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9 August, 2015 09:51:37 AM
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Coworking space Offers startups a ROOM

FAISAL MAHMUD
Coworking space Offers startups a ROOM

The rising property rates in Dhaka are forcing people to work from their homes and meet their clients in restaurants or coffee shops. This is especially true in case of startups, who are perpetually working on a shoestring budget.
This trend, however, has given rise to a relatively new concept in the capital –common workplace or more popularly known as co-working space, which addresses the space crunch faced by startups, sales teams or individuals.
The concept of coworking space is simple. Hire a workplace that suits your needs and location. Use free and high-speed Wi-Fi, have an appropriate ambiance and privacy to conduct your meetings and get your work done.
“We founded Moar to address our own problem – that was getting things done in a cost effective manner,” said Nabila Nowrin, co-founder of Moar, the newest and the trendiest coworking space in Dhaka.
Nabila, an architect by profession, was facing problems in meeting her clients. “My partner Nahid Sharmin and I had to meet clients in coffee shops as we couldn’t afford renting an office space in a decent location. But the problem was sometimes our clients didn’t feel comfortable in coffee shops. Once we met a contractor at a coffee shop in Gulshan and he felt alienated in that environment,” she said.
“Our expenses were also increasing as we needed to pay the expensive bills of the coffee shops,” said Nahid Sharmin, the other founder of Moar. “That’s when we thought of establishing Moar, a co-sharing workplace where young startups could work as well as meet their clients in a proper ambiance,” she said.
Besides, freelancers and other professionals, who don’t work for the whole year, can save money for the unutilised period of the year if they rent a co-working space to conduct their business, she added.
“Nowadays people don’t necessarily need a landline all the time that’s plugged into a wall and don’t have to sit in front of the phone every single day. An office worker can be mobile and be an on-the-go entrepreneur. It would simply be a waste of money to pay for a full-time office for many of them,” said Nowrin.   
The concept of shared space for professionals, like what Moar provides, emerged in Dhaka at the beginning of 2014. Much vexed about the lack of proper place for business meetings, Sajid Islam, a computer science graduate, who had years of experience in the Silicon Valley, thought of introducing the concept of shared space to build up Dhaka’s startup eco-system. He founded a common office space named HubDhaka in Mirpur in March, 2014.
Sajid said that after he got back to Dhaka from the US, he wanted to create an accelerator programme for startups in Bangladesh. An accelerator is basically an incubator program that combines both mentorship as well as funding opportunities for entrepreneurs.
“My goal was to share what I had learned working in the Silicon Valley as well as be a part of the startup scene in Bangladesh. To that end, I established Shetu, an education and training program designed to prepare and equip budding entrepreneurs,” said Sajid.
However, he quickly realised that there was a more pressing need in Bangladesh for a platform for startups. A physical location where emerging entrepreneurs could work and collaborate with a wide range of people – from other entrepreneurs to mentors and investors.
He said that startups often rely on open and engaging workspaces. This is often because startups don't have much choice, but to locate themselves within an inexpensive open space. In reality, these spaces also foster a constant and crucial exchange of ideas, creative thinking and access to expertise.
“Thus, the HubDhaka was born. It provides the foundation for training and educational services of Shetu, events and seminars aimed at development of entrepreneurs as well as networking, collaboration and coworking opportunities a startup needs,” he said.
About the benefit of co-sharing space, Sajid points out that even big corporations like Google and Yahoo rent space in coworking spaces and send their employees to work in such an environment to reduce the humdrum of their work life and increase innovation.
“Coworking spaces consist of members who work for a range of different companies, ventures and projects. Because there is little direct competition or internal politics, they don’t feel they have to put on a work persona to fit in,” said Nazmus Saqib, a freelancer who has been renting space in the HubDhaka since its inception.
Working amidst people doing different kinds of work can also make one’s own work identity stronger, he said adding that coworking spaces are great platforms to communicate with startups and get conversant with their business dimension.
While the HubDhaka is located in Mirpur, another cool coworking space is the Wave on Kamal Atartuk Avenue, Banani. In fact, the Wave was launched in February 2014, before the official launch of the HubDhaka.
The Wave founded by Fayaz Taher and Mustafizur Khan, two serial entrepreneurs, who have long track record of working with the startups. “The idea was to create a place where all you have to do is to walk in, get your desk and get going,” said Fayaz Taher.
Given the intense interest in startups these days, more and more young entrepreneurs are looking to coworking facilities to grab relatively inexpensive office space, said Mustafizur Khan. “In addition to WiFi, fax, conference rooms, kitchen and snack-prep areas, these rental business studios also offer new companies the opportunity to rub shoulders with others in their world,” he said.
The Wave is also home to four permanent offices including Magnito Digital, LightCastle Partners, Startup Dhaka, Root Marketing Services and an investment company called Empty Ventures.
“Each one of us has a dedicated space for operating, but we share common facilities such as the event space, conference room and kitchen. We split the rent and common costs among ourselves,” says Bijon Islam, co-founder of LightCastle Partners.
“We needed an office space since we are expanding and the Wave was the right place for people like me, who found rigid corporate offices discomforting. Working in an open space with like-minded people seems very rewarding to me. I really value the cross-pollination of ideas that takes place while working with other businesses”, he said.
He said that by working together, they also generate client referrals and can offer complete solution suites to their customers. “Work becomes more fun and the scope of innovation widens,” he added.

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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