Paradigm shift: Businessman seeks to redefine office spaces

Anand Shah

Anand Shah started the shared workspace company in 2019 to help start-ups and individuals access affordable office spaces without being burdened by the traditional long-term lease.
 

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic struck in 2020 shaking Kenya’s commercial spaces industry, Anand Shah had discovered an interesting gap in the market.

He had observed that with a rapid eruption of SMEs in the country, many companies were increasingly shying away from leasing office spaces on a long term basis. He noted a rising trend of low occupancy in commercial buildings especially in urban, populous areas.

In 2019, Shah took up an entire floor at Victoria Plaza in Nairobi’s Westlands suburb and partitioned it to have private offices, co-working areas, meeting rooms and other office-support amenities. This was the start of his company known as the Workshop Serviced Offices.

“We offer efficient work spaces that can be used by the client over short periods such as a month, three months or a year. Additionally, we have co-working spaces that are available to clients on a daily, weekly or monthly basis depending on what they need,” says Shah.

Demand spurred by the current economic crisis and cost-cutting needs has seen Shah’s business grow from a one-floor space at the Victoria Plaza to two additional floors on the same building and a new branch in Lavington, Nairobi. The business model is quite straightforward; Shah takes a long-term lease from the building’s landlord and then sub-lets the space over shorter leases or daily use to clients most of whom are in the SME sector.

 “This company fills the market gap I identified three years ago when I was researching a viable business idea. I realised that people were keen to move away from traditional leases that commit them to five or six years and wanted smaller spaces to be used when the need arose. Often-times, start-ups and entrepreneurs lack the kind of capital needed to invest in setting up these traditional offices,” he explains.

Shah’s valley addition strategy involved partitioning the leased space into offices of various sizes to cover different client-budgets,

“We provide furniture, partitioning and fit outs for offices. We also have amenities such as high speed internet, cleaning services, kitchen, meeting room facilities and wash rooms.”

Most of the clients, Shah observes, are based in the service industry, ranging from accounting, architecture, travel agencies and Information Technology (IT) companies.

Daily charges for a client using the space is Sh1,000. For teams, the company charges Sh20,000 and above, depending on the space a group intends to take up. Private offices are also charged between Sh30,000 and Sh40,000 monthly, depending on size. All clients have access to the amenities in the work space.

“Covid-19 accelerated demand for our services, especially with the flexibility of working from home.”

According to Shah, most clients, including established companies, find the service appealing since they only have to budget for office space on a need to use basis. This is way more affordable than paying daily rent and other maintenance bills.

While current meeting rooms and spaces are designed to host up to 10 people at a time, Shah says that plans are underway to expand that capacity to at least 20 and meet the market’s demand.

The company also offers drop-off locations for virtual offices, where they can send and receive correspondences, parcels and packages.

“The goal is to provide smooth working conditions, especially for our SMEs and entrepreneurs, so they can focus on doing their job well and growing the economy. We don’t want them to worry about the logistics of running an office.”

Looking back, he says the ability to provide clients with this much needed service has proved to clients that they can work flexibly and in turn, accelerated the growth of his business over the past three years.


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