Last year, the coworking movement hit an all-time high. With conferences in Europe, Africa, the USA and Canada, it has become evident that coworking is not only growing in established communities but all over the world.
Dr. Ritesh Malik, founder of Innov8 coworking in Delhi, believes that coworking will be essential to business growth in India. We spoke with Ritesh about the current coworking scene in Delhi and what the emerging movement has accomplished so far.
Hi, Ritesh, can you please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about Innov8 Coworking?
I am a doctor by education, but a passionate entrepreneur and startup lover at heart. I started my first venture back in 2012 and eventually sold it to Times of India group (Alive App). Over the last 2 years, I have been deep into startup funding, and I am actively working with the government of India in order to help build college entrepreneurship ecosystem in the country.
I have also spent some time in Boston, Santa Clara, LA, London etc. and have understood how these types of silicon valleys have been built over time. I realized that Silicon Valley is not a real estate but a mindset, and that is what we’re trying to build today in Delhi.
You say on your website, “we believe Entrepreneurs & Startup Enthusiasts of Delhi deserve better”, can you explain what was lacking, and has coworking improved the lives of professionals in Delhi?
24% of all the startups in India are from Delhi, but until now Delhiites weren’t exposed to startup community building. I personally feel that the most integral part of startups is the community building. It’s all about people. At Innov8, we are not focusing on the office spaces, which we provide, rather office spaces are just 10% of our business, and 90% of our focus is on community building.
We organize events (almost 1 per day) based on skill development, which helps entrepreneurs to scale up, build, break and innovate. The idea is to provide an innovative space right in the centre of Delhi where we can converge the biggest talents and create the most vibrant community in Delhi.
I feel that the most vital aspect of a startup is the community building, startups are all about tinkering. They’re about meeting new people, interacting with them and synergizing win-win situations to create growth hacking and disruption within conventional business models.
How would you describe the coworking movement in Delhi? Is it popular, and if not, what are coworking leaders doing in order to help spread the movement?
Delhi is very immature when it comes to coworking awareness. We only got our first coworking centre back in 2012. There is a very thin line between coworking, accelerators and incubation centers in Delhi. Most of the coworking centers in Delhi are not focused on coworking, but rather focused on incubation. At Innov8 we’re very clear about our mission, we’re a pure play-coworking centre and we just aim to build the most vibrant & helpful startup community in the city.
At Innov8, we are also reaching out to the universities and educating the students about coworking. In Delhi people still have a notion that coworking is all about shared office space, but we want to change that.
What types of members do you typically house at Innov8? Are they mostly freelancers or are there members from companies?
We have a strict application process to join our coworking centre. This is for the first time in the world when coworking centers screen the applications before allowing applicants to be a part of the ecosystem. The reason for this process is because we want to keep track of the people who are part of our community. We want to attract the most intellectual and innovative minds.
Today, we focus on getting more entrepreneurs, investors, and product-based startups to be a part of the ecosystem. We are also working on a program to help freelancers build their own products by bringing 2 to 3 freelancers together.
In your experience, is coworking helping to transform work in Delhi. For example, are more corporate entities open to changing their work environment, like using a coworking space?
Not yet, but I feel that over time coworking centers are going to transform the way businesses are done in India. Perceptions of coworking are already changing. For instance, we got a request from the Kotak Mahindra Bank, as they want their CIO & his team to move into Innov8 so they have the chance to think outside the box and have a wider vision of the startup ecosystem.
What types of services do you offer and are there any particular needs that your members have? Such as events, support, education?
Mortar office space is just 10% of what we offer. We believe that more than the office space, what startups need most is the community, mentorship and access to networks. We help them build these networks by creating a fertile ground for ideas via thought leadership. We focus on skill development and also offer a virtual acceleration program where we provide our startups with a startup handbook, which includes the the do’s and don’ts.
How would you describe the design of your space? Were you inspired by any particular model, such as open workrooms, private offices, café, breakout rooms, etc.
We have one of the most beautifully designed campuses in India, we were featured in OfficeLovin, one of the best office design magazines in the world. Our space is a combination of modern design and contemporary artwork.
What seems to be the most effective types of spaces that nurture productivity in your community?
We have an ideation cube, a white boarding room, an amphitheater, common innovation zone as well as an open terrace. These are the areas, which are full of innovation and entrepreneurial drive.
Your site often mentions Silicon Valley. Do you aspire to be the next Silicon Valley or are you creating your own ecosystem specifically for your community? Do you think coworking spaces are important to creating hubs for innovation, and if so, why?
I believe that coworking centers are the mecca of innovation worldwide. We are on a mission to make Delhi as the next Silicon Valley after SFO, Tel Aviv, Bengaluru etc. Silicon Valley is not a real estate, but a mindset; we’re changing the mindset.