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5B Colab - Ahmedabad's Coolest Co-Working Space

5B Colab is a centrally located coworking space in Ahmedabad, furnished with features extraordinaire.

Here's the candid and insightful conversation - an eChai with Kalgi Desai, Co-Founder, 5B Colab.

• How did you come up with the idea of 5B Colab?

After working with publications like Femina, Times of India and India Today, I decided to start out on my own as a freelance Content Writer. I started working out of my husband’s office, in my own nice big cabin with good WiFi, and housekeeping services. However there was nobody I could talk to. His office has very senior engineers who are always discussing layouts and floor plans. I missed being in an office and that is when Hirak, my husband and the founder of 5B Colab, suggested I should look for a coworking space. I took his advice and went in search of the kind of office I wanted to be in, but didn’t find one. That’s when we thought we could start a coworking space of our own and we got working on the idea immediately. We had an empty floor, which we converted into a swanky office space for freelancers, individual professionals, soloprenuers and entrepreneurs and small teams.

What problem are you solving?

Freelancers and professionals like me have two options to work from – home or a café. While working from home may seem like a lucrative option, it is as futile as trying to play snookers with a rope! It is irritating, there are distractions, a lack of focus and even of you finally get the job done, you know you could have done a better job and faster. Similarly cafes are extremely noisy and when you work out the costs of a few coffees and a sandwich everyday, you realize it is expensive too. Ours is a 3 point agenda:

1) We’re trying to bring about a social revolution of sorts, trying to make people understand that there is a better, faster, newer, cheaper and more productive way to work!

2) We are trying to build a strong community of focused and hardworking individuals in the city, who can help each other grow as better professionals.

3) We are also giving small businesses, corporates and entrepreneurs a single talent pool to outsource their work to. If you’re a startup and need a content writer, graphics designer and a photographer – you will find them all here! All of you could have a meeting in our conference room too!

• How does it work?

It is pretty simple. You walk in, take a tour of the place and select the package. Then you register with all your pivotal details. We work on an advance payment basis, so we will collect the dues of the month the day you move in. Once you’re a coworker, you gain access to the WiFi, Conference Room, Terrace Garden, Coffee Machine, Housekeeping Services etc. You can even register 5B Colab as your official address – this becomes your registered office and the space you have choses becomes your own space for the decided duration!

What is your target market?

We are focused on building a community of freelancers and individual professionals apart from having small teams and entrepreneurs or solopreneurs working out of here. So writers/bloggers, graphic designers, photographers, consultants, analysts, stock brokers, chartered accountants, software developers, programmers, web designers, fashion designers and startups are our target audience.

• What is your competitive advantage?

The swanky infrastructure, well-planned design of the office space and our central and easily accessible location on CG road are our strongest points. We have separate rooms and cabins for startups and entrepreneurs who want privacy. We have cozy corner desks for people who want a desktop setup. We have a fully equipped conference room for client meetings, video calling and presentations. Apart from all this, we have complimentary unlimited beverages from Café Coffee Day, excellent Housekeeping services all day long and very good WiFi speed.

How much time did it take you from conceptualization of 'your venture' to actually launching it in the market ?

We started working on 5B Colab in May 2016 and launched it in September 2016. During this time, we also travelled to Bengaluru to check out some popular coworking spaces there, including 91SpringBoard and B-Hive. Hirak and I designed the logo and did all the branding ourselves

• Tell us more about your team?

Our team consists of three people:

1) Hirak Desai, Founder & Proprietor, 5B Colab

Hirak Desai is a Civil Engineer from CEPT University and runs a civil construction company called Hetu Constructions Pvt Ltd in Ahmedabad. A man with acute business acumen, he is the backbone of 5B Colab and mostly looks after back-end operations.

2) Kalgi Desai, Co-Founder, Manager

Kalgi Desai has 8 years of work experience as a writer and journalist with publications like The Times of India, India Today, Femina, National Geographic and more. She also runs Content Company. She looks after the front-end operations of 5B Colab and is in charge of marketing and PR for the company.

