THE PLATFORM INC. – THE ULTIMATE WORKING SPACE
KUSHAL BAJRACHARYA ( DIRECTOR-MARKETING )
Anyone pursuing the dreams of establishing their own business knows the financial struggles that come up on the most inopportune of instances. Every rupee coming in or going out counts so you try and make the most of what you have. So it isn’t uncommon for young entrepreneurs to start out cooped up in tiny, dark rooms, with tables scattered with coffee cups filled to the brim with cigarette butts. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, in fact, there are many successful entrepreneurs who started off in worse shape; but there is no denying the fact that they could have had better settings.
For freelancers or emerging start-ups who are sick of working from home but can’t afford the leap to renting an office – then co-working could just be the answer. Ready to get out of the tiny room and into a real office? Before you strike out on your own and get locked into a lease, consider what Platform Inc have on offer. They’re more affordable, filled with like-minded people and probably cooler than any office you could afford at the beginning.
But what makes co-working spaces – defined as membership-based workspaces where diverse groups of freelancers, remote workers, and other independent professionals work together in a shared, communal setting – so effective?
To find out, we interviewed two individuals who are the co-working space founders of The Platform Inc. Mr. Kushal Bajracharya and Mr. Prasan Krishna Shrestha.
PRASAN KRISHNA SHRESTHA (FOUNDER/OWNER)
1. HOW THE IDEA OF INTRODUCING THE PLATFORM INC. CAME ALONG? WHAT ARE THE BASIC FACTORS THAT INSPIRED ITS INITIATION?
KUSHAL: It had modest beginnings. The lack of proper working spaces with high speed internet, sans of load shedding was a common problem for many people. Coffee shops usually had too many distractions. Now, while the concept of workspaces was alien to Nepal it was pretty familiar in the Silicon Valley. However it was an emerging concept so Prasan and me got into the idea of working things out and making it happen.
PRASAN: Before moving back to Nepal, I worked in Silicon Valley at a startup for two years. The Silicon Valley is filled with talented individuals who are eager to turn their ideas into businesses. Motivated by the spirit of the people I met during my tenure in California, I wanted to start something on my own. At first, we were eager to tap into the growing freelance market in Nepal and use their talents to fuel a business that works as a middleman between freelancers and companies. As the discussions progressed, we expanded our outlook and decided to cater to the entrepreneurial community of Nepal by providing the space, atmosphere, and services to harness growth in Nepal.
2. WHAT ARE THE OBSTACLES THAT YOU HAD TO OVERCOME IN THE PROCESSING OF ESTABLISHING PLATFORM INC. IN NEPAL? HOW DID YOU OVERCOME IT?
KUSHAL: One month into business, the earthquake rattled us out of our boots. That halted Platform Inc. for a long time. The business was down because of the fear of the earthquake, but we had to do something. During that time most people stopped working as most of the offices were closed. And some people were even scared to work from home thanks to the aftershocks. So, people started searching for ways they could work and found Platform Inc through social media sites. So, we started promoting the business in that time and gained some popularity.
PRASAN: At first, I was on the hunt for a partner or two. Sharing my vision for the company a lot of people were on board with the idea, but when it came to committing through investment and time almost 100% of them disappeared. It took a very long time to find the right partner/s for the project, but I made sure to use this time to further develop my ideas so that once the right partner was found we could dive right into the execution without wasting any more time.
3. WHAT SORT OF RESPONSE DID YOU EXPECT FROM THE PUBLIC AND HOW HAS THE RESPONSE BEEN?
KUSHAL: Well, people in Nepal have been in the traditional working environment and this mentality is quite rooted in the Nepalese community; but the youth are grasping this concept of co-working spaces now. And people have been interested and are taking this concept positively now.
PRASAN: Looking at the real estate market in Kathmandu, there was definitely a gap that Platform would fill with its countless services. I had a lot of knowledge on co-working spaces from my time in the United States and I thought that the business model was quite simple and I thought that marketing this concept in Nepal would be fairly simple as well.
After a month or so into operation, I understood that educating the local community would take a lot more time and effort. Although it was quite easy to attract foreign clients, it took us quite a while to sign up local entrepreneurs. For the first few months of operations 95% of our clients were of foreign nationality. But as time went on, we honed into the problems in our promotions and tailored our marketing to Nepalese people and now, we are proud to say, that our current members are almost 50% Nepalese.
4. WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE PLANS? TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR LONG TERM AND SHORT TERM STRATEGIES AND ALSO YOUR SUSTAINABILITY PLANS.
KUSHAL: We have plans of doing lots of events and workshops to interact with people and we are also thinking of going online. If everything goes according to plan we might start some working spaces outside the valley somewhere along the line.
PRASAN: We are currently working on establishing ourselves as event managers providing space and coordination services and holding relevant events that will help the startup community in Nepal. Other than that we have also recently introduced Platform Play which is a community for creative entrepreneurs which we hope will create a pool of creative talents in order to produce (in collaboration or otherwise) unique and creative collateral for the local market. Through this we would like to provide design, advertising and marketing services that will be managed by Platform. We also have a few other projects that are currently under discussion and we should be rolling them out in the near future.
5. WHAT DIFFERENTIATES PLATFORM INC. FROM OTHER WORKING SPACES? WHAT ARE THE SPECIALTIES?
KUSHAL: At Platform, you get the opportunity to collaborate, not only with people from your start-up but also from other start-ups. That adds extra value to any start-up and it is not like a typical office with cubicles, it has an open working space where everyone can work together which is better than being isolated in a cubicle or inside a closed room.
HIDDEN CHARGES MAKE IT VERY DIFFICULT FOR STARTUPS WITH SMALL BUDGETS TO MANAGE THEIR FINANCES AND AT TIMES CO-WORKING SPACES END UP HURTING THE CLIENT MORE THAN HELPING THEM.
PRASAN: One thing that I was very persistent about from the very start was the fact that the pricing structure should be 100% transparent with no additional costs. Members should know exactly what they are getting and there should be no hidden charges.
Hidden charges make it very difficult for startups with small budgets to manage their finances and at times co-working spaces end up hurting the client more than helping them.
We have also partnered with Evoke Café and Bistro and Big B Burger Restaurant to provide special discounts for members. We are also in talks with other restaurants and businesses for partnership and hope that we can provide more benefits for our members. Most startups have benefits and services within their facility, but Platform goes above and beyond so that members can enjoy benefits across the valley.
Also, our pricing structure is as flexible as it gets with daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly memberships as well as a couple of different membership types so that members can pick the perfect plan for themselves and not having to pay for services that they do not require.