By Rebati Adhikari
Office work has been synonymous to the physical space where everyone has a private desk or an enclosed cubicle. However, a new notion of working -coworking – has taken off. Wikipedia describes coworking as a shared working environment, often an office, and independent activity. Unlike in a typical office environment, those coworking are usually not employed by the same organisation. Typically it is attractive to work-at-home professionals, independent contractors, or people who travel frequently who end up working in relative isolation. Coworking is also a social gathering of a group of people who are still working independently, but who share values, and who are interested in the synergy that can happen from working with people who value working in the same place alongside each other.
Over the past few years, Nepal is gradually acclimatising to the global trend of coworking or office sharing. Bikalpa Art Centre, Adda, The Platform Inc., Work Around are some booming coworking spaces in Kathmandu. The entrepreneurship market is going through a drastic change. More and more people are working remotely and new businesses models are emerging all the time. The already congested major hubs have little space to offer and what’s available is priced exorbitantly.
Given the complexity of finding space to lease and the sky-rocketing rates, it is more prudent to share office space. Founder of Work Around, Tanka Ram Poudel shares,“I have worked with 4-5 business firms. While working with those companies, I found the operating cost to be a really big pain. Most ventures couldn’t overcome the survival stage because of overhead costs. Keeping that in mind, my brother and I founded Work Around in May 2017. “We call ourselves shared space rather than coworking. The idea of coworking is a bit early for Nepal. In reality even entrepreneurship is a new concept,” shares Poudel. For a startup, everything doesn’t get into place as expected right from the beginning. Working on the idea, arranging funds, managing space, utilities all have to be done in succession. It really takes a lot and is relatively nerve-wracking to start a business. “Coworking basically works for startup businesses as the time consumed in arranging space can be invested in exploring business, it has been found to reduce the business failure rate to some extent,” shares Saroj Mahato, Founder of Bikalpa Art Centre established in 2014.
Coworking obviously has many benefits. More than monetary advantages, it stands for the culture of teamwork, collaboration and networking. Moreover, today’s workforce is seeking flexibility. For mobile people it’s impossible to carry everything with them. “Rather than working from home, engaging with people in shared office space can boost creativity. Others around you push your boundaries to do better,” says Kushal Bajracharya, Marketing Director of Platform Inc. “It is a win-win situation for both parties. In the last five months, we have met many like-minded people,” says Poudel.
The subscription plans of these companies are also very appealing. With the facility of payment service on the basis of hourly, daily, monthly rates, one need not worry about the long process of lease agreement. They also cater to the needs of clients in need of private rooms. “Hourly basis is more popular here. We are probably the most affordable shared space. No other company offers per hour office sharing,” says Poudel.
Looking at the global trend, coworking market is not as upbeat as it used to be. As per the global coworking survey, coworking growth rate which stood at 88% in 2011 came down to 61% in 2014, further declining to 22% in 2017. Here in Nepal, it is a fairly new concept. “People are still tied to the traditional concept of office. Media plays a pivotal role in making the public understand coworking and promoting this niche market,” informs Mahato. “Coworking as a business is hard to sustain as it is,” shares Bajracharya.
When two businesses work and grow together, hiccups can happen. Coworking may not work for those majorly concerned about confidentiality and have difficulty in focusing on their task in the presence of others.
Coworking as a business is yet to attain the stability. However, entrepreneurs who are already into it are hopeful. “We are planning to expand outside the valley because we see a good future ahead. Nepal is a renowned tourist destination. We should tap digital nomads and the market of freelancers,” shares Mahato. Founder of Work Around, Tanka Ram Poudel says the future of this business depends on how well entrepreneurship develops and grows in the country.