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WeWork’s failure won’t bring down India’s coworking sector, but there are lessons to be learnt

The dramatic fall of WeWork, the world’s largest coworking firm, has put the spotlight on the future of managed workspaces globally and in India.

Once valued at a staggering $47 billion, the unicorn is now cash strapped thanks to its reckless expansion and diversification. In the July-September quarter of 2019, WeWork posted losses of $1.3 billion, up from $497 million a year ago. Further, the US-based company’s move to drop plans to launch an initial public offering in September saw its valuation fall to $7.8 billion. Now, the Softbank-backed company is scaling back operations and cutting jobs.

While WeWork’s India operations, which are run by the Bengaluru-based real estate company Embassy Group, have so far remained unaffected, the fall of the giant is likely to have an impact on the overall sentiment of the sector.

After all, WeWork’s early success had inspired entrepreneurs in India to experiment with flexible workspaces.

Today, India is the second-largest market for flexible workspace in the Asia-Pacific region after China with over 1,000 co-working spaces. The cumulative area under coworking spaces in India currently stands at 6.9 million square feet, according to the real-estate consultancy JLL.

The impact

Given that coworking spaces in India are in a nascent phase of growth, the failure of a pioneer will weigh on investor sentiment in the short-term, say industry experts. “WeWork has 26 coworking spaces operating in India and if the global giant undergoes a hit, it will definitely impact the valuations and fund-raising plans of coworking players,” said Sanjay Choudhary, CEO and founder of Incuspaze, a Gurugram-based coworking space.

Others agree. “The current uncertainty might affect investor sentiment and have some impact on funding. However, we anticipate this to be a short-term effect,” said Amit Ramani, founder and CEO at New Delhi-based coworking space and virtual offices solution provider, Awfis…

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