Redefining Co-Working Spaces in India: Robin Chhabra

Robin Chhabra is talking about the impact of the pandemic, upcoming cities with a co-working culture and the roadmap for the next few years.

Robin Chhabra is the Founder and CEO of Dextrus Co-Working Spaces. His extensive experience and exposure to the world’s most cutting-edge design work, it is a foregone conclusion that Dextrus would aim to delight from a visual standpoint. In this conversation, Robin is talking about the impact of the pandemic, upcoming cities with a co-working culture and the roadmap for the next few years.


Edited Excerpts:

Normalcy is returning gradually. Yet, cities like Mumbai are still staring at another lockdown scenario. In this case, some people do travel to work only on compulsion of the employers. But one-man startups and consultants who majorly use co-working spaces still have the liberty to indulge in cost cutting by working from home. In this case, what’s the ratio of people turning up to work spaces?

I think people returning to work has a number of reasons behind it. Homes in the city and Indian family structures don’t necessary allow for productive work from home environments. There is not enough space (sometimes not even enough internet bandwidth) to allow for both work and home requirements to coexist. There is the added complication of blurred lines of the personal and professional boundaries and the resultant overworking habits that are being developed by all of us. When this starts to happen, we don’t know where home is and where work is and this is very dangerous in the long run for all of us.

Going to work helps people compartmentalize and differentiate and that helps us be productive in different ways in different domains of our life. We are seeing a lot of relief and joy from people returning to work which is only reinforcing better work and play habits. The return to normalcy will be long as setbacks such as this take time to heal. There will be flexibility given to all for working from home and some habits will change for the good but at the end of day working together and in person will always be a stronger connection than all the virtual ones in the world. 

Vaccine distribution is happening widely across the nation and in a six-month time frame, we may all get vaccinated. Co-working as an industry has been the worst affected in 2020. With this scenario prevailing, when do you think the industry will bounce back to growth?

I think in 2021 you shall see demand kicking back in. India is all set to grow to a 5 trillion-dollar economy and surpass it. We have the talent and the thirst. Where are we going to house offices of companies that innovate us to those targets? What co-working spaces offer, in fact, is exactly the need of the hour: flexibility, access, community, convenient commitment: the possibilities are endless. Hence, if there is one platform that will truly serve this dynamic change, it is the co-working industry.

Many ex co-working space users have been talking about having a flexible policy to pause, reset and cancel memberships without much hassles. Does Dextrus offer such a flexible policy? And does Dextrus offer something beyond monthly plans?

We have been working with our members to understand their pain points and help work together to attain a solution that works well for them as well as for us. We are a business at the end of the day that has also been hit by COVID-19 and have various costs that continue for us as well. Keeping this transparency of thought and frankness helps us work out solutions that help our clients through this difficult period of time. In addition to this we offer flexible plans such as our Membership Plans. In these plans, we offer companies a pay as you go plan which is charged as per their usage through the year. This allows for companies to not be tied down to a permanent office space yet have access to one as and when required at discounted prices.

In 2019, we saw co-working spaces gaining traction in Tier 2 and 3 cities. How is that going forward and which cities other than New Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru are rising with the number of co-working spaces?

Overtime, India will see many of its Tier 3 cities to grow into Tier 2 cities and many of its Tier 2 cities grow to Tier 1. Our current Tier 1 cities will continue to grow as India’s economy expands. Co-working spaces will expand to all forms of cities in some shape or the other. As this expansion happens, co-working spaces will have to offer good quality work spaces and cater to different target audiences. Hyderabad is great example of a growing city which is attracting co-working players. I think Panjim and its vicinity could be also a good option for co-working spaces to expand to as companies are starting to set their HQ’s in the state. However, it will take a little bit more time for these markets to mature.

What’s the roadmap for co-working spaces in the next few years?

Quality of Work Environment, Quality of Infrastructure, Quality of Service and Flexibility offered to all members. These four pillars are very important for any co-working space to get right. Depending on the economic growth of India, co-working is set to go in that direction. There are too many advantages that the business offers other businesses, from lease flexibility to zero capital costs to the ease of plug and play. 

Keep watching this space for more insightful updates.

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