The entrepreneurial bug has bitten India and how! Everyone wants to be their own boss and a lot of ideas are actually worth the VC dollar. But the road to business success is a costly one and real estate costs are the biggest pain in the entrepreneurial butt if we might say so!
P and I recently caught up with Utkarsh Kawatra, co-founder of myHQ, an interesting venture that is not only making the concept of co-working spaces workable but quite cooler as well. Here’s a quick recount of our chat!
P) MyHQ seems like a unique concept in its own niche. How did you come up with the idea of these cool co-working spaces?
I Have always enjoyed working out of coffee shops and have been doing so from my very first job, simply for the peace and quiet. While having an alternate work space out of home and office was always a great option, there were always issues in making the arrangement more permanent. Small things like Wi-Fi connectivity, lack of space at times, not enough plug points, and the list could on.
At this point I realized that someone had to do something to address the issue at hand and make working in an alternate setting a much better option. Seeing to all the coffee shops, lounges, and restaurants with low daytime occupancies, we found the ideal solution to our quandary. This is how myHQ was born. To create work-friendly spaces for everyone at every locality and provide these for zero rent to people.
P) Was it easy getting café owners to buy into the concept of myHQ?
Surprisingly Yes! The outlets we approached simply loved the idea and were happy that they were able to get the occupancies going up and getting a loyal customer base in the bargain, which is key to the success of any F&B business. The myHQ team works very closely with outlets to ensure that everything is in order for customers (optimal lighting, comfortable seats, exclusive area, low volume, etc). Through our mobile app, outlets can easily interact with customers and build a loyal customer base by ensuring they get the best possible service at all times. This is one of the reasons why our retention rates are quite high. Our target is to give them a retained community of 50-60 regulars + contribute about 20% of their total revenue.
P) How did you manage to standardize rates across different cafes?
We have worked closely with F&B outlets to sort this out. Simple math goes into the equation and we all knew that a person coming to work regularly at an F&B outlet wouldn’t want to spend upwards of Rs 250 a day that includes lunch and 2 cups of tea / coffee. Based on menus at different outlets, we work out combos, discounts, and specially priced co-working menus. The idea is to be light on the pockets of our customers while being profitable for our partners.
P) How do you ensure that customers don’t bypass myHQ and use listed cafes directly?
The customers can generally go to the cafes. But with our technology in place, we control the WiFi access, payment systems, and table reservation aspects of the co-working area/seats to ensure a complete work experience. We have: A WiFi management system to track users and logins. 2. myHQ payment machine for those who want to avail the co-working packages 3. App based booking system which helps inform the staff in advance about our co-working customers. We are also in the process of adding more community building features to our offering which will help customers and outlets really get closer to each other.
P) Who is your audience and how are you promoting myHQ to them?.
With myHQ, we are targeting a diverse audience ranging from college students and freelancers to office goers looking for a break from office monotony. To target them, we are using a combination of online, offline techniques. Online includes a strong referral program, events focused on this community, Google ads, Instagram posts, posts on various Facebook groups, etc. Offline we are building our presence in the markets with banners, standees, tent cards, etc. We are also getting a strong B2B sales channel in place to pitch to corporates.
P) Do you plan on taking myHQ to other cities in the near future?
Our first aim has been to get it absolutely right with the technology. We are happy that this is happening fast and we are keen on expansion. Our first phase expansion plans include covering a wider reach across Delhi-NCR and then expanding to other cities in the coming quarter. With our expansion plans, we are also looking to come up with a multi-city pass that will help frequent travelers work out multiple cities.
P) How do you see the future of co-working spaces in India?
Considering the huge requirement from the Indian SMEs, corporates, and start C ups, co-working will catch up even faster now. The only issue being that it could get commoditized with real estate owners wanting a share of the pie. It is important to stay different, unique and build a strong community.
P) How do you forecast financial growth for myHQ in 2017-18?
We are bullish of myHQ’s prospects in this year and look to cross the 1M USD figure in terms of our yearly sales.