded to multiple locations in India.  Some of our differentiated offerings include beautifully designed workspaces, locations to connect as well as  a network of entrepreneurs and thinkers. 

At WeWork, members have access to a global community they can connect with, not only at the physical locations, but also through our member network app. We offer a range of flexible plans and create an environment wherein the members can fully focus on growing their business, while we take care of all their other needs. On top of the space, community and services, there are plenty of intangible benefits like access to other WeWork locations around the world, discounts on meaningful business services, access to professional and social events for members to meet other people who they can potentially collaborate with.

WeWork offers three types of membership models –  hot desks, dedicated desks, and private offices. These models offer flexibility to increase or decrease workforce as per market dynamics without worrying about lock-in period of the lease or paying fixed rents. WeWork works with key partners and experts when entering a new region and the average cost per seat varies from location to location but contributing factors are connectivity, proximity to business districts, access to entertainment areas, etc. It therefore reduces the expense of running an office by approximately 15-20% by eliminating hefty deposits, long term leases, and other expenses and brings all of these costs together into one easy membership fee 

2. How has WeWork adopted technology over the years and what role has it played in the company’s growth?

WeWork looks at creating an interactive and flexible user experience for our employees and members. We think about all the problems we could possibly solve for them through technology. This starts from finding the best buildings in the best neighbourhoods by using the in-house software we have developed to gather data about the buildings, neighbourhoods and markets. Further, technology is integrated into everything we do and powers the WeWork platform. Every facet of WeWork’s operations helps in  enhancing the experience using smart technology. 

One of our most popular tools is the WeWork member app. Beyond helping members with daily tasks such as booking conference or meeting rooms, our app  offers features that allow them to connect with one another, whether they are in the same building or across the world. The WeWork App lets members tap into the entire community of creators and entrepreneurs within a given WeWork location and across the world. 

3. What do you think about the future of PropTech in India?

In India, Proptech has revolutionised commercial office space and is helping  co-working spaces by making technology an essential element of the construction sector. Co-working has been scaling new heights in India and space has gradually become popular among corporates due to the use of proptech and how it is integrated into the core of the business. With the growth in office leasing, the use of flex spaces has become the new norm. Companies are increasingly trying to optimise their real estate portfolios in such a way so that they can retain and nurture talent and also remain agile in a rapidly evolving business environment. Co-working partners, in turn, ensure that corporates’ requirement is met in a timely manner with customised options. A part of this is technology intervention at the workstations. This will continue through the next few years, with more and more companies looking for customisation through proptech. 

4. Where do you think WeWork would stand in the future in India? What are the company’s long term and short term goals?

Since our entry in 2017, we have grown rapidly and currently have over 40,000 members across 34 locations in six key cities. We have leased a total of over 4.50 million square feet of space which houses over 57,000 desks.  WeWork is rapidly moving on continuing the journey towards opening more spaces that inspire people to be creators, and foster a spirit of collaboration. We are focused on making sure that the members have the best experience possible. The value comes not just from the beautiful spaces that WeWork provides, but also from its tailored experiences, business services, global access, and the chance to collaborate with other members, who will be amongst the most innovative business minds out there.

5. How has 2019 been for WeWork India and what are the new targets and expectations drawn for WeWork India in 2020? In 2020, is WeWork India aiming to enter any new cities?

In 2019, we opened over 10k desks, expanded in the existing markets, launched operations in two new markets – Pune and Hyderabad, and strengthened our presence in NCR with Noida. We also launched an innovative India-first product value based offering  that is aimed to meet the coworking needs of homegrown, traditional Indian Business and Enterprises. The Vi John (Gurugram) and Chromium (Mumbai) locations are designed to garner cost savings for members, enterprises. This new offering allows members to  custom-create solutions for their need for reduced risk and overhead costs. The space provides easy setup and all other member benefits at transparent and attractive pricing. 

In the first two months of 2020, we have already opened new workspaces in Mumbai and Bangalore, and plan to continue focusing on signing new lease agreements with landlord partners across the country with an aim to expand at a similar pace this year as well. 

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