We talked to Meghna Agarwal of IndiQube about flexible workspace, and she had the following to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Meghna Agarwal: We are doing good. It was a difficult time for all of us, and we had to be extra cautious about the elderly in our family. The unpredictability of lockdowns, transition to Working from Home, Managing Virtual Classes for Kids have been tough. However, with the recent positivity around the vaccine, reduction in mortality rates, and the possibility of herd immunity, we are gradually coming back to preCOVID-19 normalcy.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded IndiQube.
Meghna Agarwal: I was born and brought up in a small town Alwar in Rajasthan, a state in India’s northern part. I grew up in an all-girls family with two younger sisters and progressive-minded parents. My father is a first-generation entrepreneur, and he fully supported his daughter’s education at any cost. I did my company secretary course at the Institute of Company Secretaries of India and an MBA in Finance from IMT Ghaziabad. I wanted to be a banker or a trader and even did a short stint in Singapore Stock Exchange (in trading). I wanted to be on Wall Street next. But while I was preparing myself to do it, the September 11 attack happened, and the (US) economy was in shambles. I did get a few job offers, but they were not lucrative enough. It was around that time; I Co-Founded “ HirePro Consulting, a recruitment outsourcing agency” along with Rishi in 2003. Later, in 2009, I ventured into Ultrafine Minerals, a leading manufacturer of minerals catering to the needs of the Cable, Polymer, Plastic, and Paper industries. Space has always been close to my heart, and I understood how space works for diverse companies. I also understood that millennials and start-ups are faced with challenges like volatility, high Capex, and long-term leases from traditional landlords and started this journey with IndiQube as the flexible workspace provider catering not just to budding entrepreneurs but also to enterprises.
How does IndiQube innovate?
Meghna Agarwal: Over the past 3 years, with a strong in-house technology team, we have strived to create a smart building experience for clients. Our technology innovations range from MiQube App that caters to all employee requirements from booking parking slots, meeting rooms, Ordering Food, participating in events, and availing airport transfers. Our ServiQube app enables the frontline team to execute tasks seamlessly, enabling paperless monitoring of all workspace management services. Our client portal is a one-stop repository of all admin requirements from Access Card & Seat allocation to monitoring invoices and services’ status. We have also strived to innovate in our services portfolio with the integration of IoT. We have witnessed a steep growth in revenue from services right from Food & Beverages, Employee Transport, Asset Maintenance, IT Services & FM services in the last three years. This has helped us offer a unique value proposition to clients and leverage the gains from an untapped share of the client’s wallet. With innovative concepts like Co-living, Walk to work, Smart Buildings, IndiQube Store, Tenant Portal, Visitor Management System, Efficient Space Planning, ServiQube & MiQube apps & COVID Safe workspaces, we are constantly adapting to changing customer requirements powered by 380+ employees who strive to innovate every day.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Meghna Agarwal: COVID-19 has made enterprises reassess the way they consume real-estate. Compared to Q2 FY21, we are now witnessing a 50% increase in inquiries originating from large enterprises primarily due to the need for workspace rationalization. In the post COVID era, enterprises will be more cautious about their commercial real estate costs and would prefer flexible workspaces that minimize their exposure to high Capex & long-term leases. Companies will now look for distributed offices in the same city as well as in tier 2 cities. About 20-30 % of employees will continue to WFH at any point in time, even after the pandemic. Technology adoption is bound to increase with on-demand solutions like Hot Desks, Pre-booked Parking Slots & Smart Meeting Rooms. This adoption will be coupled with an increased emphasis on employee safety and wellbeing. To adapt to changing customer requirements, we have come up with COVID safe workspaces that de-densify the space with staggered seating. Use selective surfaces in furniture that support frequent cleaning—leverage usage of flexible partitions between teams. We have launched a COVID Care Centre in Bangalore catering to our employee and support staff for immediate detection of symptoms & quarantine in case of positivity. We have a COVID-19 Taskforce that takes care of all safety precautions, from the adherence of PPE by support staff to training the frontline team on disinfection, sterilization, mandatory usage of masks by employees across communes, the staggered seating arrangement in the cafeteria, maintaining contactless sanitizers & dispensers, etc. We have also launched new solutions for satellite & remote offices for our clients. Leveraging connectivity to enable Walk to work has been another area of focus for us.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Meghna Agarwal: Yes, we had to make difficult choices to ensure business continuity. This experience has taught me many lessons on Crisis Management, the importance of flexibility in business models, client relationship management in addition to managing employee productivity & wellbeing.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Meghna Agarwal: Music & Yoga are my stress busters. Spending time with family, travelling, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance helps deal with anxiety.
Who are your competitors?
Meghna Agarwal: And how do you plan to stay in the game? From the very beginning, we have distanced ourselves from the coworking clutter and have focused majorly on enterprises. We provide end to end solutions starting from Space, Interior Design, Build & Manage. IndiQube is the pioneer of the “Pay as you use model” in commercial real estate with a robust technology platform to provide consistent “Employee Delight & Experience.” We have uniquely positioned ourselves as the preferred workspace partner for Enterprises, Offshore Development Centres, Unicorn Startups & SMEs. We see very few direct competitors in this space, offering solutions as diverse as IndiQube. Our EBITDA margins are significantly higher than the industry & we see no other competitor that was able to replicate our scale of growth without compromising on profitability.
Your final thoughts?
Meghna Agarwal: The pandemic has forced organizations to relook at their Commercial Real Estate requirements, while Work from Home could continue for about 20% of the workforce even after the pandemic, the prominence of office space for culture building, brainstorming, ideation, brand building & employee engagement will make the office space irreplaceable. Albeit in a different format, the office space is here to stay as we know it.
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