You have heard of serviced apartments. It’s the turn of serviced offices now. Lakshmi Krupa on what these plug and play spaces offer

No heavy investments. No need to work on interiors. Or spend on furniture or printers and fax machines. Not even on a pantry. Welcome to the world of serviced offices, where you can one fine day decide to start an office, and in a matter of few hours set one up, without the hassle of rents and brokerage. 

Experts say that in the wake of rising rent costs, a lot of companies, including start-ups, have taken to hiring virtual and serviced offices that are available at a fraction of the regular cost. These alternative workplaces attract freelancers, small firms, start-ups, entrepreneurs looking to save space and money, or companies that want to set up a branch office in a different city. Efficiency is the mantra of the serviced office.

Regus, founded in 1989, is a global provider of flexible workspaces and serviced offices. In India, the Regus network of nearly 50 business centres in 12 cities provides fully serviced spaces for people to work, for time periods ranging from a few minutes to a few years. Sahil Verma, COO – India, Regus, says, “Flexibility is one of the key benefits of a serviced office. At Regus, we also offer virtual office, meeting rooms, business lounges and video communications.”

The serviced office industry attributes much of its growth to the shift in the way companies operate. “This is in line with global research findings that suggest a shift towards flexible working,” says Verma.

Regus’ January 2014 research found that Indian businesses should be focusing on offering flexible working in order to improve retention. In Chennai, Regus has office spaces in the Citi Centre building in RK Salai, Shyamala Towers in Vadapalani, Olympia in Guindy, RMZ Millenia in Perungudi and there is another opening shortly at Prince Infocity II, Perungudi.

At DBS office business centres “walk in and get down to business” is the basic idea. In these ‘instant offices’ DBS saw the opportunity of providing business houses and entrepreneurs fully-furnished and equipped offices in major Indian cities ahead of several other companies. The three-decade old firm offers such spaces across the country including Chennai. Rama Devi, Manager, DBS, say, “We have close to 80 serviced offices that can hold anywhere between one person to 20 people. There are different workstations of different sizes and people can mix and match according to their needs.” Devi explains that IT, products and engineering goods firms seek such spaces often.

“From pharmaceutical to IT, lawyers to retailers, manufacturers to government agencies, there is no business sector absent from our customer roll-call,” says Verma of the clients who come to Regus. 

“From pantry to fax, xerox and conference halls, for Rs.10,000 per person, a company can have access to a lot of services that are ready-to-use,” says Devi.

When Twitter decided to enter the Indian market, it knew the Regus network of offices would be ideal to set base in the country without committing capital upfront and with the flexibility, speed and convenience it wanted.

“To streamline growth further, Twitter signed global terms with Regus such that each time they want to expand in a new location, all they need to do is move into a Regus office with no hassles or delays,” says Verma.

While DBS offers its clients an agreement, it is also common to get into a lease or a licence when it comes to such rentals.

SC Raghuram of Rank Associates explains, “Companies can either opt for a lease like most owners and tenants. Or they can go in for a licence, which is what most serviced spaces use.” A licence, for instance, is what stores in airports acquire.

“The lessor retains full control over the property. You can operate from it when they open it. You will not have access to it 24*7 but only at the stipulated office hours,” Raghuram explains.

Stressing on the huge growth this industry is seeing, Verma says, “Regus is on track to achieve a network of at least 2,000 business centres globally by 2014 and a large proportion of growth will come from emerging markets such as India. From Bangalore to Mumbai to Berlin or Bahrain, we can have you working anywhere in the world in a matter of hours.”