Sparkplug Coworks was one of Cobot’s lucky contest winners and received a free ticket to CU Asia 2019, which is where we were able to meet up and hear about their growth challenges — and their successes. The following is a piece written by a member of the Sparkplug Coworks team.
SparkPlug Coworks set sail on a mission to build coworking spaces from a members’ point of view. This idea sprouted from a discussion in September 2017, over a cup of coffee between the founders Vivek Sriramaiah and Varun Umesh, which became a serious pursuit when they deep-dived to understand the unit economics of coworking spaces.
They spent couple of weeks figuring out the needs of coworking users while keeping in mind that Indian customers who can be a tough nut to crack. While there were many opinions and needs that were identified, the duo focused on the top three areas to keep their focus channeled:
Being Good Looking | Being Highly Functional | Being Rightly Priced
While this was the starting point for SparkPlug Coworks, the real challenges were just to unfold. Both the founders had had their previous taste of failure in their individual entrepreneurial journeys. The first commitment that the SparkPlug Team made to itself was to ensure that the workspace would be up and running within a 3 months turnaround time. The first barrier to achieving this target was the initial asset heavy capital required to make SparkPlug Coworks a reality. A shout out to the family and friends who helped in raising the required $140,000.
With zero experience in building office spaces, it was an uphill task in making a fantastic workspace that has all the necessities, is highly functional, and not heavily priced. It was a tedious task to meet numerous vendors, shortlist the right ones that matched the SparkPlug Requirements at the same time ensuring that all the requisite mission elements are met. The team heavily participated in design and execution of each and every element of the space, the outcome was learning about the ins and outs of every corner of the space.
When we were working on building SparkPlug Coworks- meeting a number of people from within and outside the industry, we encountered numerous horror stories of business failures. While we were just listening to the naysayers, if we had believed them, we would have ended up thinking that 90% of the new businesses fail and we too were bound to fail. Instead, we constantly asked ourselves one question: how do we tick and keep executing? We didn’t have any answers but we told to ourselves: “Lets figure it,” out and we just kept figuring it out. We have kept it simple, put a straightforward plan in place, revisited the plan, been agile and kept executing.
With all the challenges in building space, we pulled all the chords right and launched the space on the 1st of January 2018. We had our first customer who had signed up before the launch, our first 3 customers were through references and word of mouth. We ensured very simple business techniques to keep us afloat and growing month after month. Keeping our expenses low was a top priority, from our past experiences we had learnt that a new business typically fails because they run out of money, so it made a lot of sense for us to keep our costs as low as possible. The team pitched in and managed multiple facets of the business through shared responsibilities. We spent money only on the things that the business needed and the things the business should have. We spent a lot of time with our members to provide the best service, and our engagement with our members proved to be essential in our journey forward.
We kept reinvesting into the business, the founders vowed to not take salaries for the first year and still are the last ones to be paid. We kept toiling to ensure that we reach a profitable position, over the past one year we have paid off our backlogs and reached an operationally profitable position. While during the first few months we were constantly moving to ensure things fell in place, slowly in the later part of the year we became very selective on how to spend our time and resources. We have learnt to selectively say yes or no to every request that comes our way.
Being customer centric, our mission from the beginning was to help our customers, making a highly functional, affordable and good looking office space. We adapted ourselves constantly based on the customer feedback and stayed attuned to their needs. Since we focused on this, our numbers followed us.
We believe that life is about giving to receive, we focused on ensuring that we can offer something to every potential partner or customer that we meet. We were fearless in being candid in what we are doing and how we are doing it, and how we can help. We reached out to as many people possible. We kept on sharing opportunities that we thought made sense to pass on. This helped us build goodwill in the society — people recall us and have helped us in creating a personalized brand.
We are in this game for a long run, while many sprints look exciting, we are focused on Highly Functional, Affordable and Good Looking Spaces. We sure know about our encounters with failures at every step, but we will fail faster, come back twice as strong, and get back to adapting and moving forward. Our plans are simple, our network has grown, our customers like us, and we just want to ensure we build the company upwards incrementally through effective realization of our idea.
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