A Doctor specializes in diagnosing the problem and then prescribing accurate medicines to solve that problem. Perhaps, today’s startups follow the same rule when they design their products to solve a particular problem in society. Perhaps, this is what disruption is all about. And, perhaps, this is why Dr. Ritesh Malik could succeed in all his ventures when he turned to entrepreneurship from practicing medicines. Ritesh began encouraging entrepreneurship in India in 2015 when he started his co-working platform called Innov8 which is now one of the leading names in co-working space in India. Innov8, a Y-combinator backed co-working space is a platform to connect a community of freelancers, entrepreneurs, corporates, tech innovators and investors under one roof and in a social environment. Along with that, with the vision of promoting entrepreneurship in India, he started his own angel funding venture in 2015 called ‘Project Guerrilla’, which brings a premiere India-based accelerator and incubation center to the country. Clearly, it shows Ritesh’s passion for innovation and experimentation. In a candid conversation with Santosh Sinha, Ritesh talks about Innov8 and what OYO’s association means to him. Ritesh also explains his tryst with entrepreneurship. Here are the excerpts of the conversation.
Q: The demand for office space in India has defied all odds in the last one year. What, in your opinion, are the reasons behind this? Do you think the government needs to come up with more reformatory measures to further boost the real estate sector and office space segment in particular?
RM: The office real estate market is witnessing a robust streak, buoyed by the massive impact of technology and the evolution of shared and flexible workspaces. Especially with the emergence of the start-up culture, demand for office space has seen a significant rise in the last few years. A report by Colliers International states that flexible workspaces accounted for 13% of the pan-India office leasing volume in Q3 2018. That number is expected to rise substantially over the next couple of years. It is also interesting to note that co-working is not just a metropolitan phenomenon. Increasingly, the demand for flexible workspaces is coming from tier 2 and 3 cities as well. As real estate rentals rise in metros, tier 2 cities are fast becoming hot-zones for co-working. A 2017 CBRE report stated that 6-10 million sq. ft. of co-working space is expected to be leased in tier 1 and 2 cities by 2020. One of the major reasons for this demand is that a shared space offers businesses the flexibility to shrink or expand as per their requirement without worrying about the massive rentals and thereby improves operating efficiencies. This is a great opportunity for organized shared space operators, local landlords, property owners as well as real estate development firms to meet this demand while it continues to be at a nascent stage in India. Having said that, government policies that focus on affordable housing, regulatory reforms, and implementation of laws that make the process short and transparent will be welcomed and will further fuel the growth of the sector.
Q: Now that OYO has acquired Innov8, what new doors of the opportunity it brings for you?
RM: Given OYO’s deep real estate and market intelligence coupled with rich experience of onboarding properties, transforming and upgrading them and creating value for customers, we have a lot to learn from them through this partnership. Now as a part of the OYO Workspaces family, we’ve completely metamorphosed ourselves to an agile frugal company, focussing on customer service and growth both at the same time. OYO has brought a lot of value for us, both from supply negotiations to transformation scale, procurement and sales efficiencies. Post our announcement in July 2019, we have received an overwhelming response and we expect to keep setting new benchmarks for the industry. We strongly believe that OYO Workspaces will transform the coworking industry of our country.
Q: Your ‘Project Guerilla’ has investments in more than 40 startups. What makes you so confident about the startups? Aren’t you afraid of the risk of losing your investments?
RM: Not at all. We are in the age of startups and entrepreneurship and startups are here to stay. In this day and age, everything is changing. Technology has brought in huge transformations worldwide which is beyond anyone’s comprehension. This brings large opportunities for startups and entrepreneurs to leverage this change and adapt to new and improved ways of working across sectors and departments. I am extremely confident about the future of the start-up industry in India.
Q: What made you start ‘Project Guerilla’? Do you think there is a need for more such initiatives to promote fresh ideas in the market? Do you think the government is doing enough to provide a secure environment for startups to grow?
RM: In 2015, Project Guerrilla was launched with a vision to create India’s largest founder driven startup fund. It focuses on product-led and scalability through sustainable development. I strongly believe that the whole ecosystem changes when a founder invests in a founder. This is the primary reason to invent Project Guerilla in order to fuel the creative and fresh minds of our country. While the government is doing its fair share through the Start-Up India flagship movement, is doing its bit, I feel it’s largely an initiative for the industry. As we move forward, there is a stronger need for entrepreneurs and founders to invest in new ideas as that’s what will change the game.
Q: Being a medical graduate and now a successful entrepreneur, how do you strike a balance between your personal and professional lives? You are today a role model to many who aim to become an entrepreneur someday, what advice you would like to give to them?
RM: I would advise the budding talent and young entrepreneurs to focus primarily on building the best product possible followed by building and investing in your A-team. A good team goes a long way in ensuring your product reaches the right audience. While you continue to chase success always be cognizant of ethics and a sense of what’s right and wrong. Last but not least, your family should always be more valuable than any success, money or fame hence giving equal priority to your family is a must. True happiness will be achieved when you have the right balance between taking care of your mindset, optimism, health, and family wellbeing.