Smartworks by Neetish Sarda- redefining workplace experience

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Long commutes, the pressure to reduce capital, operational expenses and employee retention, etc.. are among the few challenges faced by every business. This has made the initial trend of having larger office set-ups with huge fixed costs outdated and has welcomed a revolutionary shift in office space dynamics which demands innovative and flexible workspace. The cost optimization strategies also form a part of this trend. Although, the move has been accepted by the enterprise industry but lacked innovation. Smartworks bridged this gap and decided to redefine the Indian office experience.

Smartworks Coworking Spaces Private Limited (Smartworks) was founded by Neetish Sarda in the year 2016 and was later joined by Harsh Binani, co- founder in 2017. The supreme quality design, best hospitality, advanced technology, and loyal clientele together, helped the company to climb up the ladders of success in lesser time. The services provided by Smartworks apart from offering co-working space also include configured office solutions, networking activities and end-to-end amenities such as crèche facility and health and wellness programs.

Smartworks currently has 23 operational centers in nine cities offering a total of about 43,000 workstations spread over 2.3 million sq. ft. catering to over 400 organizations. The company has won the hearts of many big brands with their world-class service including Amazon Web Services, Bacardi Limited, DHL, Ernst & Young, Hitachi, Jaguar Land Rover Automotive PLC, Microsoft Corporation, PETRONAS, Red Hat, Ricoh, and Samsung. The company plans to expand its accessibility to 20 million sq. ft. and provide solutions for over 2, 00,000 work professionals.

To know more about this interesting and innovative venture, let us have a chat with Neetish Sarda-Founder, Smartworks.

Inventiva: What is the Name of Your Venture? Any specific reason for this name?
Smartworks Coworking Spaces Private Limited (Smartworks) 
 
Inventiva: Where your venture is based (city, state, country) & what are your geographical target areas?
Headquartered in Delhi/NCR, Smartworks has grown rapidly to become India’s market-leading provider of quality flexible spaces for enterprise companies. Presently, Smartworks has 23 operational centres in nine cities offering a total of about 43,000 workstations spread over 2.3 million sf. Our centres currently cater to over 400 organisations, comprising mainly large enterprises and high-growth startups such as Amazon Web Services, Bacardi Limited, DHL, Ernst & Young, Hitachi, Jaguar Land Rover Automotive PLC, Microsoft Corporation, Petronash, Red Hat, Ricoh and Samsung.
Over the next five years, we plan to grow our footprint to 20 million sq. ft and provide office solutions for over 200,000 working professionals.

Apart from focusing on these nine cities, we aim to expand our footprint into Tier-II cities as the coworking industry is witnessing smaller towns as a favorable investment market for the corporates considering their talent pool.
 
Inventiva: Who is your target Audience/clients?
Smartworks has focused on the managed office experience for enterprises since inception – offering a significant value proposition on employee engagement and capital efficiency. Today, we are India’s largest managed office space provider to enterprises- Indian and Global MNCs, comprising of Fortune 500 companies.

90% of our total client base comprises of enterprises such as Microsoft, Amazon, Daikin, Samsung, Deluxe, Tata Communications, Schaeffler, Samsung, E&Y, and Hitachi. We are an office experience company committed to offering solutions to clients that make their employees more productive and provide them with hassle-free office experience. 
 
Inventiva: What problems does your venture resolve? What are your products or services?
There is a considerable shift in workplaces today from how they used to be a few years ago. Every aspect of the work environment demands different attention – be it technology, social atmosphere, design element, or other amenities at work. The traditional offices have seen limited innovation over the last few years and are out of sync of millennial expectations. Enterprises today understand that the workplace is no-longer meant only for business activities. There is an array of things that need to be introduced to cater to enhanced productivity, changing millennial mindsets, and ensuring the happiness of employees at the workplace. 
We started Smartworks in 2016, with a focus on design, hospitality, technology, and customer delight experience. We aim to provide a completely managed and configured office spaces with world-class facilities in a collaborative community environment. Our focus is to ensure that our members get an extremely well-managed and inspiring workspace that adds to their productivity and reduces attrition.  
 
Inventiva: Share the idea or story behind the venture. How did it come to existence? What motivated you to start your own venture?
My exposure to the futuristic workspaces of the likes of Google, Microsoft in the US, and Singapore as a college student helped me a lot to realize the potential of similar disruption in India, which can contribute to the overall employee engagement and productivity.

At that time, across India, traditional workspaces were slowly beginning to evolve into modern formats, but that evolution was not taking place fast enough when compared to the western world. Limited innovation and a slow development pace, was just the fuel I needed to enhance the entire corporate work format further to increase productivity and create an experience. 

