ââTill two decades ago, âGorakhpur was indisputablyâ the crime capital ofâ ââUttar Pradesh. âIn fact, the BBC âonce gave it the moniker 'India's Chicago', for it had all the elements of a âmafia-run cityâ, âfrom syndicated crimeâ to gangland bossesâ. Of late, the city has gained prominence on the country's political map for another reasonââit was the Lok Sabhaâ âconstituency of the state's chief minister Yogi Adityanath.
Something futuristic like a co-working space âfor startupsâ ââin the same city, therefore, will be seen with both hope and scepticism. Hope, that the newâ-age economy âand âentrepreneurshipâ are going beyondâ âthe metros âand inspiring the youth in small townsâ. Sceptisicm, that it's a politically engineered move to generateâ goodwillâ âat a time when startups have become âintegral to âgovernment propaganda.
But for âââArunn Guptaa, founder ofâ animation school âAniClick Animation, âthe reason to open a co-working space was straightforward. Several freelancers and entrepreneursâ, he says, were finding itâ âdifficult to âââget affordable workspaces âon rent. âTo cater to them, âGuptaa launched Startâup CafÃ©, a 50-seater âshared âworkspace, âwith an investment of Rs 30 lakhâ in Augustâââ.â
âGuptaa âholds a masterâs âdegree âin animation. But he is no greenhorn when it comes to the startup and consumer Internet spaceââhe was previouslyâ a vendor on eâ-âcommerce platforms âlike Flipkart and Amazon, selling âapparel, among other things.
âLike any other shared workspace, Startup CafÃ© offersâ basic amenities âsuch as electricity, âInternet, printers and meeting rooms with videoâ-conferencingâ âfacilitâyâ. â It offers three pricing packagesâ: Rs 199â per hour, Rs 499â per day and Rs 4â,â999â per month.â
Change is in the air
âââGorakhpur is a small city âbut it's rapidly changing. It's more of business cityâ, rather than serviceâ-focussed. More than 50% of the population is online and the number is increasing day by day. Due to good âInternet connectivity, the youth are focuâsâsing on their own startups than âopt for jobs,â Guptaa âexplains.â
He claims the co-working space has âseven clientsâ, and âthe team is screening â25 âother ârequests.â âââExisting clients include a group of students developing an edâ-âtech mobile app and websiteâ, a freelance social activist and author, and âa localâ ânewsâ ââoutfit âthat primarilyâ âââpublishââes local developments on a Facebook pageâ.
âWe are confident about reaching 100% occupancy soon. First, âthe officeâ is at a prime location and it has all âthe ârequired amenities. Second, we havenât done any marketing or advertâising so farâ. We are planning to start âa marketing campaign soon and it wouldnât be a challenge to acquire enough clients,ââ âGuptaa âsays confidently.
He is also setting up a coâ-âworking space in Varanasi, the âLok Sabha âconstituency of Prime Minister Narâendra Modi.â ââThe facility is expected to be launched sometime this monthâ.
ââWe decided on Varanasi because we donât have any competition there. Other big cities like Noida and Ghaziabad already have co-working spaces,â ââGuptaa âsays.â He also plans to launch such centres in Lucknow and Allahabad.â
âWhile âStartup CafÃ© is âunâarguably the first âshared âworkspace to come up in âthe âpoliticallyâ-sensitive region of eastâern Uâttar âPâradeshâ,â âtheâ âco-working culture is âspreading wings throughout the country. Besides âmetroâs,â âshared workspacesâ âare popping up in smaller towns such as Mangalore, Trivandrum, Ahmedabad, Bhubaneswar, Pune and Jaipur.â
ââSeveral co-working space âstartups have emerged in India âin recent years.â 91springboard, Innov8, CoLife, InstaOffice, The Office Pass, Creator's Gurukul and Awfis are some of the âprominent ones.
âMany of these co-working startups have also âattractâed significant venture capital investmentsâ.
In September, âDelhi-based 91springboardâ raised fundâs from Sandway Investment Ltd, Pearl Brook Holdings, AMA Holdings, Silo Holdings and Al Nour.â It has so far over $20 million.
âThe same month, âcricketer âYuvraj Singh-backed Creatorâs Gurukulâ âraised an undisclosed amount of funding from a clutch of investors.â
âIn June, co-working startup BHIVE raised $1.2 million in fresh funding led by existing investor Blume Ventures.â
âOther co-working startups that have elicited investor âinterest include Delhi-based Awfis, which raised $20 million in a Series B round from Sequoia Capital in April.â âIn the same month, The Office Pass, launched by Makaan co-founder Aditya Verma, raised seed investment from a group of individual investorsâ.
âIn February, Innov8 raised angel funding from Venture Catalysts and individual investorsâ including Paytmâs Vijay Shekhar Sharma and Googleâs Rajan Anandan, through the LetsVenture platform.â
âIn January, Gurgaon-based InstaOffice raised pre-Series A funding led by online venture capital platform Globevestor and other angel investorsâ âincluding Topprâs Zishaan Hayath.