The coworking industry in India is expected to grow to 10 million sq ft by 2020. The entry of global players like WeWork only goes to show the opportunity for shared workspaces in the country now and in the future. The shared workspace giant entered India with a launch in India’s Silicon Valley, Bengaluru.
And, in its short lifespan, it has already established itself in three metro cities in India. Now, it is eyeing other cities across the country with a high potential for collaborative workspaces.
WeWork India, the Indian arm of the New York-based coworking unicorn WeWork, launched in India in association with the Embassy Group. It is is currently headed by Karan Virwani, CWeO, WeWork India. In an interview with Inc42, Karan shed light on the plans of the shared workspace giant for India, the cities that are high on its expansion radar, and the strategy it is implementing to grow in India, among other things.
Here are the details of the interview:
Inc42: WeWork India recently launched a new marketing campaign. Can you tell us about it?
Karan Virwani: Yes, our new campaign, ‘Reimagine Your Workspace’, is a three-month digital campaign incorporating digital, out-of-home, social media, and engaging events across Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru. As WeWork continues to make a mark in reimagining your office environment, the campaign will prove to be a game-changer locally by showcasing our unique ‘we’ culture and how WeWork will reinvent your work and everyday life.
It reflects who we are as a brand and what we offer — we are a springboard for exponential growth and we are not just providing work needs of today, but laying the foundation of the positive future. Along with macro shifts towards the future of work, we are accelerating this push through our new campaign. WeWork is reimagining and reshaping collaborative spaces which is moving to foster the workforce of today and the future beyond the conventional cubicle. Seeking a holistic environment that enables them to make the most of every day, WeWork’s new campaign will pave a new movement for welcoming people to become a part of a greater ‘we’ at WeWork.
Inc42: How important is the Indian market for WeWork? What is the strategy for growth and expansion in India?
Karan Virwani: India is an extremely critical market for us, and it will play an important role in WeWork’s global strategy given the country’s young population, growing number of startups and the pro-business policies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. India is forecast to grow to 7.4% in 2019 against 6.7% this year, which makes it the fastest-growing major economy in the world. It has arguably been the world’s fastest-growing startup ecosystem and we have been witnessing a macro cultural shift.
We feel we can help companies grow faster on a global network of community and help them innovate. We started operations in India in July 2017 and, in less than a year, we are present in eight locations with over 10,000 members. We are committed to serving our members by providing them collaborative spaces that allow them to unlock their potential and achieve their business objectives globally.
This commitment in meeting our members’ needs has been the driving force behind our success in 2017 and it is key to our continued development as an industry leader moving forward through a strong local leadership team, vibrant partner ecosystem, local member testimonials, and digital and physical products tailored for the Indian market.
The growth trajectory of WeWork in India signifies the increasing market demand and we are trying to meet the requirements of more India creators. We plan to enter new markets like Pune, Chennai, and Hyderabad next year.
Inc42: In the current market, which is becoming increasingly competitive owing to the proliferation of coworking spaces, how do you think WeWork’s growth has been in India?
Karan Virwani: We saw phenomenal growth for WeWork in 2017 and are anticipating even faster growth in 2018 and 2019. WeWork is a global platform for creators, providing over 248,000 members around the world with space, community, and services through both physical and virtual offerings. WeWork currently has 253 physical locations in 74 cities and 22 countries around the world.
Companies of all sizes are beginning to understand that their employees need spaces and connections that empower them to collaborate and innovate. Understanding the future of innovation and work and shifting towards this direction, WeWork bridges the gap of this market demand by integrating work and life and comes in as the solution on the global basis. We are the only company that brings together community, technology, and design at a global scale to provide an environment that creates a community where people work to make a life, not just a living.
We see that small companies want to learn from the experience of enterprises, while enterprises are looking to achieve the speed and agility of startups. This is a symbiotic relationship among our members and no other platform has the global scale, localised community experience, and support that WeWork has been able to create and offer.
Inc42: What is the current mix of occupancy in India — are there more startups or larger enterprises?
Karan Virwani: Our members are creators who run the gamut — from entrepreneurs, freelancers, startups and small businesses, to middle-market and Fortune 500 corporations. Large enterprises are one of our fastest-growing categories at WeWork in India. About 45% of our members are enterprises and 55% are startups, freelancers, and SMEs. We not only solve their real estate requirements by offering space as a service but give them a more flexible and asset-light option that helps them stay nimble.
Inc42: What is the unique service offering that you offer to enterprises at WeWork?
Karan Virwani: WeWork has more than 1,000 enterprise members (companies with 1,000+ employees around the world) that represent 24% of WeWork’s total membership across the world.
For enterprise members that are exploring international operations and require the workforce to be where the action is, WeWork bridges this challenge by providing substantial value and flexibility through spaces that have critical services, are cost-effective, and available when you need them.
We also offer our enterprise members flexibility to enter or exit markets opportunistically, grow or shrink footprint as necessary. In addition, for enterprise members, there is an opportunity to attract and retain talent by curating the exposure to the creative community.
We not only solve real estate requirements by offering space as a service but also give members a more flexible and asset-light option that helps them stay nimble.
Inc42: What is the unique differentiator that WeWork brings to a building or a portfolio to add value?
Karan Virwani: While we’re a global playbook, we operate with a local execution — whenever we enter a new market, we work together with key partners and experts to help create the unique WeWork experience in that region. With WeWork, we bring in our design expertise that revitalises the building with our community and energy. With our strong R&D and design team, we study the everyday needs of businesses in different markets and geographies and how people interact. We go to great lengths to create communities — at the building, city, and country level.
With our buildings having the right mix of design and function, our buildings create physical and digital places where ideas can be exchanged, and creativity can thrive. Using our community, design, and technology to meet needs that no one else can, we start with the business needs — being collaborative, incorporating innovation, and doing research along with creating new designs to serve them better with these factors when we go into a building/portfolio.
Inc42: Can you elaborate on how WeWork uses technology to scale up?
Karan Virwani: Every facet of WeWork’s operations is enhanced by technology. Our use of technology across the organisation optimises our ability to source/design/build with speed and precision. We are also very dedicated to leveraging technology to build smart spaces that can remove friction and create a seamless experience for all members.
Our deployment of tech throughout our spaces allows us to continuously learn about how our spaces are being used and how we can further iterate. We use technology that uses data to determine the best physical design possible to both maximise comfort and encourage collaboration. In addition, we have a member network app to enable people to connect and collaborate more efficiently. Our ability to deliver tech solutions to our members offers them the best, most seamless workplace experience.
Inc42: The coworking space in India is expected to touch 10 million sq ft by 2020. How do you see it evolving in the coming years?
Karan Virwani: We don’t limit ourselves to co-working — co-working accounts for a small portion of our portfolio. We are disrupting traditional real estate and driving the change towards the future of work. We are seeing a new trend as more and more people — across generations, races, geographies — want personal fulfilment. This means working on projects they’re passionate about in an energetic environment where others are also working hard to bring their ideas to life. They want experiences that meaningfully add to their lives. This shift will demand innovation to transform workspaces from being purely functional to being more productive and experiential as well as meaningful.
The Collaborative workspace is excited about the opportunity in India. Since WeWork first came to India just over 10 months ago, it has established a network of creators and companies. With a robust pipeline for 2018, the company aspires to broaden its push for innovation to more India members.