Recently we shared the details of our fundraising campaign on how we successfully raised 632k$ in angel investment. Continuing in the same vein we reveal exactly how we went about setting up our brand new office (and the cost analysis).
Right from the choice of the building location to which motivational posters are put up on the walls.
Why share this? Because no one else does. If someone before us had then that information and experience would have been immensely helpful to us. It would have at least given a heads up on what to expect and which areas to tread carefully or pay special attention to.
Fun fact: All the photos in this post were taken with smartphones. Not because we could not afford a decent camera but because some of us took on this task as a challenge. However, our amateur photography is in no way a reflection of our product’s competency.
The start of an unforgettable journey
The Location – Pitampura
One big reason why we were only searching for options around Pitampura is since the majority of our 10 member team (including me and my cofounder) lives near by. Keeping the commute time low is a great advantage because it saves time and energy. A lot of people I know, easily spend as much as three hours a day traveling from their homes to their offices and back. That’s 700+ hours a year at least. Lower commute time helps you feel better too, apart from saving time and energy.
Anybody who knows Pitampura will know that you primarily have three options in and around the region:
- Residential Independent Buildings or Delhi Development Authority (Illegal for commercial activity though)
- The commercial main road (These buildings were previously Independent houses – later approved for commercial use)
- NSP (Netaji Subhash Place)
The Pitampura Boulevard
Keeping the illegal option off the table, we were primarily comparing NSP and the independent floors on the Pitampura main road.
Pros for NSP over Independent floors:
- A more robust commercial look
- Power Backup and Central Cooling
- Most of them are fully or semi-furnished offices
Cons for NSP over Independent floors:
- Rentals: NSP is easily $1.10 per square feet on super area (~133% of Carpet Area) plus you pay about $0.25 per square feet for maintenance of the building. In short, you are paying around $1.7 per square feet on covered area. Independent floors on the other hand are about $0.93 per square feet on covered area and there is no maintenance.
- Access: You can’t use your office after 9 PM. That’s a big downside. If you want 24 hour access, you need to pay double the maintenance amount. No such thing for Independent floors.
- Connectivity: Nearest Metro station is a good 400 meters – clearly not bad. But do you know how far is the station from where we are?
A view from the terrace of our office
Also, it’s not just us who understand that North West Delhi is slowly turning into a startup hot spot.
Finally, we settled with a 2,000 square feet unfurnished office. This allowed us to design our office based on our requirements. Buying an unfurnished office meant upfront investment, but we did our math and we earned it back in just 4 months!
The whole team sat to figure out our requirements for the next 18 months. This is what we came up with:
- One conference room
- Two smaller Meeting rooms/Cabins
- A Pantry/Recreational area
- Two Team Rooms for expansion of the Marketing and Technology Team.
- A small reception
- Nap Room
Now, we’ll talk in detail about how we converted the state of our office from ‘being sad‘ to ‘becoming rad‘.
Before-After photos of the office (click on the right arrow)
To begin with, you need a plan for electrical wiring and the wall partitions. Nothing fancy, we took a printout of the blueprint we made in the 3D software and gave it to the contractor.
The before-after gypsum wall
We gave out the complete electrical work to a contractor at $0.30 or INR 18 per square feet and then asked a local shop to supply all the electrical fixtures, after negotiating the prices.
Since we were planning to put a false ceiling, all the wire pipes went above it, taking the shortest route.
Glass Wall Partitions
Instead of going with toughened glass partitions, which would have costed us $4 or INR 250+ per square feet (including glass and fittings), we decided to work with the carpenter to create a wooden frame and then had regular glass installed inside. It would cost you about $2.5 or INR 150 per square feet to get such partitions with 8 mm glass.
Note: I feel it is important to point out that every glass wall/table-top is functional to be written upon, which is a great advantage. I just love seeing people writing their ideas and plans on a glass wall.
Example of a glass partition
Besides, using glass is excellent in a work environment as we believe it promotes transparency and saves energy. I want to mention here that recently there has been a lot of research urging people to weigh the pros and cons of “open-office plans”.
However, we decided to stick with the ‘pros’. Our team is currently small and to be honest, we designed the office keeping them in mind and what helps us perform better. Meaning we encourage (and need) group discussions, quick collaboration and impromptu growth “as you were” meetings.
I’ve noticed that when I’m sitting closer to the team, there is less friction, in asking questions and we have more discussions than otherwise.
Open offices might not work well in large companies but young startups are all about agility; an open office definitely helps with that.
Zappos describes this feeling of transparency and openness better than me.
However, we also have Private Cabins and Rooms, which are available for anyone to use if they want to work in isolation or need privacy, for as long as one wants. Illustration of our ‘open-office’ space
Ideally, you would want to draw a wire plan keeping in mind the wiring, primarily for:
- Overhead Lights
- Sockets on the walls and workstations
- AirCon Units
- Intercom Wiring (if required)
- LAN Cat6 Wiring
While it’s best to go elaborate (meaning: stand and point to the labor what you want), but it can be easily explained by simply marking your requirements on the 3D Layout. Try to place the EPBX system and the Main Internet rack around the center of the office, to reduce cabling cost.
Modular workstations typically cost $180 a seat and they don’t make you stand apart from the millions of other offices. So, we decided to get them done in-house.
Desk space of 4 feet x 2 feet for each employee (6 at a table) within a single table sized at 12 feet by 4 feet. Since these were large tables and we didn’t want to make them very heavy, we decided not to use wood for the frames. Wrought Iron did this job well and they were covered with wooden boards. Total cost: $40 a seat. Plus a small wooden frame under the tabletop for modular switchboards and wiring.
