5 Questions with Gargi Shah
Introducing our new campaign Coworking India 2019, focusing on the innovation and excellence of the flexible workspace industry in India. With over 1.3 billion inhabitants and an entrepreneurial spirit, India is already at the forefront of the changing world of collaborative work. Cobot is highlighting some of these achievements and innovators as we prepare for CU Asia 2019; this year, we’ll be traveling to Goa to learn from coworking experts in Asia and around the world, to share what we learn with you. If you want to enter to win a free ticket to CU Asia, please read more here.
Gargi Shah is the co-founder of one of Mumbai’s first co-working spaces: The Playce. When she opened The Playce in 2012, co-working was practically unheard of in India. Gargi spent many days dreaming up ways to explain what she did to her grandmother, who still believes that her granddaughter rents out offices for a living. The Playce has completed five eventful years — a proud home to creative, entrepreneurial, and even outlandish co-workers. In the past, Gargi has been a Computer Programmer, Lecturer, and co-founded a startup that taught programming in interesting ways. A hobbyist in the fields of dance, chess, hiking, and Scuba Diving, Gargi is forever a student of the human condition.
Hey there, thanks for taking the time to answer our 5 questions! Let’s get started:
Can you tell us the name of your coworking space, and what makes it special?
I run a co-working space called The Playce. We were one of the earliest spaces to launch in Mumbai (we started in 2012). In the last 5 years of its existence, The Playce has been home to some of the most diverse co-workers — a cartoonist in a national newspaper, an indie fashion startup, a designer who wanted to make the perfect bag for women to carry EVERYTHING, and a bunch of techies running wild on new-age hard-to-pronounce techie things. We are more like the mom-n-pop shop of co-working spaces, an intimate setting with family-like vibes.
Also, we are a space run by women — women who love laughing at work. Life at a buzzing co-working space with 100 co-workers coming in everyday, can be howlarious — when it’s not stressful :-) .
What does the term “Coworking” mean to you?
Co-working means to work in a safe and encouraging space, which is conducive to true self-expression. We like to believe that our space lets people BE. To do what they want to without a sense of judgement or capitalistic pressure. It’s a space to step outside the normative ideas of work and explore a more nuanced & personal sense of purpose.
In simple words, the way most of us work in today’s capitalistic world need not be the only way. To co-work is to be creative and authentic with oneself, work-wise at least. As members of the community, one is able to contribute with ideas, moral support, and technical advice with no costs or agenda: I believe this gives members a greater sense of self worth and is the ultimate charm of co-working.
What’s a trick or best practice that you learned when running a coworking space — one thing that every coworking space operator should know?
The biggest ‘trick’ I learnt is to not associate my ego with the space’s ‘success.’ Whether it is the numbers on the balance sheet or the buzz of the community or the number of seats occupied, it helps to remember that none of this reflects on ME or MY WORTH. As an operator, this lets me have a balanced view — when we have empty seats in an event I don’t beat myself up for the ‘failure,’ and when we have a lot of money flowing in from the revenue it keeps me from letting success get to my head.
This zen mindset also helps the space remain sustainable. And I don’t get anxious or cocky when the outflow and inflow of customers changes.
What’s a great coworking project or initiative we should be aware of?
There’s a project in Mumbai called “Bombay Underground.” Technically it’s not a co-working project, but it is in spirit. The idea is that a bunch of artists are working together on contemporary ideas. They express them via zines (that’s the short for magaZINES) through comics and art and text. The operators of the Bombay Underground project encourage everyone from different strata of society (there is art made by street kids as well as established professionals) to write about what matters to them. They’ve covered diverse (and often taboo) topics like anarchy, menstrual blood, and perspectives on drugs.
To me, it’s the most hopeful of the co-working projects in India.
What makes the coworking scene in India / Mumbai special? What do you love about it?
Coworking is the latest buzzword in Mumbai. Everyone who’s anyone is looking to either start or invest or work at a coworking space. We’ve had many people pitch us to start their own coworking space.
However, personally, I am skeptical of the profitability of the spaces in Mumbai. I don’t think it is easy to be in the black when the rental and operational costs are as high as they are here. Unless it is a distressed property or a personal asset, co-working may not make for very sound business financially, given the wafer-thin margins and heavy unpredictability of occupancy. Ironically, this is also what I love about the co-working scene in India — it compels us operators to get creative to survive in this tough market.
And lastly, where can we find you (and your space/project) on social media?
We are mostly an offline community so I welcome you (and your readers) to come visit our space and feel the vibe.
Our online coordinates are:
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