Words out on Locus Serviced Office, which is conveniently located in the heart of the new business location in Dhaka. It’s Founder; Abir Mallick talked about the coworking scene in Bangladesh. He also gave an in-depth assessment of the efforts that went into making Locus a ‘total solution workspace.’
Mr. Mallick has been working in the IT industry for the last 15-20 years. During his consultancy work in several countries, he used to take memberships in several coworking spaces or serviced offices located there. With the trend of coworking increasing elsewhere, he saw the need to create the same setup in Bangladesh. After visiting most of the serviced office centers and coworking spaces situated in Dhaka, he observed two things. Some of the spaces were not up to proper standards. While the others were good, however, their high prices made them less affordable to the mass. Therefore, he thought of setting up a coworking space in Bangladesh at an international level. “So people could utilize the fully integrated solution we have to offer at a reasonable price,” said Mr. Mallick.
Coworking Space or Serviced Office Space
Mr. Mallick states, “It’s a thin ground. Traditionally, the setup of a coworking space is called serviced office.” The difference he deduced between the two is that, serviced office is traditionally based, and the concept has been known for several decades now. Whereas, coworking is relatively new, especially in Bangladesh. Forming an analogy, he said, “Someone refers to a shop as a general store while the other calls it a departmental store, ultimately general store is a departmental store and vice versa.” Coworking is slightly different in another sense; it has a non-traditional structure. What the concepts encourage at a coworking space is fluid communication, open space, open architecture, a place to exchange ideas. At serviced offices, the primary clients are mature and established business. Whereas, coworking space targets various communities of startups, freelancers, entrepreneurs. Locus has startups taking residence there; however, due to their setup, they are matured startups.
Origin of the name: Locus
He commented, “Locus is a particular position or place where something occurs or is situated. Since this is a coworking space, it is a meeting point for diverse individuals.” Therefore, they selected a name to represent the shared aspect of coworking. As well as the fact that people will use the space for shared benefits.
When choosing real estate, they opted to rent an 800 sq ft space. They assumed that the business would sustain for more or less six years. The lifespan of their equipment and facilities is five years, which is their recovery period. Hence, they strategically signed a six-year lease with the landlord. The timing and amount of increments have been discussed and finalized before signing the contract, to avoid any misgivings. Based on their future needs, they will decide whether to renew the contract or not. Although, in case of expansion they will choose to relocate.
Speaking of expansion, an additional 1500 square feet of space in under renovation. It will facilitate 17 people seating capacity plus 13 people meeting room. The development is to assist with their growing number of corporate clients.
Locus is located in Banani Road,11, Dhaka. Their location provides easy access to Dhaka International Airport, local hotels, and serviced flats. Since the majority of the clients they target and work with are international delegates, the need for a prime location was a must. Mr. Mallick shared, “We prefer that the amenities and hotels we wish to provide for our clients, to be within their reach.”
Locus has a rare and premium setup compared to most coworking spaces or shared offices in Bangladesh. Mr. Mallick claims, “We offer a high technology integrated office, where access to technology is seamless.” Their main focus is “ubiquitous”– that is, incorporating technology into the daily operations of their members work. In Bangladesh, wastage of space is a common occurrence. Keeping that in mind, they incorporated ‘maximum usage of space’ into their design concept. Locus hired Myth Ltd., to help with their spacing plan; however, the design, equipment, and sourcing were in-house.
Majority of their furniture are readily movable to facilitate the need for more space. For example, their meeting room with 7-8 seating capacity can be quickly rearranged to seat 10-12 people gearing for a creative brainstorming session. In their walk-in space, which is used for shared purposes, the desks can be folded, and the pull of a chord reveals a projector screen, thus creating a platform for presentations.
One of their key features is the height-adjustable table, tailored to a disabled individual or an architect team/individual working on a project.
They also have a dual purpose room dubbed the huddle room/phone booth. As the name suggests, one can utilize it for private conversations, personal meetings, and interviews. It has laptops and pull-out table to accommodate two people, and the room can be used on an hourly basis. The IT equipment is strategically hidden within compartments making the small room spacious.
