Picture this. You saunter into office at an hour of your choice, sip on Italian coffee, work on your assignment, take a power nap, run on a treadmill, change in the shower room, connect with a dynamic mix of people for a possible tie-up, and attend a networking event before retiring for the day. Sounds like a tempting proposition? The city now has an increasing number of co-working spaces for freelancers to do just that, without hurting your wallet by spending long hours in a café.
This will sound appealing to any professional who finds it difficult to be productive in isolation, sitting in their PJs at home. Co-working spaces offer a shared working environment for varied groups like independent work professionals, consultants, coaches, bootstrapped startups, fledgling entrepreneurs and freelancers who value their autonomy but are looking for an affordable source of structure and discipline in their professional lives. The milieu is informal and the communal space generally has an open layout.
In most places, you can choose from daily to monthly plans. These spaces offer the benefits of a corporate office like desks, internet access, printers, scanners, white boards, unlimited beverages, projectors, pantries with microwaves and refrigerators, cabins, conference rooms, lockers and plug points. Instead of getting locked in a lease, many digital nomads are increasingly choosing to be members of such spaces. The co-working movement worldwide aspires to adhere to the values of community, collaboration, sustainability and learning. Here’s a roundup of some Mumbai’s noteworthy co-working spaces.
Ministry of New
Timing: Monday-Friday: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Location: Kitab Mahal, Fort
Price: Starts at Rs. 5,500 for five days in a month
Adorned with the likes of Jaipur rugs, artworks by Lekha Washington, ikat cushions and a ‘crow chair’ created in collaboration with Bombay Atelier, this is a design-led co-working and event space. Sprawled across 8,000 sq ft. on the third floor of Kitab Mahal in Mumbai’s heritage area Fort, the biggest draw of Ministry of New is its high ceilings. The design draws influence from the Dutch origin of its co-founders, Marlies Bloemendaal and Natascha Chadha, who believe that co-working is not just a way of working but a lifestyle. The high-end boutique space also aims to offer services like legal advice and help with sourcing the right manufacturer to expats who want to set up shop in the country. Ministry of New supports collaborators by showcasing their work in their space, promoting it through their public relations network, as well as through their digital media reach. The outdoor-indoor corridor and the swing in the library are the popular spots. The other areas are the brainstorm room, team rooms, boardroom and a meeting room. The natural light, the cafe and the heritage arcs also make this an ideal place for client lunch meetings.
Timing: Monday-Friday: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday: 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Location: Santa Cruz (West)
Price: Starts at Rs.100 for an hour and Rs. 500 for a daily plan
Housed inside a bungalow nestled in a quiet by-lane, Workbay — although located in Santa Cruz —is at a walkable distance from Khar station. Unlike most co-working spaces, there are no bean bags. But you can use the flex desks and the dedicated desks (members only) apart from the soundproof meeting room. The large windows and the peaceful locality make it a very conducive space for writers. Their USP is a zone-wise Wi-Fi arrangement that ensures uninterrupted connectivity. They also offer the facility of courier pick-up among the regular amenities. Workbay holds events like master classes and seminars to enable learning of new skills or connecting with fellow professionals.
Timing: Monday to Saturday: open 24x7 for members
Price: Flexible payment plans are available. Prices are disclosed on booking a tour online.
Located in what is commonly known as India’s Silicon Valley: Hiranandani Gardens in Powai, OF10 aspires to be the incubation ground of millennials. Decorated with curated artworks and customised furniture, the expanse of 6,000 sq. ft. has a quintessentially new-age vibe. Their features include in-house venture capitalists, coffee and snacks, a community library and a game room with Playstation 4. They call their meeting rooms ‘Break Out Rooms’ since they are only designed to be occupied for assimilation at the end of the day. A strict selection process precedes the membership. Of10 will not admit two companies from the same field. While it is only open to key decision makers and not back-office teams of small companies, they consider freelancers as key decision makers who steer their own growth. They also conduct events like yoga sessions and movie screenings.
