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"We Are Back To The Higher Growth Levels As Pre-Covid": Harsh Binani, Smartworks

Will COVID-19 end the shared office space? A question many asked while doubting the future of flex spaces with work from home (WFH) taking precedence during the three years of peak pandemic period.

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Will COVID-19 end the shared office space? A question many asked while doubting the future of flex spaces with work from home (WFH) taking precedence during the three years of peak pandemic period. Today we know the answer is a resounding no; instead, the sector is booming and is poised for a resounding sustained growth as flex space has found a permanent fixture in the new workplace normal. This change has been brought about by the growing need for a hybrid work schedule in organisations across sectors which offer a fine blend of at-home work and work from the office to enhance employee satisfaction.

As per experts, the future trends make flex space an integral part of workplace strategy, with several projections pegging flex space to be over 30% of the overall CRE market by 2030 from today's single digits. In a report by property consultant Colliers and Qdesq, the flex workspace stock is expected to cross 60 million square ft in metro and non-metro cities by 2023, as occupiers embrace agility and flexibility in their work models.

"The Pandemic has been a vaccine booster for the industry and disproportionately to us. The last 12 months have seen hockey's sticky revenue growth complemented by higher profitability growth. Occupiers are going in for an asset-light, hassle free and cost-efficient model as part of their post-pandemic real estate portfolio planning. Companies are diversifying operational risks by distributing work at more than one location, offering maximum flexibility to their employees," said Harsh Binani, Co-founder of Smartworks.

"We have done more business in the last six months than in the last six years. Given the strong recovery, we are back to the higher growth than Covid," he added.

Colliers highlights that the flex market in India is evolving, with many enterprises incorporating a flex space component in their portfolio. There are over 3,410 flexible centres across major cities, operating at about 70% occupancy, with the trend moving towards pre-pandemic levels. The key triggers driving this growth have been attributed to the fast-growing economy, significant expansion in the knowledge-based sectors, new Global Capability Centres (GCCs), and a robust startup system that is giving rise to new unicorns.

Despite a growing number of operators, very few players have been able to crack the market from a real estate and services standpoint to attract marquee clients.

Founded in 2016, Smartworks is one of India's leading large format managed space providers, catering to large corporates, global multinational corporations (MNCs) and unicorns. With a presence in 11 cities and a growing footprint of 7 million square feet, the company has aggressive expansion plans, given the rise in demand for office spaces.

"We plan to add another 3 million square feet this fiscal and tier-2 cities to our portfolio besides Jaipur and Indore. We have witnessed a rise in demand for seats in tier 2 and tier 3 markets with organisations looking to optimise office costs while ensuring employee retention by allowing them to work from their hometowns", asserts Binani.

The company counts leading unicorns and global Fortune 500 organisations as its occupiers, testament to its position as the preferred shared workspace provider. This was made possible also due to a host of new-age add-ons for employees in a tech-enabled environment, including a snooze room, anger management room, VR room facility and smart store, to name a few, enabling Smartworks to create a niche for itself.

As employees return to work, companies, besides getting their businesses back into traction, focus on employee experience and offer amenities ranging from separate spaces to relax and rejuvenate for sports and entertainment, to name a few.

"Return to the office for enterprises has been a major struggle as a post- covid phenomenon. Our large campuses have particularly focused on ensuring that aspirational and world-class amenities are baked in, ensuring a higher-than-average return to the office, says Harsh Binani. "We have forged industry-leading partnerships to offer members a holistic experience. The idea is to bring home to the office and ensure that the employees get an opportunity to balance their work and life," he continued.

This marks a major turnaround in the Indian co-working industry as it moves beyond the offering of real estate but is now an experienced provider. It also becomes important as these value-added services will play a key role in the path to profitability for flex space players and create long-term value for shareholders.

To know more about Harsh Binani, Co-founder, Smartworks -

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