Beyond Concrete Walls
If you feel the walls in your workplace are squeezing you and trying to turn you into a sandwich between two wooden cubicle blocks, perhaps it’s time to consider a fresher perspective at how office spaces operate. Tear down your cubicles, create your freelancing space and stop worrying about your low budget, yet-to-breakeven start-up by stepping into the world of co-working spaces.
By Alfa M. Shakya
Photos by Pranish Shrestha
Co-working spaces are the 21st century workplace that take the old adage ‘why buy if you can rent’ one step further by providing furnished office spaces equipped with amenities like high speed internet, library, kitchen, cafes, etc at an affordable price. This novel idea entered Nepal in 2011 when Biruwa Ventures started renting shared working spaces. It’s been about seven years, but this concept of co-working culture is yet to gain wide popularity. With a close culture rooted in its people, Nepal is still adapting to openness in culture and idea sharing, which is the basis of co-working spaces.
A few meters away from the main road that runs from Pulchowk to Kupondole, there is a serene place. Amidst an irresistible ambience of a garden, friendly staff members, and good facilities, there is a perfect workplace at Bikalpa Co-Working Space. Founder Director Saroj Mahato says, “I want this place to be a sharing hub where people do not just come to work, but also share their ideas and help each other. The challenge is to get out of the normal boundary of what we traditionally call an office.”
A filmmaker himself, Mahato always wanted a space of his own, but he knew that it was not an easy dream to fulfil. He realised that there were many other like-minded people who were facing similar constraints, and so he headed out to make a co-working space at Bikalpa to support individuals and groups venturing into their projects and dreams. After its completion in 2014, the idea finally became a reality. Today, co-working space at Bikalpa is a part of its business model combined with its art centre and cafe. The touch of art at Bikalpa has been a unique aspect pulling individuals and professionals looking for shared workspaces.
The possibility and opportunity to expand yourself beyond your own workspace is probably one of the most important value additions of co-working culture. A Chartered Account professional using the shared space at Bikalpa was glad he came here when he found guidance and more information on a project he was working on from other members just a few tables away.
“At Bikalpa, co-working space is not just a space, it is an experience.”
– Saroj Mahato, Founder Director, Bikalpa Co-Working Space
Similar to Bikalpa, there is another co-working space at the heart of Jhamsikhel; Haushala Creatives workspace it is named and is Nepal’s first female-only co-working space. Co-owner and Managing Director Samanata Thapa recalls a story about a female friend who once tried going to a co-working space in Nepal but found it uncomfortable to enter a room full of men. She eventually could not continue. This made the founders of Haushala feel a need to create comfortable and friendly spaces for women.
The mission of Haushala Creatives is to empower women and expanding it into a co-working space was one of the ways they could make it happen. While the workspace started as a female friendly co-working space, Haushala always welcomed all genders and they are now a gender-friendly space so that anyone who walks in feels comfortable.
“We mostly get clients who have been abroad or are aware of the co-working culture. I think it is a matter of time until more people will know that there is a space where they can come to work,” says Thapa.
The workplace at Haushala is cozy and creative, along with 24-hour CCTV surveillance to keep their members safe. In order to encourage mothers and even fathers to work out of their homes, Haushala has a childcare facility where their staff members will babysit the kids who come along with their parents.
The benefit of sharing helps co-working spaces reduce the cost per head to provide high quality services to their members at a reasonable price. Co-working spaces are mostly suitable for individuals and groups who are flexible with the environment and culture of co-working like entrepreneurs, start-ups, professionals, freelancers, researchers, college students, etc. There’s a long way to go to develop the co-working culture in Kathmandu and Nepal as a whole, but with good marketing and value addition, this culture is likely to flourish here as the youths of tomorrow gear up to make things happen. And you definitely need a place to make it happen!
“We want to provide a safe space for women to work at and create opportunities for themselves.”
– Samanata Thapa, Co-Owner/Managing Director, Haushala Creatives