India currently ranks number three on the global startup runway, just behind the US and the UK. It is home to over 20,000+ startups, and the number of startups in the tech domain is expected to double by 2020, employing over 200,000 people. Despite being tagged as a developing economy, India today is a hotbed for investments. With the major focus being on startups, a total of $13.5 Bn was invested in the Indian tech startup ecosystem in 2017 alone.
The rise of startups in India has brought with it a revolution, radically changing work or office culture as we knew it. Startups are constantly defining and redefining their own cultures, breaking monolithic rules across processes and functions set by so-called ‘traditional’ organisations. Meanwhile, employees, especially millennials, are enthusiastically jumping on the startup bandwagon, happy to be the torchbearers of this liberating work culture, which is transforming the entire way organisations and individuals operate.
Workplaces today are redefining office spaces, with loungers or beanbags designed for comfort, espresso machines pumping out the hottest flavoured coffee, to yoga rooms with colourful walls for mental rejuvenation, and free-moving employees rubbing off their zeal on each other, making work a fun thing. Today, offices are being designed keeping in mind the likes and dislikes of workers, in a bid to optimise productivity and enhance inter- and intra-office relations along with community building. Startups building these new age offices is a trend and springs from the notion of providing everything to an employee under one roof, thus ensuring work-life balance.
With all this, another significant change that has been witnessed is the shared work culture. This is especially big in Mumbai owing to steep real estate prices, especially for bootstrapped companies. 91Springboard, The Playce, WeWork and Awfis Space solutions, Ministry of new, are some of the coolest coworking locations in Mumbai.
A recent entrant in the new age workplace scene is DBS Bank, with its impressive office spread over a whopping 100,000 sq ft in Mumbai. DBS believes that with changing times, banks also need to change. The bank has revamped its new Mumbai office, casting aside a boring, closed concrete office to replace it with a swanky space overlooking the dreamy Arabian Sea.
Spread across five floors in Express Towers at Nariman Point, the new DBS office is designed on the principle of Activity Based Working (ABW), which means providing flexible workstations to employees. Barring those in key administrative functions, most employees are provided lockers to stow away their belongings, which they can take to any desk they wish to call theirs for the day.
The office boasts of social zones for employees to hold impromptu discussions, seats that look out at the Arabian Sea, booths for making private calls, cosy spaces for quick meetings, and not to forget — a Zen zone for employees who need some time alone to de-stress!
Its collaborative meeting rooms have walls painted over with inspiring graffiti such as ‘Timing is everything,’ a learning centre with collapsible walls to incorporate as many people as possible, and noise meters fashioned like a traffic signal that notifies people if the noise level goes beyond the recommended range. A red light would mean you need to lower the decibel level.
DBS Bank’s new office has all it takes to be a cool, hip, functionally efficient, and productive workspace, raising the bar for other companies of its ilk. By breaking away from the mould of fixed seating, the bank is hoping to instill flexibility and transformation in the organisation. To this end, DBS is also encouraging greater interaction among employees. The fact that DBS did away with cabins for the senior management making the organisation more agile and innovative, speaks volumes about the bank’s intentions to change and usher in a vibrant startup-like culture from within.
Out Of The Box Offices
So, what brought about the rise of startups and the concurrent change in work culture and office spaces in India? The answer is a simple shift in the mindset of individuals who once upon a time were part of a traditional corporate set-up and young college pass-outs (often dropouts) sipping on cappuccinos at Starbucks or your corner cafe, brewing yet another startup idea.
The trend of new-age workspaces in India started with Silicon Valley returnees talking excitedly about Google and Facebook’s uber-cool office spaces, which employees simply did not want to exit. Suddenly, coworking spaces and open offices were mushrooming wherever startups sprouted roots across India.
Out went the formal clothes, cubicles for the masses, cabins for the bosses, and the 9 am to 5 pm check in-out mandate. Startup workplaces graduated from the living room couch to cafes that wouldn’t push you out even if you asked them to reheat your coffee a gazillion times, to finally moving into cozy open office or coworking spaces which offer a similar ‘feel’.
But why bother with undoing everything about the old, established workplace culture (it was working anyway, wasn’t it?) and turn it on its head? Is it yet another marker on the “cool” startup index? The answer is a big no! Startups changed the workspace because they needed to change. Employees should want to come to work and not be shoved by some demonic Monday morning pressure into some drab office with fellow robots (in the form of humans) glued to their desktops in their glass Square spaces, staring out at the next Square space only for a creative break.
Startup founders, most of them young millennials, could feel the pulse of Gen Y. They understood the need for this change and were willing to dump the existing paradigm and forge a new way of working. Office ergonomics is one of the main aspects defining the efficiency of people at work today. It is estimated that by 2020, millennials will form 50% of the global workforce, which directly relates to the need for changing workplaces as they exist.
Though the debate on the drawbacks of an open office layout may continue, one cannot deny that it is here to stay and a must-have for today’s professionals. DBS Bank’s new Mumbai office may or may not inspire established companies to follow, but it sure is a start. And an impressive one at that!