Being a startup owner looking for a temporary office space is just like, if not worse than, being a bachelor looking for an apartment before the dawn of the online listings era. We experienced the struggle first-hand – caught between the excitement of opening up a Mumbai office and the exasperation at the number of options available. Between mirroring the fresh morning sun while checking a coworking space in Powai, and braving the mighty afternoon heat and traffic alike to inspect the fifth in Bandra; Between ogling at the stimulating wall-decals at the space we felt is the one, and shrugging at its rate card. And as we saw the life escaping us in exhaustion in Bandra, somewhere in Fort – Naomi Aggarwal was flying in the face of a mid-life crisis, staying current and savvy by sniffing out this gap in the evolving startup market and gathering the resources to provide us a solution.
The flipside of being a Bombay-gujju
Born and raised in Mumbai, Naomi is a B.Com and Fashion Designing graduate. This is peculiar combination because my mom thought I would get married to a Gujarati where I may not be allowed work, while my dad always wanted me to have a career.
Naomi was a professional tennis player growing up and ranked third in Maharashtra and 10th in the country at the All India Tennis Association (AITA) Women’s ranking. She then decided to go abroad to do her MBA. Naomi worked professionally in the US for 12years, with United Technologies and KPMG. With United Technologies, she was on the Financial Management Development Programme (FMDP) designed for potential Directors. “I got to travel the world with them and absolutely loved it. It was not difficult initially, when I was able to put in infinite hours and burn the midnight oil. It all changed when our son Rohaan was born in 2006; when I realised that I don’t have a career any more but it will just be a ‘job’ ” recalls Naomi.
Stirred, not shaken
With this new development, she moved back to India in 2011, but continued to work with KPMG in India, right around the time startups came into style. By the time she was business ready, though – the government was also acknowledging this new trend and backing it by pulling out the big guns. “With the government promoting the startup agenda, I thought the concept of ‘sharing’ would really do well. A lot of startups were working out of coffeeshops or home offices because they couldn’t afford their own offices. Providing workspaces to startups, entrepreneurs, and freelancers who are in need of space within their budgets, area of preference, and for the required time-frame seemed to be a crucial cog to help this revolution come into full force,” says Naomi.
Her husband, Uday Aggarwal, who had then been with Thomson Reuters for 12 years and amassed extensive worked experience on the business systems side of things, joined her in her endeavour to create the ‘Airbnb for office spaces.’
Incepted in January 2016, Spacewhiz defines office space as workstations, private cabins, meeting rooms, conference rooms, training rooms, startup commercial offices that can be rented by the hour, day, week, and month. They aggregate property owners with unoccupied or under-utilised office spaces and help startups, entrepreneurs, freelancers, and SMEs discover these options under one umbrella. The model is completely flexible with no long-term contracts or commitment requirements.
Mumbai to Kolkata, Delhi to Chennai
They started in Mumbai not only because they were physically located there, but also because Mumbai is considered the third biggest growth hub for startups. “I think we are well placed, given our mission to tap into the new sharing economy and make managed office spaces available to the growing community of startups here that is up against exorbitant realty rates.”
Since their launch, the number of seats hey had on offer has grown at an average rate of 28 percent month-on-month. They currently have about 2,500 seats across eight cities, and their user base has grown at an average rate of 31 percent month-on-month.
In India there are 20,000 startups, 15 million entrepreneurs, 15 million freelancers. Spacewhiz has a presence in nine cities within just six months of establishing their operations – namely Mumbai, Bengaluru, New Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai, Pune, Kolkata, Kochi, and Coimbatore.