A hybrid work model has catapulted the demand of co-working spaces, with many organisations and entrepreneurs choosing the flexibility of such spaces over long leases of office space. Global co-working giant WeWork and Embassy Services Pvt Ltd (the property management arm of Embassy Group) have had a resoundingly successful partnership in WeWork India. Raghuvinder Singh Pathania, Country Head of P&L, Member Experience & Operations, WeWork India and Pradeep Lala, MD & CEO, Embassy Services Pvt Ltd (ESPL) tell us about their journey together.
What made you choose Embassy Services as your service partner in India? What expertise were you looking for?
Pathania: When we entered India five years ago, the concept of co-working was very new to the country. To set up such spaces, we needed a partner who had the experience of handling large portfolios. We looked for an FM partner who could offer multiple layers of services, from housekeeping to security, hard services, health & safety, risk management, supply chain and more. We also wanted a partner with the best trained people who could be empathetic to both our members and our employees, who were trained to be consistently innovative and efficient.
Our relationship with Embassy Services is now five years old, encompassing our high growth phase, pandemic phase and back-to-normal phase. In them, we have found not just a vendor but a true partner.
What unique qualities must a service provider have to service a co-working space like WeWork?
Lala: Our journey started by showing the WeWork India team what we do, but we soon realised that although we were doing reasonably good work, the expectations and deliverables promised by WeWork to its members were much higher than what was then being provided in India.
WeWork wanted to offer the same human-experience across the world; they were unwilling to compromise on anything. We built a team (including finance, technology, training and operations experts) to travel to New York and London where WeWork has several centres, to learn how they function and what a WeWork experience actually is.
It’s not like providing facility management to one enterprise client or one organisation where expectations are uniform; WeWork fulfills each individual member’s expectations. That was the key differentiator. We learnt that language, community, collaboration and security were among the many important aspects.
What were the international standards you expected Embassy Services to match at your facilities in India?
Pathania: Being an international brand, we expected our partner to follow certain global standards. Some of the important ones were the ability to take data-driven decisions, prioritising investment in technology, leveraging the power of analytics and solid negotiation with sub-vendors. Given the flexibility and agility of our business, we expected the same from our FM partner in terms of maintenance planning, asset management, waste management…the list is endless.
How did you go about training and upskilling Embassy Services staff to meet WeWork’s expectations?
Lala: We brought overseas knowledge back home, and we realised that we would have to scale up at a very accelerated level of growth. We had to build a nimble, well-trained team. We started an internal project called ‘We work for WeWork’.
The most important aspect of a WeWork centre is the community feel, which requires excellent communication skills among employees. Hygiene and courtesy were imperative. We recruited youngsters and requested WeWork to up the scale of compensation for them, and they gladly obliged. We invested in a training center where we replicated a WeWork office, complete with pantry, washrooms, office spaces, etc. We rolled out four-week training programs with 25-26 modules in technical and housekeeping, after which certified employees would be deputed to the respective location.
What are the housekeeping practices required to meet WeWork’s workplace hygiene norms?
Pathania: During the pandemic, we quickly realised that we would have to go above and beyond to operate our spaces. With a partner like Embassy Services, it was easy to prioritise and achieve safety and hygiene. For example, for deep cleaning, we are using biodegradable solutions that are safe for use around children, pets and the elderly. We use only ozonised water for cleaning, which helps us achieve chemical-free cleaning and reduces our carbon footprint. We sanitise all high-touch surfaces with medical-grade disinfectant every 30 minutes.
What are some of the advanced tools and technologies used to adhere to these norms?
Lala: We collaborated with the WeWork operations team on every aspect of this. Our in-house technology suite ‘E-Spectrum’ has operational tools that increase efficiencies by digitising checklists and reporting. This has helped us manage and monitor our people and bring in more transparency in operations.
What are some of the food services that clients enjoy at WeWork’s co-working spaces?
Pathania: F&B is our top priority now. We want members to have options that are palatable, cost-efficient and full of variety. In our pantries, we supply freshly brewed coffee, tea and condiments, along with amenities like microwaves, refrigerators, tableware and dishware. Big Basket instant machines are unmanned retail spaces for snacks. Our live chai bars are ever popular, as are our food counters, that offer mid-day meals across our spaces.
We have digitised the ordering and payment methods to make the experience seamless, and we follow the same hygiene standards across all centres.
How is Embassy Services helping WeWork maintain uniformity of service across multiple locations?
Lala: Our role is to make sure all the equipment is functioning, the AMCs are in order, inventory levels are suitable, etc. We also ensure labour compliances are in place, and that the cleaning of crockery is up to the mark. We are always there to ensure that the member-experience at WeWork stays at uncompromised scales across the country.