That is when I decided to create an unparalleled office experience for Indian office goers, which is both accessible and affordable. Since then, there has been no looking back, and we have created a new market altogether by bringing the best elements of conventional office space and a coworking space.


Inventiva: Who are your biggest competitors, and how do you differentiate yourself from them?
Today, there are many coworking players in the market, but we don’t think that we are competing with any of them. The category is the same, but we have always been targeting large enterprises who are in the lookout for traditional office space and not just a coworking space. We are a managed office space provider, an office experience company. 

Our focus is on Enterprises and not independent professionals, freelancers, or budding start-ups. We have a large format, which means, on average, we lease out 10,000 sq.ft., area to a company (translate into approx. 250-300 seats) with an average tenure of 3 years. 90% of our clientele are these enterprises who are expanding in a particular region but don’t wish to invest in real estate or companies looking forward to opening their regional headquarters

Given our experience and the knowledge of real estate, we can provide configured workspaces to our clients within four to six weeks as compared to traditional workspace providers who take 9-10 months to deliver the same. 

At Smartworks, we have various recreational activities and community engagement programs, “Smartweekenday,” that ensure our members stay productive as well as energetic in office. We host an array of wellness activities, knowledge sessions, food fests, indoor games, and tournaments such as foosball, chess, tambola, TT, art, pet therapies, and live band, among others.

We realize the importance of work-life balance, and hence we have tied up with various partners to provide services to our members at the click of a button. These include concierge services, grocery and laundry services, and much more.
 
Inventiva: How did you identify your co-founder? Tell us something about your co-founder/s
In April 2016, Smartworks made its foray into the Indian market with its differentiated offering of ‘fully managed office spaces.’ To strengthen our leadership further, we on boarded, Harsh Binani, who comes with a strong background in strategy and operations from McKinsey& Co after having spent over five years. While I have prior in-depth Real Estate experience, Harsh strengthens our marketing and strategy. 
 
Harsh, during his time at Kellogg School of Management, Harsh also got an exposure to US culture, which helped him realize the importance of employee productivity and engagement at the workplace. He has also worked as a Chief of Staff at Medanta Medicity, spearheading critical strategic initiatives for the CEO. 
 
At Smartworks, Harsh has envisioned the overall strategic roadmap of the company, driving product development, customer experience, technology, and marketing. He is passionate about building a healthy work culture not only for Smartworks but also for our member companies. Analytical, straightforward, and focused, he ensures that Smartworks is on a fast growth track, and delivers value across clients.  
 
Inventiva: What skills do you want in your employees/team?
Today we are operating in a highly dynamic and agile environment, where change is the only constant, a right fit to our kind of work environment and industry would be someone who is a quick learner, is high on energy, has the ability to look at things differently and doesn’t mind being thrown in different situations to learn all along. While technical knowledge is important when we look at prospective candidates for a role, high degree of passion and potential among them becomes equally important. Domain knowledge is something people tend to learn on the job or on training sessions within the company. But passion is something that cannot be learnt, it is an inherent trait.

During the hiring process we ask for real life scenarios (both from their past experience as well as from other cordons of their life) to gauge how they would be fitting in the Smartworks zealous team/people who are setting newer benchmarks every day.
 
Inventiva: What expansion plans are you looking for in the next five years?
Smartworks approaches the idea of space as being one of the transformative aspects of business, which can help unleash the potential of employees by enabling them to work smarter and better in a shared space.
 
We recently leased out India’s largest coworking facility in Koregaon Park, Pune. It is a 5.00.000 sq.ft. facility and will be operational by 2021.
Our expansion as India’s largest, agile workspace provider is a testament to the need for businesses of new India. Smartworks has established a footprint of 2.3 million sq. ft. across 23 locations in 9 cities in India and emerged as the market leader in Chennai and Pune on a consolidated basis. The coworking industry is gaining momentum at high speed, and the industry has witnessed a rampant increase of new players. We plan to expand our footprint to 20 million square feet within the next 4-5 years.
  
Inventiva: Have you raised any funding? Or have any plans for the funding?
Recently, we recently raised funding of $25 million from Singapore-based Keppel Land recently, on a minority stake. Going forward, we are planning to utilize this strategic investment to expand and grow exponentially in the nine cities where we have our presence at the moment. We are also considering making inroads into smaller cities such as Coimbatore, Ahmedabad, Bhubaneswar, and Chandigarh. 
 
We are sure that our innovative business model, coupled with our strong knowledge of the Indian enterprise office segment and execution abilities, is highly scalable and relevant, particularly in India’s growing market for commercial office spaces.

