Anubhuti is a writer at Forbes India, currently working from Gurugram. She reports on startups, culture, hospitality, and gender. As part of the web team, she is responsible for running the website along with the team, and manages the LinkedIn page. An alumna of SCM Sophia, Mumbai, she has previously worked with Hindustan Times as a features writer and at The Swaddle, reporting extensively on gender and health. She is a Kathak enthusiast with seven years of training and a lifetime to go. When not working or dancing, she's making clothes out of Indian prints, which she hopes will turn into a small business after she retires.
Amit Ramani, founder and CEO of Awfis Space Solutions Image: Amit Verma
We were all paranoid when the lockdown was announced,” says Amit Ramani, founder and CEO of Awfis Space Solutions, a co-working space. What if people never returned to work was a question that bothered Ramani when the first lockdown was imposed in March 2020.
Even during the crisis, Ramani was clear about a few things. First, he had to lead from the front. “For as long as it was important for me to be home, I did. But when things started to get better, I got back to work because seeing is believing. My presence would probably motivate other employees to help customers,” he says. Second, he had to be empathetic towards all stakeholders—employees, customers and landlords. “It was a first for everybody. It was most important for me to understand what was at stake for everybody and act accordingly,” he adds. Third, employee wellbeing would mean customers will be taken care of. “We took all major steps to take our employees’ health, both mental and physical, seriously. In the first wave, we did not see a single infection,” Ramani says. And last, he continues, “The importance of communication. I think we over-communicated during the pandemic because it’s important to be crystal clear and truthful. All our stakeholders were kept in the loop constantly.”
Apart from these managerial decisions, Ramani says the decision to engage employees in a way that business pivots came from them has been his most successful attempt at fighting the crisis. From tying up with existing office spaces to be managed and run by Awfis to setting up an online shop to sell work-from-home essentials such as desks, chairs or electronics were ideas that came from the team.
What was a 50 to 55 centre-strong business, spread over 30,000 seats across the country in April 2020, is now—he claims to be the largest network of any player in Asia—60,000 seats of shared office space available through Awfis across 15 cities. “In three months, we will be in three to four additional cities,” he says.
Experts say this model is here to stay. “Flex spaces have found themselves at the centre of occupiers’ hybrid work arena as organisations re-evaluate and reimagine a flexible and an agile world of work. Operators investing in elevating user experience will emerge as key differentiators in this highly competitive segment,” says Ramesh Nair, CEO, India, and MD, market development, Asia, at Colliers, a real estate consultancy.