Served in style

Served in style

Stylus offers serviced office spaces that can be customised according to a client’s budget requirements 

S. MEERA

CHRISTINA M. GHOSE, CEO, STYLUS

Picture this, your business venture in Mumbai is going great guns and you’re scoping out Bengaluru to open a second office. You want to do a trial for two months, rent an office space and get a small team together to see if it’s feasible. Then again, renting a space for two months is as expensive as renting it for a year, not to mention the legalities involved in registering the office. Alternatively, working from a hotel just isn’t the same. Bengaluru-based Stylus offers entrepreneurs in this situation an ideal solution. It runs customisable serviced office spaces in business parks in the city and charges on a per use basis. Its range includes serviced offices, virtual offices, meeting rooms and serviced SEZ units.

“When we began operations in 2006, serviced office spaces as an offering was niche, rigid and old school. There was an apparent need gap for plush, state of the art, plug and play offices and the economy was in a boom, attracting new businesses to India, especially in Bengaluru,” recalls Christina M. Ghose, CEO, Stylus. Today, the company has centres across Bengaluru and Mumbai and is looking to expand further. When the self-funded company executed its first round of expansion, it raised money from banks. “Going forward, we’re looking at various external funding options,” says Ghosh.

Smooth start

Ghose’s entry into the business was a natural extension of her husband’s real estate business. Additionally, her three partners have a background in interior design and real estate and this made identifying and renting or acquiring properties much less of a challenge. Ghose manages the operations while her partners act as strategic consultants. “There was an established network and the demand was apparent,” she adds.

Even with the odds in their favour, the venture itself was a novelty for the partners. “None of us really had a background in the running of a business  so we started from scratch and when I look back, the last six odd years have been a steady evolution as we are getting better and better at what we do,” says a confident Ghosh. From getting familiar with operations and procedures to managing and monitoring the sales process, it was all learning on the go. What has helped this growth is the commitment of the team to grow, evolve and be absolutely customer-centric.

Service first

A large part of Ghose’s team has been with her since Stylus’ inception. The company’s structure is centralised where finance, administration, HR functions, marketing and strategy are handled by the head office, while each property is managed by a team at the front desk, in addition to a centre manager and IT personnel.

As for its office range, each office is plug and play; ready to service clients according to their needs. “Sometimes people need only a meeting space and an address to put on the card, receive post, which can be organised. Or, they may need housekeeping, secretarial, travel management services. We have networked with service providers to cater to the varied requirements and we charge our clients as per the services they use,” explains Ghose.

So while a serviced office involves using the office space with certain facilities, in case of a virtual office, the office acts only as a makeshift base to be used as and when needed. A large part of the documentation and registering of property is handled by Stylus to minimise worry for clients.

In case of SEZs, Stylus subleases property and is a co-developer due to the government regulations that require SEZs to lease out space more than 100,000 sq. ft. “We have to be co-developers and we take up the space which we further divide for companies who need a smaller space but need to be located in an SEZ,” says Ghose. Since there is the risk of misuse of such facilities, Ghose has strengthened her legal procedures so that the company is protected through appropriate clauses that define Stylus’ roles and responsibilities clearly.

Growing pains

Ghosh believes that one of the reasons for Stylus’ growth is the transparency with which it deals with the customers and service level standards which has resulted in 100 percent renewals and extensions. Right from the quote generation stage to the delivering of services, the client is always aware as to what the deliverables are – no hidden clauses, no fine print, no surprise charges. And that defines the client’s experience as truly enjoyable, asserts Ghosh. Despite this positive, growing competition from newer players in the market and a conservative economy has posed challenges to the business.

One way of alleviating these concerns is to grow the business and Stylus’ marketing campaigns and referrals (internal and external) are run to target prospective clientele to come in and experience being with Stylus. Over the years, the company has developed a network to source new clients and it continues to service its existing clientele with commitment.

Looking ahead

Currently, the company has six locations clients can rent from. It is eyeing more locations in Tier-I and Tier-II cities, but is assessing the market carefully before taking the plunge. “We do not believe in putting up facilities on the map for the sake of it, therefore we evaluate each option in great detail,” says Ghose. Right now, Stylus is consolidating, fine tuning processes and procedures and is looking at venturing into smaller cities. Innovating on offerings like offices for training purposes will be another focus area. “We intend to be 10 centres strong by 2014 and are steadily working towards that. And we are looking at external funding to spur this growth and take it to the next level,” she adds.

Since its clientele ranges from established multinational businesses like Rolls Royce, Polycon and Hewlett Packard to startups and liaison offices, the focus for Stylus is to modify its services to increase its relevance to a particular client. And that’s just what Ghose intends to do.


SNAPSHOT

Stylus

Founder: Christina Ghose

Year: 2005

Funding: Self-funded, bank financing

Core Focus: Offers serviced office space for businesses in Bengaluru and Mumbai


Concept in brief:

Identifying office space, clearing the legalities, getting the interiors done and readying it up for use can take anywhere from six months to a year. But if you are in a hurry, or need an office only for a short while, or need just a room to conduct meetings – help is at hand on a pay-per-use basis. Stylus provides a serviced office business in Bengaluru and Mumbai. It has office spaces in business parks and SEZs and a network to take care of a variety of office needs including secretarial, housekeeping, legal and even travel management. Currently present across six locations in the two cities, the company is looking to expand to Tier-I and Tier-II cities and is just waiting for the market to become active again to take the plunge.