Inventiva: What were the problems you faced during the starting days, and how did you resolve them?
At the start of our journey in the year 2016, we focused mostly on startups and freelancers as they were the primary seekers of coworking solutions. However, over time, we realized that to revolutionize the way offices function in India truly, we would need to cater to large enterprises and MNCs.

Initially, one of the hurdles faced by us was challenging the preconceived notions of MNCs and Indian enterprise giants, who were reluctant to leave their comfort zones and trust a coworking space with their operations. We focused on providing a holistic experience to our customers and not just a traditional office space. Right from the infrastructure, technology, employee engagement activities, productivity-driven programs, configured offices, we catered to every need of our customers. We believed in providing cutting-edge innovation and technology for a seamless work environment. This has worked because we were able to add value in terms of lending vibrancy, boosting productivity, and ensuring employee happiness. So, convincing that 1st big corporate was difficult as compared to the 401st now. 

We have the potential to cater to 97% of the office market demand in the country, and today this customer segment forms more than 90% of our clientele. It has grown threefold since our inception in 2016 —both in numbers and revenue terms. The opportunity is enormous, and we stay committed to offering an Indian office experience with global standards.
 
Inventiva: What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
The hobby that brings me the most peace is playing cricket. No matter what is going on around me, after playing cricket for a while, I feel restored, calm, and happy.
 
Inventiva: Whom do you consider your idol or biggest motivator?
My father has always been my idol and biggest motivator. One of the greatest lessons that I have learned from him is to follow your dream, no matter what obstacles come in the way. He taught me not to be afraid of taking risks, staying relevant and current, while ensuring a healthy work-life balance. Today, as I lead Smartworks towards newer avenues, I understand the value of each one of those lessons. 
 
Inventiva: How has being an entrepreneur affected your family & Social life?
Honestly, there hasn’t been much of a difference, as I always believed in working towards my passion. So, I feel right about being extremely committed to my work. 
 
Yes, being entrepreneurs, my business partner and I are literally living our lives out of suitcases, we’re flying and working extensively, but that’s what boosts our ambition to be the industry leaders of tomorrow. 
 
Inventiva: Anything you would like to say to our readers or upcoming entrepreneurs?
I would urge all the Inventiva readers and future entrepreneurs to work on something unique. The only way to go about this is working on something unique, as you can’t afford to sit around hoping someone else will come along to help you execute your idea. So, take control and Start today. Focus on setting and achieving small but incremental goals rather than trying to start a business and instantly building your vision of what the company should be in the years to come. Setting realistic goals and achievable milestones is a significant component of accomplishing long-term success. 

Inventiva: Tell us something about your education & family background.
I graduated from SIM Global Education, Singapore, in finance and also held a degree in Accounting & Finance from Purdue University, Indiana. 
I belong to a business family. During the initial days of my career, I was inducted in the family business, which had a strong employee base of 50000. This is where I got hands-on exposure to the Group’s manufacturing units, real estate, and IT divisions, which gave me a broader perspective on managing different aspects of the business. I have also worked with two major real estate developers – Space Group and PS Group in the past. 

Before my entrepreneurial journey, I had a very rewarding stint with Vision Comptech Integrators Ltd. as their Business Development Director. 

With extensive experience in real estate, construction, and business operations, my current focus is on creating a wholly managed and configurable offices complemented by thriving communities that encourage collaboration and networking. 
 
Inventiva: What do you think is the biggest challenge to the success of small businesses & Start-ups today?
The biggest challenge, as per me, would be the ever-growing competition from other coworking players. Rather than competing neck-to-neck with the other industry players, the new business entrants should come up with a model that is unique and exclusive, which complements the industry trends and service. 
 
Inventiva: Do you consider yourself successful, and by what means do you measure success?
“The tallest oak in the forest was once just a little nut that held its ground.” For me, success is the sum of small efforts with a complete focus and dedication towards what you do or love to do. 
 
I always believed that no feeling is greater or better than creating something on your own, growing something from nothing, nurturing the idea, and watching it grow by leaps and bounds. Constant innovation and newer ways to ensure client happiness is what makes me feel happy and empowers me to thrive more. Smartworks has a long way to go and achieve new milestones in the growing coworking industry in India. 

 
Inventiva: Please share complete name, address, phone number, email id, & website of Your Business & Contact Person
 
Smartworks Coworking Spaces Private Limited (Smartworks)
Mr. Neetish Sarda, Founder Smartworks
Mr. Harsh Binani, Co-Founder, Smartworks 
Address: Smartworks Corporate Park, Sector 125, Noida, Uttar Pradesh 201303 
Phone: 084489 80480

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