March 19, 2017 18:02 By Asina Pornwasin The Nation 2,455 Viewed
Trend of hiring a workspace for short periods has caught on; café service and meeting room are often part of package
Co-working space is a potential business that is flourishing along with the boom of start-ups. This kind of business itself sometimes plays a role as a start-up since it began like one.
Co-working space businesses began in Bangkok about five to six years ago. The first co-working space was known as Hubba.
Today, people acknowledge that co-working space businesses are growing, along with the boom in start-ups.
A lot more co-working spaces have sprouted in the provinces and some have come up with different concepts, not only providing space for working but offering a café. Some call themselves a hybrid co-working space.
And most of their customers are not start-ups but people who work remotely in various occupations and local people who work outside the office and home.
And although the co-working space concept began in Thailand a number of years ago, once such a site opens in another province, it is still a new phenomenon for locals. So, operators need to switch to a new business model of co-working space to also providing facilities for workers plus coffee cafe service.
One of these outfits, named “THE TREE Sleep l Space” opened in Trang at the end of January. This venture stemmed from its founder’s vision of catching up with a trendy business.
Founder Pichaya Lerlertvichaya is a Master’s degree graduate who went back to her home town to set up THE TREE, offering co-working space, plus a cafe.
“We are the first co-working space in Trang,” Pichaya said.
She said since co-working space is new for people in her hometown, she needs to use a cafe that is famous and get to know local people, to draw customers to the co-working space service.
“We are a co-working space offering coffee service, not coffee cafe plus co-working space,” she said.
At THE TREE, there are distinct zones between the cafe and working space and a meeting room, separated by a digital door lock.
“Actually, I’ve never run a coffee business before when I was graduate student. We saw the trend – people need more comfortable space for working rather than only coffee. They need facilities for working such as a hi-speed Internet connection, space and a community as well as a meeting room. The co-working space and meeting room are about 120 square-metre areas.
“We [also] offer 4K TV monitors for customers doing file sharing, for conferences, and so on. We offer separate Internet connection between the coffee cafe and working space zone, so Internet connections at the co-working space areas will be not dropped. At the co-working space area, we also offer drinks, toast, a mini-bar and all-in-one-printer,” Pichaya said.
Its service fee is Bt100 for the first two hours, Bt180 for a half day and Bt250 for the whole day. It also has packages including 5-days, 10-days, 15-days, and one month.
THE TREE opened for only two months but attracted customers to use the service everyday.
Most customers were teachers, lecturers, sales, and app developers. They were local people not tourists.
“A lot more students – medical students and architecture students – are our main customers as well,” she said.
Pichaya believes the younger generation has a lifestyle preference for working space but not an office, so co-working space is an answer.
She plans to expand the centre with more meeting rooms as she has had requests for a large meeting room that can fit 15-30 people. Now, THE TREE only has a small meeting room.
This is similar to Va-Chi, a new co-working space that is set to open in Yasothon, in the Northeast. It is a coffee bar and bistro – a coffee eatery that will have workspace.
Parades Yasothornsrikul was a cafe entrepreneur who set up Va-Chi. She said that after running a cafe for six years, she saw that people prefer to work while drinking coffee and tea. So, she decided to expand her cafe business to co-working space.
She said Va-Chi will be larger than the existing café and will launch soon. It will offer full facilities for working in 550 square-metre areas. This space will be upstairs while the cafe will be downstairs.
“Va-Chi is a result of our experience – after we found that people need space for working and meeting. They often do work and meet at our cafe, which is not designed for working efficiently,” Parades explained.
Most customers who work and meet at her cafe are salespeople, teachers, prosecutors, a baker, and government officers.
Meanwhile, a third example is Punspace in Chiang Mai. It was set up four years by co-founder Euam Sirisanthana, who had experienced Hubba in Bangkok. Euam went home to Chiang Mai thinking she would continue her career as a programmer, but she could not find any co-working space in the northern city, so she started Punspace. It has two branches – at Nimman and Tha Phae Gate.
Punspace Nimman offers a vibrant and creative work environment close to many popular coffee shops, restaurants, pubs, bars, plus banks and convenience stores. The courtyard in the front is a good place to relax when people want a break from work.
Punspace Tha Phae Gate is in the old city part of Chiang Mai, close to many cultural landmarks as well as good food and drinks. Burkta Coffee downstairs serves good hot drinks to energise you all day and Makerspace next door provides access to tools and machines for making products.
Euam said most of customers are remote workers, and initially many of them were foreigners. But now it has more local customers, like Wong Nai.
She believes the beauty of the co-working space business is not only to offer space for work, but to help create a working community for customers. She plans to open one more branch next year because there is increasing demand in the market.
“We have a good occupation rate at both branches. Most customers are monthly members,” Euam said.
Hatch Co-working Space(ship), is a further example down in Phuket. It is a place to work and meet, where people can get together to share ideas and inspire each other. It costs Bt100 to hire a working space for two hours or Bt180 for five hours, while the price for a whole day is Bt250.
Hatch offers a membership service with the price rate of Bt1,000 for five days, Bt2,000 for 10 days, Bt3,000 for 15 days, and Bt5,700 for 30 days. Members get a discount 10 per cent for working space, and 15 per cent off for use of a meeting room.