3) Amarben, Housekeeping Ninja and Barista

Amarben has been a part of the 5B Colab team since the inception. She was one of the labourers who worked on-site, building the space up and was hired as help around the office. Three months down – she now understands the difference between a Latte and Cappuccino and is currently learning how to work a printer!

What is your technology stack?

Honestly, apart from the Play Station 4 that we use for recreation, the CCTV cameras installed for security and the presentation screen in the conference room, we are pretty much rustic and content in the way we work. However, we are soon going to start making use of options such as Cobot, which is specially designed for coworking spaces.

• How do you plan to market your product? What are your customer acquisition strategies?

Until now we have only depended on organic marketing – we use social media to our advantage and rely on word of mouth publicity for our marketing. Next month onwards, we plan to start hosting selective and exclusive events and get people together here.

• What is the revenue model of 5B Colab?

5B Colab is a self-funded project that was started because of a passion and a need to build a thriving community. We charge a monthly rent for our space and our services.

What do you want to achieve from this? What is your larger goal or vision?

So far we have six members so my immediate goal is to get the coworking space thriving with 20 other members from all kinds of professions. A few months down the line, we wish to start another coworking space – hopefully a 6B Colab, which would be a 24-hour operation! What we really want from this is to see a change in the way people work, together and in a more professional and sorted manner.

• What sort of support and feedback are you looking from the community?

We are trying to build an ecosystem of sorts, wherein people can help each other and can work together in complete harmony. For freelancers, we’d love them to understand this idea and share the concept further. For employers looking to outsource work – start looking at coworking spaces to avail a larger talent pool.


Share feedback Or Ask questions Or Discuss
eChai Ventures @eChaiVentures

@Kalgi - How are you planning to scale 5B Colab?

Kalgi Desai @kalgi-patel

Jatin: Like I had mentioned during my first ever Echai presentation - we are not trying to go to Mumbai or Bangalore - but are trying to bring the coworking culture of those cities to Ahmedabad. So we'll grow in different locations around the city and then gradually move to other parts of Gujarat at a later stage.

Neel Shah @neelnshah

How do you ensure there's non-competing startup working together to ensure work privacy...

Do you consciously ensure a mix of freelancers and startups to ensure a cohesive co-working opportunity for them to team up for projects on short/long term basis...

With multiple centres, is there a way for co-workers in separate locations to be remotely connected? Also, is one person allowed to use any of the location or only specified location..?

Kalgi Desai @kalgi-patel

Neel:

A1: We allow competing startups and freelancers to work at our place. There are no restrictions, as long as their background is clean. In order to work at a coworking space you need a certain mindset. You need to be open about your business, not insecure about it. So if a startup has a problem with an existing competitor working here, it is a choice they make and we respect.

A2: Our packages range from frexi desks to team boxes - so the crowd automatically gets divided into the respective categories. Individual entrepreneurs, CA's, Lawyers prefer their one-person private cabin while freelance writers and designers like to sit out with the rest. Startups and established businesses need team boxes - so its all sorted, we don't have to consciously divide them.

A3: We currently have just one space so cannot comment on that. However, that would be in the scheme of things when we have multiple locations - that members from different spaces get to interact by way of icebreaking events.

Hanuj Tilwani @hanuj_t

How are you planning to build the community of startups that do not suppress but help each other to grow ?

Kalgi Desai @kalgi-patel

Hanuj: We are close to completing one year of operations and during this time I have figured out that there are two kinds of people who work out of coworking spaces:

One are those who love to help others, are always ready with an answer and always have time to answer their queries. For instance we have some 18-20 year olds working on their start-up. Some coworkers help them with advice or sponsorship or contacts or networking or at least lend a ear and spare time for them.

Then there is the second kind, who likes to keep to themselves. They barely communicate, hardly talk and almost never interact. The other coworkers respect their decision and don't bother them too much for anything. However, when they go get their coffees, people do chat.

So far I haven't come across anyone who has denied help. There are friendly coworkers and there are aloof coworkers - none rude or conniving or conspiring against each other so far.