26-year-old Ritesh Malik’s Innov8 is the hottest co-working space in the country
Doctor turned entrepreneur Ritesh Malik wanted to start a co-working space in Delhi. Not wanting to compromise on the location, Malik did the unimaginable by picking up an officially classified “heritage building” in the world’s sixth most expensive office market space – Connaught Place.
According to CBRE, rentals in Connaught Place range around $151 per sq ft per annum (nearly Rs 10,100), making it the sixth most expensive prime office market space in the world. “Silicon Valley had a lot of style hubs and co-working spaces for entrepreneurs and we had only a few. I wanted to recreate the Valley culture back here in India,” said Malik, 26.
Malik has a chequered background. A qualified doctor from Dr. M.G.R Medical University in 2013, Malik took a keen interest in Marketing Science 101 course at London School of Economics even when he was studying to become a doctor.
At the same time Malik also dabbled with entrepreneurship when he founded a company called Adstuck. The flagship augmented reality app (ALIVE) was eventually sold to Bennet & Coleman and Malik decided to enroll for a course in ‘Management of Innovation & Technology’ at Harvard University. Around the same time he also started angel investing.
“In 2007 when I got selected into my college, that was the time when Facebook was starting up and companies like Google were doing very well. When I went to Harvard, it was clear I wanted to start something in India. We have a registered population of 1.2 billion and I felt I needed to get something done. Convincing my parents was not easy after my degree in medicine, but they realized I could earn some money even by being an entrepreneur” says Malik.
Malik says in India work is considered mundane and hence the idea was to create a good office that gets the best out of people. “This thinking was a big hit and that is why we saw 1000 application in just the first month of our operation. Today, we have 136 of the smartest minds working and creating. It is not only startups but the likes of judge and journalists who use our space,” says Malik.
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As a co-working space, Innov8 is sector agnostic and has startups from every domain. “From solar energy to someone handling the social handles of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, we have it all. It is very important to have a diverse community so that when they talk to each other, opportunities emerge. It’s picking the best from different industries and having them mingle and forming their own community, “says Malik.
Malik says getting the space was difficult, especially in a country like India where there is a lot of black-money involved in real estate. “It was even a challenge to convince people to take payments in cheque and not on cash, but all these things finally ironed out,” says Malik. What also did not help was the fact that Malik has picked up the legendary Regal building to house the co-working space. Tagged as a “heritage building”, there are strict building guidelines and regulations when it comes to such buildings.
Not chasing trends
Malik is, however, not only about co-working. The angel fund, Guerilla Ventures, that Malik runs has already made over two dozen investments with a focus on hardware companies.
“We should not be a nation that only follows trends. We should not focus on building social networking platforms. We are not good with it and we do not have the server capability or the infrastructure to hold that. For example, we have a big market called agriculture and we should focus on that. People from IITs with a mechanical engineering degree go on to do an MBA and then do a startup which has little to do with their background. The idea should always be to focus on your core strength and that is the only way to be successful,” says Malik.
A firm believer of not burning cash, Malik says that even with Innov8, the co-working space has been profitable from day with complete focus on the balance sheet. Malik says the next Innov8 centre would be in Chandigarh, followed by Mumbai.
According to Innov8 mentor Rahul Narvekar, “People no longer want to buy or own things. They want to rent it on per-use or by per hour. The biggest expense today for startups is real estate and Innov8 bridges that gap. For someone to achieve so much at such a young age is extremely commendable. Extremely humble, Malik has surrounded himself with a rockstar team, but is never shy to reach out for help when needed,” says Narvekar.
With the investment climate in the country looking south, Malik says startups should not worry about valuations or securing investments. :If you have the right product you will have investors calling you to take their money. Focus of the product and raising money is easy if what you have to offer is good,” says Malik.