At Locus, their majority target clients are local and foreign medium to large-scale companies. They are also targeting multinational and top-level corporations. At the moment, discussions are ongoing with several international companies who are looking to operate from Locus. Mr. Mallick stated, “Our clients are those who expect top quality services and facilities.” A criterion, Locus has met with flying colors, because of their premium range setup throughout the space.
Currently residing in their space is a British company, and one from Singapore. Three companies from Bangladesh, namely NAASBE and Traventure operate from their space. A recent addition to their clientele includes another travel and tourism company – Narayanganj based – who wishes to create a setup in Dhaka.
Locus does marketing at a corporate level focusing on direct marketing. They also do door-to-door marketing and online marketing. Several institutions within and outside Bangladesh lists coworking spaces worldwide; Locus is enlisted in all of them. As for social platforms, they use Facebook and Linkedin. However, Mr. Mallick said, “ Since the clients that frequent us, are at the corporate level, we seldom get clients via Facebook.”
Currently, they are not using any specific software at Locus. They do have a software that is under development. Mr. Mallicks points out, “It will be completed and implemented within a month, then every setup in our space will be automatic, including membership servicing.”
He shared details as to how the software would enhance their members experience at Locus. For example, they will give their members a membership card, which when scanned will keep a record of the service they are availing. it will facilitate automatic billing. In the future, their target is to make the software web/app based so that their members can benefit from their amenities remotely. A scenario for this would be when their client has a visitor who wishes to utilize the space and its facilities.
Locus’s Team & Hiring Approach
In Bangladesh, the concept of service is still lacking, leading to few faulty hires at Locus. Mr. Mallick felt they lacked professionalism, and many would opt for segregation and division with various tasks. This outlook is not practical for those in the service industry. Including Locus, there are 6-7 coworking spaces in Bangladesh, which is negligible regarding numbers. “People don’t have a clear idea as to what kind of services we provide,” he said.
Mr. Mallick observed that the major challenge faced in Bangladesh, is that people are not used to this sector. Locus does provide in-house training. Even after educating them on the work involved in a serviced office, majority perceive it as a desk-based job. When they realize that it is not a strictly desk-based job, they don’t adapt well to the difference from their assumptions. He said, “I would say this is a major bottleneck that we are facing for the last six months, i.e., finding people equipped to work in this sector.”
“When the customer comes first, the customer will last” – Robert Half.
Based on his experience with the initial hires, Mr.Mallick decided to hire those with the mentality of ‘service first.’ He feels that Locus’s hires should aim to fulfill their clients’ requirements. They have various types of staff. If one is absent, the individual should be capable of taking over their task and completing them accordingly. At present, Locus’s team is comprised of four individuals including Mr. Mallick. They are also looking to recruit new people to facilitate the expansion taking place.
Events & Workshops
One of Locus’s sister concern is Creative IT Institute, the leading IT training center in Bangladesh. All their events are hosted at Locus. It is a pure training institution where they teach skills like web design, mobile phone app design, etc. Locus has already organized 15-20 sessions with Creative IT institutes, and they fall under Locus’s CSR (corporate social responsibility).
Two months ago, they held a session on e-safety (online safety) free of cost. They had invited several experts from the local community and corporations, to conduct the course. A corporate meeting including Bangladesh’s leading private banks also takes place at Locus.
Conclusion: Going the extra mile
Locus has another sister concern that provides serviced apartments at a preferential rate. They extend this service to their international members giving them housing options. In the event, one of their clients need a TNT line; they can take dedicated leases, which is also offered at Locus. They can even arrange local guides and car-drop service, based on their client’s requirements.
Mr. Mallick aspired, “We hope for our members to only focus on their work, while we source additional services, facilitating their work.” For example, helping members with the IT aspects of their work, such as publications, back-end processing, digital marketing services, etc.
Locus has successfully geared their services and facilities to suit and meet their clients’ needs. They are well on their way to becoming a ‘one-stop solution’ for their members business needs.