Timing: Monday-Friday: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Location: Social outposts at: Colaba, Todi Mill, Phoenix Mills, Khar, Goregaon, Andheri
Price: Rs. 5,000 for a monthly membership
Café, bar and collaborative workspace, Social or AntiSocial offers more bang for your buck. The membership can be redeemed for food and beverages during work hours. Designed more like an urban hangout, the décor of the Social outposts varies with the location. A flat membership fee gives you access to all the facilities: high-speed internet, printers, scanners, retro booths which could serve as team rooms depending on which Social outpost it is. Spurring an open format, Social does not allocate spaces or cabins. Despite the workspace and the café or bar being in separate areas, the partition is not a solid one. Though this is not a deal breaker, this may not be the most serene place to work. The space is also used to host poetry readings, art exhibitions, musical evenings, workshops, design showcases and literary evenings.
Timing: Monday to Saturday: 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Price: Starts at Rs. 300 for a daily plan
Designer and filmmaker Karan Talwar and researcher/filmmaker Michaela Strobel recognizing the paucity of freelancer-friendly spaces in Mumbai, decided to open up their arts studio earlier this year. Frequented by designers, coders and writers, the vibrant studio is housed in a bungalow amidst trees. The furniture is designed with repurposed material and the space has the vibe of a working living room. The office boy ensures that you drink freshly brewed tea or coffee and can also run errands for you. A monthly membership guarantees a fixed desk. The open courtyard is a popular space. Harkat also offers a rehearsal space on hire. Also on offer are vegetarian meals for Rs. 2,000 per month or Rs. 100 daily.
Timing: Monday to Saturday: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Location: Vashi, Andheri (East), Andheri (West), Vile Parle, Powai, Lower Parel, Churchgate, Marine Drive
Price: Rs. 400 for a daily plan
Designed by international design firm Nelson and billed as the ecosystem of workspaces for the ‘small medium individual local entrepreneurs’, the multi-chain Awfis features activity-based settings. This includes two-person meeting pods and phone booths for conversations. It enables members to book work desks, private cabins, meeting rooms, business centres across India on a real time basis. Members can lease custom-sized multi-location workspaces on a flexible lease tenure that can range from an hour to a year, depending on work requirements. One of the aspects of Awfis that hits the mark is the strong technology platform seeking to be the Uber of offices. You can book a space via the app (available on IOS and Android) on a just-in-time basis. Awfis also offers accounting, legal, recruitment and web management services to members.
Timing: Monday to Saturday: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Location: Versova, Powai and Borivali
Price: Rs. 399 for a daily pass
Reducing the real estate footprint, Workplax utilises ‘dine only’ places like restaurants, pubs and lounges as co-working spaces during their off hours. Like all the other spaces, they offer tea and coffee, but the technological assistance is limited to power outlets, internet, WiFi and printers (in some outlets). The operations are restricted to a few restaurants like The House in Versova and On the Go Veg Lounge in Borivali and The Hill Green in Vikhroli. Founded by an IIT graduate, Workplax aims to build a network of affordable working spaces.
Timing: Mon to Saturday: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Price: Starts at Rs. 499 for a daily plan
When Gargi Shah, the co-founder of The Playce was looking for an office for her startup, she teamed up with Shekhar Gurav, who was also struggling with finding a space for his small enterprise. They persuaded an owner with 5,500 sq. ft. real estate in Mumbai to be a co-founder and The Playce was born. The drive to help entrepreneurs and the possibility of crosspollination of ideas led Shah to start this co-working space in the north-east of the city. Its claim to fame is the fact that it hosted India’s first official Quora meetup.
Timing: Monday to Sunday: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Location: Andheri (East)
Price: Starts at Rs. 3,500 per month A collaborative space with a difference that brings together engineers, architects, designers, artists, academics and healthcare professionals to work on interdisciplinary projects. Membership offers access to tools and technology like 3D printers, laser cutters, electronics lab and prototyping tools for woodworking, robotics, bicycle building and repair. Unfortunately, when the ceiling of EyeNetra’s office in Mumbai collapsed, it ruined their furniture. Founder Vaibhav Chhabra, a carpenter by passion asked people on social media to help him rebuild the tables. This community kept expanding until he finally became Maker’s Asylum.
Dipti Kharude is a Mumbai-based freelance writer
Other co-working spaces to look out for:
Look it up: www.bombay-connect.com
Location: Lower Parel
Look it up: www.zencafe.co
Our First Office
Location: Churchgate, Lower Parel, Nariman Point
Look it up: www.ourfirstoffice.com
Look it up: igloo.org.in
Look it up: www.workloft.in