On May 10, 2018, Sajid Islam interviewed Shahzad Bhatti and below is the summary of the conversation.
From Recession to Future Vision
Shahzad Bhatti comes from a real estate background and worked in commercial real estate during the recession both in London and Dubai. Shahzad moved to Dubai nine years ago. Dubai was impacted significantly when the recession hit. With one client, Shahzad launched a business center but quickly learned that the business center model was becoming redundant. As a result, Shahzad evolved the business center model into more of a coworking model which focused on the community within a work environment. At the time, Dubai’s government only recognized business centers. They became one of the first private incubators recognized by the government.
Dubai is a very cosmopolitan city full of experts and locals from all parts of the world. Dubai is the trading hub of the Middle East and in recent years has grown into an interesting cultural hub. The introduction of art galleries, plays, productions, and operas have greatly contributed to Dubai’s creative scene. The start-up scene has also grown immensely. Government involvement allowed for new accelerated programs and initiatives to come into play.
The Coworking Pop-Up is in a very central location based in downtown Dubai which is the heart of Dubai. It has 7,000 square feet in the downtown location broken down into 15 boutique-style offices, three meeting rooms, two open plan coworking spaces, and a number of loungers throughout. The downtown location is their main facility. The Coworking Pop-Up is now growing to resource their community and benefit from each other’s members, locations, and events. The Coworking Pop-Up never focused on once particular industry. Shahzad wants to have a diverse population of members to allow everyone to learn from one another. He believes that those with expertise in particular industries can help cross pollinate ideas.
The Facility’s Function and Design
Shahzad found the design and planning of the coworking space to be a challenge. Although he was from a business center background, Shahzad was aware that the layout of coworking spaces was changing. The Coworking Pop-Up provides a nice balance of everything combining both open-plan and private areas. Shahzad also tries to help clients by working out the best and most cost-effective approaches.
The Coworking Pop-Up has a lot of business travelers and companies from overseas looking to open a branch in the area so they have to discuss and explain their ecosystem. Shahzad recommends to invest in the community with educational support and workshops. He says it took himself two years to realize how important that is to the coworking community. He also realized that mentorships are an important part of cultivating an effective coworking space. Along with the one-to-one mentorship programs, The Coworking Pop-Up provides some workshops for free to the public which tend to be more popular. Free workshops attract around 20-50 people whereas paid workshops — which are held in more of a classroom format — attract five-15 people. These paid workshops go more in depth rather than the general overview that the free workshops provide.
All companies trading in Dubai need to have a trading license. The Coworking Pop-Up supplies the space and the trade license application needed to be a legal registered entity. Shahzad also works with the marketing team to make sure everyone is up to date in the community. He believes it is all about the communication within the community. Shahzad also follows up on payments and helps clients with cash flow issues because finance accounting is important.
The Coworking Pop-Up is heavily focused on digital marketing which is an important aspect for all businesses. The facility provides workshops on topics pertaining to social media management, google analytics, website development, and branding as well as on how to raise investment and find funding.
Referrals from other members and people who have visited the facility for their various events bring in new clients. The Coworking Pop-Up also utilizes both Google and social media. In fact, The Coworking Pop-Up comes up early in Google’s results when people search for coworking spaces in Dubai because of their location and because they have the word coworking in their name. The facility is on all social medias under “Coworking AE.” However, Shahzad recommends they download the app which is free for all people. The app connects resources and allows them to keep up to date with other members and the events schedule. It concretes the community online to compliment offline services and facilities for the world’s first online and offline incubator. The app provides an opportunity to sign up and manage their membership. You can download the app from app.coworking.ae.