Apr 28, 2018 Blogs

The iKeva Journey: A delightful chat with Monika Misra

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What happens when 3 competent professionals with a common interest in creating something resourceful meet? A business idea germinates.

This is what happened when Monika Misra met Satish Andra and Dr. Ramesh Babu Byrapneni at an entrepreneurs’ networking event in 2008. By 2011, the 3 were all set to establish an enterprise that would facilitate and accelerate the start-up ecosystem in India. Finally in 2012, iKeva – one of India’s pioneering and leading co-working space provider – was launched.

Before we get into how and what makes iKeva a leader in a field, where there are already 300 players, let’s get to know as to how did Monika Misra and team plan to start a venture in co-working.

Seeking opportunities is all about vigilance

Monika Misra comes from the hospitality background. Her accomplishments include managing projects for Taj Hotels and later on for Servcorp which is a serviced office space provider company. While Satish is basically an engineer who had established his own tech company in the US and had later joined DFJ (Draper Fisher Jurvetson), a US venture capital firm and he finally became a part of an Indian venture capital firm – Ventureast.

On the other hand, Dr. Ramesh is a renowned cardiologist and was the head of his department at a well-known hospital before becoming a part of TiE (The IndUS Entrepreneurs) – a non-profit international organization that supports the growth of startups. In the search for enthusiastic people who wanted to bring about change especially in the health sector, Dr. Ramesh had joined TiE.

It was at TiE where the 3 future entrepreneurs had met. By this time Monika Misra had realized that the situation of the co-working spaces in India was dismal. Companies either catered to well to do establishments while the cheaper one provided bad quality services. Even Satish wasn’t happy with the co-working spaces in Hyderabad when he needed them for his funds’ related work. Commenting on the inception of the idea, Monika remarks, “So the ideation started off with the aim to solve this problem as a lot of startups needed basic support services like lawyers, CAs, HR & marketing consultants – services that new entrepreneurs shouldn’t spend their productive time in searching”.

The 3 were quick to notice this void in the co-working scenario and decided to conscientiously do something about it for the greater good of the budding entrepreneurs, Indian economy and the society at large.

Learning as you go

This phrase sums up iKeva’s successful journey. Despite Satish and Dr. Ramesh having absolutely no experience in the real estate regime, Monika and the two, single-handedly launched iKeva in Banjara Hills, Hyderabad in 2013. Despite being a new venture and the Indian market still being unaware of the full potential of co-working, Monika was determined to make iKeva pan-Indian. In 2014 iKeva was launched in Bangalore – the capital city of startups and in 2015, iKeva was inaugurated in Chennai.

Coming to the infrastructural design, apart from connecting their client startups with the mentors, investors and Tech & marketing people, the 3 also wanted to make their workspaces a source of community building and to work as a collaborator. “To foster this collaboration for the startups, we designed our Hitech city center with large tables for teams to collaborate, gave an industrial look along with a lot of open spaces to move around”, Monika narrates. But they soon realized that a majority of the companies still preferred to work in a private and closed atmosphere. “So we redesigned our centers with 60- 65% of private spaces & 30-35% spaces as open work areas”, adds Monika.

With regards to the clientele, initially, they got their clients from OLX, Quicker and client referrals.  Remembering the good old days of experimentation, Monika reflects, “We started DM only in November 2013. Until then we just worked on our website with an agency. I didn’t even know what SEO was back then.” Currently, their clientele is composed of large MNCs (30-35%), SMEs (30%) and startups (35%).

As time progressed, the 3 planned to bring in a more professional structure to iKeva. “We created iKeva Z for some time for grown-up startups and large companies.”

Being alive to the needs of their clients has been their success mantra so far.  Monika points out, “Our customers got us to formalize their need for creating a work-life balance and building a community. They were the ones who were committed to taking initiatives to have fun at work, bring speakers to talk, etc.” Therefore, by mid- 2015, iKeva also started organizing entrepreneur-friendly events.

iKeva’s brand distinction

Monika believes that the only way to survive competition is to provide the customers with something more than what is already available in the market. “This is when we came up with the concept of ‘Member Benefits’ – a range of services made available to the customers so that they can save a lot more than they actually pay us for the co-working space. In fact, if somebody wants to make use of all benefits, their rent is free.” What do these unique ‘Member Benefits’ comprise of that give iKeva its distinct brand image? Let’s find out.

  • Apart from VAS (Value Added Services) like connecting the companies to experienced lawyers, CAs, etc., iKeva also offers discounts on cloud hosting, health insurance, PayTM transactions and certain software.
  • “We not only cater to their professional needs but also personal ones”, iterates Monika. As a customer of iKeva, you get to enjoy discounts at gyms, hotels and even on your Uber fare.
  • Organizing promotional or networking events for the clients if they require it or fetching discounts on such events is also one of their main attractions.

When a business assumes an identity it can’t be devoid of emotions

Apart from the above-listed marketing strategies, Monika Misra feels that an emotional connection with every client and employee has also been responsible for making iKeva a pioneer in the co-working arena. “Whenever we come to know that it’s our client’s/ agent’s birthday, we write their name on the whiteboard and also to send them personalized email greetings, apart from clicking a picture with them.”

Adding to the sentimental quotient, iKeva also has the habit of sending out newsletter to their clients, etc. in which they run a special feature every month – The Humans of iKeva.

It’s a segment where iKeva publishes the success stories and inspiring journeys of their clients as entrepreneurs.

Commenting on the success of iKeva, Monika only had to say, “The companies can just register with us for 3-6 months and move on but they are there on an average of 16-18 months. So there’s definitely got to be something special about iKeva.”

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