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Growing women entrepreneurs

Co-working spaces are helping to design new work cultures built on gender equality.

Sudeep Singh |

The rapidly developing Indian start-up ecosystem has driven the rising popularity of coworking spaces in the country. There are more than 160 co-working spaces across tier-1 and tier-2 locations, with Delhi/NCR having the maximum share, followed by Mumbai and Bangalore.

These spaces are helping the start-up community by solving the most fundamental problem that any budding venture faces — infrastructure. The concept of co-working spaces of an office, with shared facilities where people from different organisations can rent one or more desks or private offices on a daily or monthly basis, has helped start-ups overcome the hassles of real-estate hunting and spending tons of money on rent and infrastructure.

Start-ups are rewriting the rules of organisational structuring by creating work cultures that are vastly different from that of corporates. Coworking spaces are enabling such start-up cultures by nurturing work environments that encourage peer-to-peer learning and collaboration between professionals from across multiple domains.

Moreover, besides fulfilling the fundamental need for an office, coworking spaces enable professionals to exchange ideas and foster creativity in an environment where hierarchical distinctions are often blurred, further promoting the growing trend of the sharing economy.

How co-working spaces are helping women entrepreneurs grow: The path to success is never a linear one if you are an entrepreneur. This is even truer for women entrepreneurs breaking forth into the country’s start-up ecosystem and making significant contributions to the tech-driven entrepreneurship boom in India.

Some of the most successful women entrepreneurs today are helping to design new work cultures that are built on gender equality, paving the way for other female professionals to benefit from the massive market opportunities as much as male entrepreneurs. But while there is abundance of opportunities today for women-led organisations than ever before, there is still a long way to go for the business environment to catch up to their needs.

Women-centric or women-only co-working spaces are cropping up in the country to address this gap, offering a community for aspiring women entrepreneurs and start-up founders to work closely with each other and build networks of like-minded entrepreneurs.

By enabling access to funding opportunities for women entrepreneurs through networking events or investor meet-ups, these co-working spaces are not only helping them to network and interact with a diverse crowd, but also connecting them with opportunities to take their businesses to the next level.

Providing a clean and hygienic environment is another major factor that these are focussing on, allowing female business leaders to ensure better health and state-of-the-art infrastructure for their employees. Few co-working facilities have also started offering crèche facilities to encourage women entrepreneurs with children to work in a carefree manner. This is allowing more women to overcome major barriers and increase their productivity in a collaborative and supportive environment.

The future of co-working in India: With the co-working sector expected to witness consolidation by 2020, most of the current independently owned facilities can be expected to either phase out of the market or be acquired by the bigger players. As a result of this consolidation, the market share will be mainly distributed between two to three large players, along with a handful of independent companies.

These players will need to focus on female entrepreneurs and facilitate working environments that are more conducive to their needs and demands. Although gender- specific coworking spaces are yet to take off in a big way in India, the rapid increase in the number of female entrepreneurs indicates that such business centres would be required sooner rather than later.

Women are making a difference in the start-up community in India and across the globe. However, they need equal access to networks, funding, and mentorship to become successful entrepreneurs. Co-working spaces are adopting newer designs to offer mentorship and networks to women founders.

The growing consciousness within the start-up community is leading to increased support for female entrepreneurs with unique services and infrastructural aid. This is not only helping them to lead successful business ventures, but also to pioneer the way for other women who need the resources and support to make it big in the highly-competitive start-up ecosystem.

The writer is chief evangelist and CEO, GoWork.