Chartered Accountants Narayan Bhargava and Kushal Bhargava have been servicing in the BFSI sector since early 2000s. In an interaction with YourStory, Kushal says that their clients always wanted to expand their business to Tier II and III cities. “That is where the real business is,” he says.
However, all the businesses faced one issue — the cost of setting up offices beyond the metros was higher than the businesses anticipated. “Higher capex investment, lack of complaint buildings, and deep routed broker nexus added to the complications,” Kushal says.
This led the father-son duo to start a ‘mall of services’ to empower modern businesses to materialise their expansion plans. Founded in 2016, Mumbai-based MyBranch helps corporates set up offices in smaller cities. The business, which is present across 25 cities in India, provides sales function to corporates, besides helping them with compliance building within the local markets in Tier II and Tier III cities.
The startup is currently providing services to corporates like Flipkart, PhonePe, Franklin, SBI Cards, Tata Communications, Carrier and Bosch, to name a few. “We are their local sales office,” Kushal says.
Journey so far
MyBranch was founded with the aim to empower modern businesses to materialise their expansion plans and make more profits. And like most startups, the first year for MyBranch was all about challenges and learning from them.
Initially, MyBranch created a mock office for customers to visit. “We were expecting a pat on the back from the prospective customers, but what came out was very different,” Kushal recalls.
Customers did not want a slick office for their staff residing beyond the metros. Some of MyBranch’s prospective customers did not even want air-conditioners in the offices. They only wanted a clean office, with all property compliances.
“They made us change the way we were looking at things and we had to go back to the drawing board,” Kushal says. “Our clients (from the BSFI sector) subsequently became our customers. They had more belief in us than we had in ourselves,” he adds.
While helping corporates expand to Tier II and III cities, MyBranch set up its headquarters in Mumbai. “We needed to experiment with the design and layout of the office, and so we had to be close to the manufacturing set up, which was in Navi Mumbai,” Kushal explains.
MyBranch had to showcase its mock sales offices to the corporates and get their feedback before the soft launch. Thus, having the head office in the financial capital — where decisions are made, made sense.
Narayan is a CA and ICWA. He comes with over 40 years of experience in the BFSI sector. He is the Chairman and MD of Narayan Bhargava Group — the parent company of MyBranch, Calibehr & NS Bhargava & Co (Chartered Accountants). Narayan brings his deep understanding of businesses and office spaces to the table.
His son, Kushal, also a CA, brings in business strategy, strong focus on technology and profitability to the startup. Kushal has previously worked as a consultant with Shell Transource.
Currently, the team has more than 40 employees.
How does it work?
MyBranch provides ready-to-move in offices to its corporate clients. It works on a plug-and-play model. The startup takes care of the admin activities of the sales office — including the front desk and meeting room management.
“Our corporate clients compare us with co-working companies. When they understand our solution, they realise there is no competition in this space,” Kushal says.
The startup caters to MSMEs and large corporates. Its host of solutions include sales desks, SME workplaces, managed offices, and virtual offices. Additionally, it also provides services for customer visits and brand building. It allows corporates with space to do their branding, both inside and outside the office. At any given point of time, MyBranch can assist companies in setting up their office across 13 states in India.
“We have a couple of MSME clients who have taken virtual office solutions across states for GST (Goods and Service Tax) registration,” Kushal says.
One of the biggest challenges the startup faces is finding a compliant building in smaller cities and towns. The supply of compliant buildings is limited and there is a strong broker nexus in these cities. In addition, none of the property listing sites cover Tier II and III cities, so there is no primary data available.
To overcome this, MyBranch is creating its own database for the respective markets and has created a strong sourcing team.
Bootstrapped since inception, MyBranch provides customised services to its customers. Corporate clients can choose the size of the office and the number of seats according to their requirements. Additionally, they get to decide if they choose to invest in branding inside and outside the offices. Thus, the pricing model is not fixed. However, the price per seat ranges between Rs 6,000 and Rs 10,000.
Over 90 percent of the startup’s revenue comes from the sale of seats. Additionally, the startup generates revenue from its virtual office services — GST registration, meeting room, and expense management of clients.
Currently, MyBranch has more than 70 active clients across sectors, and has over 200 customers across all the revenue functions (sale of seats and virtual office services). Kushal says, “We have been witnessing over 40 percent growth year-on-year since inception.” However, COVID-19 has slowed down the decision-making process by corporates.
Market overview and future plans
According to Statista, the real-estate industry in India was valued at around $50 billion in 2008, and is expected to grow to $853 billion by 2028. According to the Global Co-working Unconference Conference (GCUC), there were around 1.7 million coworking members across the globe in 2017, which is expected to touch the five million mark by 2022.
Players like 99Springboard, Awfis, WeWork, and CoWorks have all started entering the Tier II and Tier III markets of the country. However, Kushal says that MyBranch has a differentiator to offer.
“Our USP is that we provide sales offices across India for corporates. We have positioned ourselves as the expansion partner in Tier II and III cities. Due to this, we are not competing with any of the 300 plus space partners across India,” he says. He adds that its website has over 10 percent conversion rate.
Currently, MyBranch is working with promoter funds and is yet to approach VCs. Its next round of expansion will be done through internal accrual and expansion through managed offices. “Managed offices are profitable from day one,” Kushal says.
The startup is also looking at working on a partnership model with landlords.