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When Ramesh Kumar V. moved his start-up from Salem, Tamil Nadu, to Bangalore, he chose to work from Jaaga rather than renting an exclusive office. “I want to expand, find more clients and build a network for myself," he says. “What better place for me than a space that works as a start-up ecosystem and has a ready community of people who are doing new and interesting things?"

Jaaga is a co-working hub which rents out space and infrastructure to artistes, designers and activists.

Within six months of shifting, Kumar has expanded his team to four people, found clients and learnt how to run his business efficiently. “Two of my clients are start-ups working out of Jaaga. For one of them, I did a project in exchange for contacts," he says. Now, he has found funding too for his enterprise thanks to the people he met at Jaaga. Even though it tends to get noisy and the Wi-Fi is slow on weekdays, he doesn’t mind.

Connect to chat

It’s networking with others like her that makes Summer Starr go back to Bombay Connect, a co-working space in Mumbai for NGOs and social enterprises. Starr worked out of Bombay Connect three years ago, when it was known as Bombay Hub. As the executive director of Reality Gives, an NGO that collaborates on projects for underprivileged communities, Starr now has her own office but has retained a membership to the co-working hub. “More than space, which I don’t really require now, I get to connect to other social organizations as part of the network," she says.

Through various workshops and events, Starr has met social entrepreneurs in marketing, technology and finance. Over a few months, her NGO has also collaborated with two other social enterprises, thanks to the people she has met through Bombay Connect events. “You feel like you belong to this group, like they have the same problems as you do, and that they can help," she says.

“This community-focused new model is working way better for us," says Ricardo Goncalves, community engagement manager, Bombay Connect. The co-working space has a robust community of social entrepreneurs and NGOs. Even though the prices for membership per person per month are high (from 999 for just attending events and being part of the online community to 7,200 for unlimited access to events, the community, meeting rooms and a space), the place is full, with at least 50 members working from there at all times. All because of the community it attracts and the calendar that is chock-a-block with events and workshops through the year.

Increased productivity

Film-maker Ritu Bhardwaj says sharing an office has made her efficient. “Working alone is boring. You tend to procrastinate, get frustrated and a little too comfortable in your pyjamas," she says. After a disastrous year of trying to work from home, Bhardwaj hired a workstation for 4,500 a month at the BMS Business Centre, a shared office space in Connaught Place, Delhi. “Though all of us in the office are independent workers, I still have a sense of belonging," she says. Since the space has a diverse set of people—from legal experts, to corporate trainers and start-ups, among others, the learning never stops. “We constantly give advice to each other, bounce off ideas, and talk about our experiences," says the 27-year-old.

Brijesh Bharadwaj, co-founder of Web start-up Tune Patrol (that sells indie music online), agrees with Ritu Bhardwaj. Bharadwaj has been working out of Jaaga with two colleagues since January. “There’s an energy in the space. All of us are young, have ambition and great ideas. We see other start-ups working hard and try and work harder than them," he says. The little bit of competition and comparing notes keeps Bharadwaj on his toes at all times.

Extra zing

Shalini Singh runs the public relations (PR) company, Galvanise PR, which has offices in Bangalore and Hyderabad—both are shared with other start-ups. “I could have rented an exclusive apartment as an office for the same money, but I prefer to share offices," she says.

Singh says sharing space with people of a similar age but from different professions boosts team morale and keeps the space lively and energetic. It also helps her team of four—most of whom are in their first jobs—learn new things. For example, no one in her team is technically inclined, but since they sit with technology start-ups, they have learnt how to solve laptop issues and work their way through a presentation. It’s a win-win situation for everybody. “My team interacts and learns from different kinds of people doing things other than PR, and I don’t have the headache of running office infrastructure," she explains.

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WHAT TO LOOK FOR

Don’t sign up blindly. Go through this checklist before you say yes to a co-working space.

Take a trial run: Try the space to see if it’s a good fit for you. Most co-working places have options to work for a day or a week. Make use of that.

Check the noise level: Some spaces are quiet, some have loud music and constant chatter. If you cannot work in noisy places or vice versa, you will not be a good fit.

Look at other members: Co-working is meant for networking. Are the people near you in age, do they belong to your industry or are they at the same level in life (say, start-up)? If yes, you have found your soulmate space. If you aim to network through co-working, see what kind of activities, events and workshops the place holds. The greater the variety of people who come into the space, the greater your chance of finding a prospective client or project.

Infrastructure check: Does the desk wobble or do they just have beanbags to sit on? What’s the Internet speed? Can you receive couriers? Do they have staff to run errands, a receptionist to direct a call to you? Do they have a cafeteria or kitchenette? Are the toilets and floor clean?

Flexible timing: The muse might strike you late in the night but by that time, the office is closed. Most offices have some sort of timing. Select the one that suits you.

Space suitability: If you have occasional meetings with clients, it’s better to co-work from a business centre, which generally offers conference rooms for hire by the hour. Sitting huddled in a noisy centre might be a turn-off for a prospective client.

This is the second in a two-part series. The first article, “Share Ship", appeared on 1 April.

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