Spring up to success with 91 Springboard

As more and more youngsters plunge into the world of start-ups and entrepreneurship, there is a growing need for a compatible working space. For the increasing number of start-up owners, freelancers and self-employed professionals, the lack of an ideal working space is a big obstacle towards realising their dreams. Here’s an interview with Pranay Gupta, the founder of 91springboard.

Early on in his career as an advisor to business owners in the CIIE at IIM-A, Pranay Gupta wanted to put an end to this problem. He got together with a few like-minded people to form 91springboard, a company that provides workspace to start-ups and other businesses. Welcoming small early stage start-ups with around five people, the space is also open to freelancers/small firms and works on a rental basis.

In an interview with Innovate Young, Pranay speaks about his climb up the entrepreneurial ladder and his inspirations and the secret to success behind one of the country’s most sought-after coworking spaces.

Pranay Gupta. Photo credit: www.youtube.com

When did you decide to take a plunge into the start-up world?
All of the co-founders were bitten by the entrepreneurship bug early on in their careers. Varun (Chawla) founded myguesthouse which later sold to Make My Trip; Anand (Vemuri) worked with a medical device start-up in California and I was the joint CEO at the CIIE at IIM-A. We all realised that workspace was a big problem for many entrepreneurs and this led to the emergence of 91springboard.

After supporting multiple entrepreneurs at CIIE, I was also longing to do something on my own. I decided to take a sabbatical to get a clearer perspective. But within a week, I realised that sabbaticals don’t work. If you want to follow your dreams, just jump.

What is the uniqueness of 91springboard ?
Our core competencies lie in creating a collaborative environment and culture that enables collaboration and growth for all parties involved. 91springboard has two main differentiators –

(1)   Community: We function on a community-based approach and believe that the spaces we are building thrive on a sense of community. The culture that we have created here is what sets us apart from the other co-working spaces.

(2)   Network: Being the largest co-working space provider, we have the biggest network across the country of various stakeholders of the entrepreneurial ecosystem from mentors, investors, service providers, and partners and of course entrepreneurs at various stages of their journey, creating the most value for anyone that joins the community.

91springboard spaces. Photo credit: www.yourstory.com

What were the challenges you faced during your journey? 
The biggest challenge for us has been clearly communicating what “co-working” is to people. It’s not a widely recognized term in India and people are still getting used to it. However, once they give us a chance, they are able to experience the joy of co-working and understand it well. In fact, this is one of the reasons why a lot of our customers have come to us via referrals.

What mistakes do you think you could have avoided?
Well, there’s surely been a bunch of mistakes we’ve made along the way and learnt from fast too. But if I had to pick our greatest mistake, I’d say it was something we did when we had just started out. This was during our first year of operations when we had opened up our hub #1 (we’re at 13 now) in Mohan Estate, Delhi. This was a renovated basement space which had the capacity to seat about 100 members.

We were severely bootstrapped and thinking various solutions to cut cost. It was our first summer in Delhi, and everyone knows they can be killer. We had not planned ahead and our ‘batcave’ wasn’t equipped with ACs. So, when the peak of summer rolled around, we decided it would be a great idea to cool the hub with water coolers.

Cheap and effective right? Wrong. They served the purpose for only a short while till it started getting humid. Even at this stage, instead of bringing in ACs, we tried to reduce humidity, which didn’t work. Needless to say, this inconvenienced our members and disrupted operations to quite an extent and the episode was quickly brushed under the rug. Until now!

What is your personal philosophy?
Two things – firstly, you need to be the best in what you do. Even if you aren’t, you need to keep striving to be the best. Secondly, honour your commitment.

Three tips you want to give budding entrepreneurs.

  1. Focus on finding your product market fit. Customers should be happy with your product and willing to pay for it. If they keep coming back and are happy, and your unit economics work, that means the product market fit is there. Just focus on growing post that.
  2. Someone shouldn’t be a co-founder just because he or she is a good friend of yours. They should be as driven and kicked about the idea. Complementary skills would help. Else, at least a willingness to pick up a skill super fast.
  3. Don’t do it for the cool quotient as it is temporary. Do it only if you really want to solve a problem and have a solution you can think of which is superior.
Photo credit: www.coworker.com

Are the avenues for students changing?
Yes, they are much better now and improving by the day. There are more mentors to support them, more incubators and angels to potentially fund them, and much more knowledge on the web for them to learn from. The gap between them vs someone with, say, five years of experience is much less now.

What are your hobbies?
I enjoy sports like badminton, football and volleyball a lot but I don’t get much time for them currently. I need to get back to them.

Talking to start-ups is something I really enjoy too. It might sound like a boring answer as it is my business too but I guess I am one of the lucky few who has been able to turn his hobby into his profession.

I really enjoy watching South Indian movies in Hindi too! You got to watch ‘Indira -The Tiger’ to know what I am talking of!

Favourite quote
“Winners don’t do different things; they do things differently” – Shiv Khera

What is your motto in life? 
People are different. It’s ok.

Who is your inspiration?
JRD Tata is one of our role models because he was able to bring to the Indian market the excellence that we all now expect from the Tata brand. He was a visionary who disrupted a lot of verticals and industries and put India on the world map. Incidentally, the ‘91’ in our name ’91 Springboards’ is our way of acknowledging the potential of the Indian market (it’s also the country code of India) and we are dedicated to its growth, much like JRD Tata.


For details, visit http://www.91springboard.com/

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