The typical spacious workstation (mock setup of laptop and accessories for scale)
However, we messed up here. One thing we missed (and which another painter pointed out) later was that a thin layer of MDF board should have been placed before the paint to make the table more scratch resistant and more symmetrical.
Other Furniture Bought for the Office:
- Bunk Bed: $120 (bought from here)
- Tables for Meeting Room: Cost $120
- Round Tables for Kitchen: Cost $90
- Conference Room: $200
- HighRise Table: $190
- Kitchen Shelves and Counter-top: $350
- Storage Cabinet: $120
Chairs are very important, which a lot of young startups realize later. Chairs have a great impact on an individual’s productivity and health. The last thing you want is your team spending their time and money with an orthopaedician.
While the Herman Miller and SteelCase (about $600 a chair) were way outside our budgets, we were aiming to get the best unbranded ergonomic chair. Setting up the chairs for some modelling shots
The current chair has:
- Adjustable armrest
- Adjustable height
- Adjustable lumbar support
- Adjustable seat base position
- Adjustable headrest (vertically and horizontally)
- Tilt and Lock at any position
- Two year on-site Warranty
In short, you can adjust pretty much anything in this chair and boy, are they comfortable! The only downside is that sometimes we fall asleep in them 😉
Cost: About $200 per chair.
Toughened glass doors are expensive and priced around $250 a door, including the glass, installation and the door machine. We decided to try something more trendy and less costly. We bought wooden flush doors at $70 apiece. Then the central (about 2 feet by 5 feet) board was removed to make way for regular 5mm glass. Finally, PU High Gloss painted on the sides. The final result: See-through doors in the conference room and meeting cabins
We compared between central cooling and Individual Cooling units. For a Two thousand square feet office, Individual Cooling units were better suited, given that they are appropriately distributed.
- Central cooling units cost almost twice as compared to Individual units to reach the same tonnage. Plus you need ducting to be done before hand.
- Individual units can be turned off wherever they are not required.
The Brick Room
This room is for the Tech team designed by Atul and you can usually find him in here only. Specs include –
- Brick Wall with Varnish paint
- Overhead height-adjustable lamp
- Worn Out Sofa
- Ebony Veneer Table
Yes the sofa is purposely kept in such a fluffed state because it is a reminder of some very dear memories from our previous office
This room houses the Marketing and Business Support Team and I tried to keep it minimalistic and white.
- A Large Window
- PU High Gloss Table and wall mounted shelves
- High Rise Meeting Table
- Small Potted Plants
‘The White Room’ (Designed By Yours Truly)
Wooden flooring for the brick and white rooms while carpet tiles for the bullpen, both at about $1 per square foot and Ceramic tiles in the kitchen, which were already on the floor before we took the space.
Those empty walls are great place to put up some inspiring quotes! We bought some really kick-ass posters from ThinkPot.
- Chess, Scrabble and lot of other board games
- Ping Pong/Table Tennis Table
We love ping pong and our ‘Hot Wheels’ cars!
The concept of a Functional Home
I am surrounded by team members who have a consistent rush of zeal to get work done. But because of this adrenaline rush most of us forget to look at the clock and when we finally do; the realization occurs that we need to head back home shortly.
Personally, my enthusiasm keeps rising as the day passes, making me highly productive in the night, but at the cost of delayed sleep phase syndrome, a common form of insomnia.
But what if one had everything right inside the office? How much time and effort would such an arrangement save, right?
We don’t have formal working hours and quite a few team members prefer working late. Adequate rest is essential, so we decided to make sure that the office is comfortable enough for anyone wishing to stay over (we don’t recommend it though). Besides, we’re happy if someone wants stays over just to watch a movie or have some fun!
Our office is designed in a way to allow everyone to work for as long as they want; with the comfort of a home. We have a fully equipped kitchen, a bedroom and shower.
Here’s a checklist that we used for our kitchen:
- Microsafe safe Crockery
- Induction friendly Utensils
- Hand Blender
- Induction cooktop
We are proud of our compact and functional kitchen
As comfortable as it gets in a startup
Finally, the complete financials: Total expense on immovable assets/fixtures/services (i.e. cost of services or items which we won’t be able to shift to a new office) such as painting, carpeting, gypsum/glass walls, false ceiling, etc:
Oh and did I tell you that we negotiated hard on the rent agreement and got the first three month pre-payment rental waived off and there was no brokerage involved (typically one month rent).
Money saved: $7600.
Hence, cost of building office, after deducting savings: US $5953.5
So, there you have it. This is our story of how we went about opening a new office where my team and I love to work and spend the most part of our day.
Here is a collection of some candid shots for your viewing pleasure.
- Build a functional home, rather than an office. One where it is not a pain to burn the midnight oil while working in surplus.
- Take office space in a complex where they do not charge extra for operating outside the standard office timings of 10 to 6.
- Don’t rely on time consuming meetings with an architect to finalize a blueprint. We are lucky to be in the day and age where we have the software and technology that enables us to create our own customized floor plans among other specs; for free. Use them.
- In India at least, supervise everything during construction, yet remember that setting up the office is not your full time job. A balance is very important. We were only spending time into negotiating and finding a good contractor. This helped us save quite a bit of money.
- Just like with everything else, before you hire any contractor or workman, take reference.
- Never compromise on your vision of the ‘ideal office’. The current office is exactly how we imagined it; right from the carpet texture and design to the washroom faucets.
Finally, if you have any questions or want more details on a particular point then don’t hesitate. Put it down in the comments and I will give an honest reply to it. Cheers!
I know it is self-indulgent but my team unanimously wanted the post finish with this pic (also there is a clever hint in there somewhere!)
P.S. We’re hiring.
Credits: Thanks Sujan for all the pictures!