Founded by Ruchi Chaudhary and Arjun Ahlawat in 2016, Cosphere is a space aggregator that provides its customers an enabling facility and environment. HerSaga talks to the dynamic woman behind the company, Ruchi Chaudhary.
The Personal Experience
Ruchi Chaudhary first saw a co-working space in New York five years ago and was immediately impressed by the idea of sharing workspace with others after getting used to the idea. After trying wework for 10 days, she realized at the amazing opportunities that arise from the easy solution that also helps overcome unnecessary office politics. Not only do you get to make great connections, play a sport, get mentors, you never miss out on any of these things just because you didn’t have money to start your own office.
When Ruchi Chaudhary moved back to India in late 2015, new businesses, start-ups, freelancers were on an all time rise and aspiring to hire the best team and space to work. Unfortunately, India’s office space was still mostly driven by long lease and high deposits.
Whilst there have been co-working spaces that have come up but sometimes were not able to customize the entire workspace solution to specific requirements of all sizes and spheres. Eventually, the space seekers were still spending a lot of time in scouting for flexible workspace that match to their specific requirements. The idea therefore easily formed: What if you are a young start-up who needs 24/7 access, who need a privacy for video editing, phonebooth for customer calls, night café, or even IT infrastructure support for hardware and what if that could be provided. This inspired her to create a platform for not only listing of shared spaces where members can find and book workspaces in flexible model, but also a single source of truth and information about the space and its offering, so members can make an informed decision.
The Struggle and the Journey
The journey of a start-up is never smooth and some of the challenges that they shared with any other startup does was with respect to the ecosystem. In terms of magnitude, hiring the right team was and the single biggest challenge so far. Besides, co-working or sharing culture is still not ripe in India. To make people understand how to fully utilize their space or a customer to understand how a co-working is a worldwide accepted phenomenon is an uphill task. A lot of time was spent in making stakeholders understand that coworking is not just about space, but more about context and community. They bootstrapped to begin with, but now have a strategic angel on board and the revenue model is primarily as a business provider to the space owners on a revenue share, along with ancillary revenue which is between 20-25% that comes from managed services and consulting.
There are many players in the co-working industry, some with physical spaces like 91springboard and Bhive; and there are aggregator platforms. CoSphere does something different by creating a platform which is driven by context, community and coalition, which looks for anyone looking for flexible workspace or flexible work and anyone who wants to share their space and culture with like-minded teams. Big ideas need smarter workspaces. Their vision is that soon enough nobody would long lease a workspace or hire a full time employee and all businesses will become non-linear and workspace will be defined as a place where collaboration, coalition and coworking co-exist.
The Woman Question
For women entrepreneurs, there are always twice the hardships to even get to the point of success. Chaudhary firmly believes that it takes a lot for women to be able to do so much and more. She feels that women have always been skilled multitaskers and are innately stronger from within. In Indian society they have to deliver on multiple parameters that few women can continue their job, let alone become an entrepreneur as it requires more energy and investment. Being a homemaker and a mother and on top of that having passion to build a company is too much to ask for. It takes guts to handle home, kids, family commitments and still make room for your dreams. She goes on to reiterate the bleak reality of the corporate world where women remain highly underpaid compared to men. It still remains a man’s world though change is on the horizon.
Chaudhary feels that even though a lot has been done in India to promote entrepreneurship in past 5-6 years, there is still a gap on how do women from different stages of life take up entrepreneurship. Better government policies are needed for women entrepreneurship, and better coaching and acceleration programs crafted for women as their business needs maybe different than their male counterpart in the same profile. CoSphere is significantly looking into an important aspect of this issue as they are consulting a few space owners to launch mum-friendly coworking spaces which can help mothers to get back into action after the needed break.
As a woman behind a successful startup, she credits a lot to her business partner and life partner, Arjun Ahlawat, who founded CoSphere with her, reminding us that to win the battle of women entrepreneurship, support is always important and appreciated.