A universe of its own – the new Smartworks Hub in Chennai

In a few months, if you find yourself inside the Smartworks complex, make sure you say hi to Smart Mitri, the friendly office robot zipping down the halls. The co-working space on OMR is set to launch an AI robot to meet and greet visitors at its Chennai offices.

Who wouldn’t like a robot in their office? Coming to think of it, a cafe in the corridor would be nice too. As would ergonomically-designed monochrome offices, food courts, indoor games and after-hours parties. These are features that most co-working spaces on OMR boast of. In fact, the companies maintain that their clients perform better with the distractions!

More than workspaces

Smartworks claims its USP is its ‘SmartWeekenday’ program. Everything from stand-up comedy, dance, and live music to meditation, chair yoga, and pet therapy is offered.

It helps perk up your mood and is a great way to de-stress from work and daily routine,” says client Dushyanth Jayachandra, Zonal Sales Manager at OLX.

Another co-working space on OMR, Workfella, is sprawled over 120,000 square feet of campus. It reaches out to SMEs and entrepreneurs through its concierge services, including HR recruitment, training, hotel, flight and cab bookings. It is also looking to add a first-of-its-kind health initiative by 2019.

Another big factor that attracts clients to these workspaces is their ability to hold the fort down in case of natural disasters. After Cyclone Vardah, Workafella tenants could pick up their business at centres in any other city as well. This built goodwill, which in turn, convinced clients to continue renting the space out.

Dilip Balakrishnan, President at Serendebyte Inc., who rents space at Workafella, says, “I think co-working is a great concept. When I first started my company five years back, my plan was to use a co-working office for the first couple of years until we reached around 15 to 20 employees. Then we could switch to a traditional rental model. We found the model so beneficial, that today at close to 100 employees, we are still here.”

Workafella’s founder and Managing Director, Gurbinder Rattha credits its success to the lower real estate prices in OMR: “We can offer rates under ₹12,000 per seat, versus ₹13-14,000 in our offices in the city.”

The co-working major also provides free conference space to women entrepreneurs and reaches out to all-female startups — a gesture that’s been good for business.

But why OMR?

Another major player in the IT-dominated area is Cowrks. Located on the sprawling RMZ campus on OMR, Cowrks boasts an elite clientele, energetic ambience mirroring international trends, its own connect app and after-hours events. Sienam Lulla, Director-Revenue, South at Cowrks, says “We are looking to create a ‘third space’ that augments the workspace and home-space for our users. While the experience is similar across locations, the design is customised to reflect the local flavour.”

Tariq Akbar, CEO, LegalEase, who rents co-working space in the OMR Cowrks campus, says it was an easy choice to make, after moving from the heart of the city. “I was okay with the OMR location given the connectivity with the city. The vibe is really nice. A bunch of startups, the average age being 25, having social events that happen on the weekend… All of it brings a level of energy to the employees that are harder to manage on your own as a small company.”

While freelancers and startups prefer co-working, it’s the enterprise that is the biggest player in this market. Neetish Sarda, Founder of Smartworks, says his footprint in the area mirrors this pattern. “Episource, a U.S headquartered company, has occupied eight of the ten floors at our OMR Centre. We have rightly seen major growth of office spaces in OMR; our centre too was booked 90% within three months of its launch. Owing to this demand, we will soon be launching a third facility in Chennai,” says Sarda, sounding quite optimistic.

Software company NGP Web Smart, a client of Workafella, narrows the rise in co-working spaces down to one simple reason: productivity. Says Director Swaminathan Krishnan, “As a software development company, our productivity has gone up significantly after we moved into a co-working space — We just focused on what we are good at and rest all is taken care of, by Workafella.”

That’s the consensus. Co-working is the way to go, and since location matters, OMR is set to grow.