Co-working spaces help to keep costs down

Co-working spaces in Singapore are increasingly popular with foreign start-ups looking to expand here. JustCo at 120 Robinson Road has an open space area where tenants can interact with one another..
Co-working spaces in Singapore are increasingly popular with foreign start-ups looking to expand here. JustCo at 120 Robinson Road has an open space area where tenants can interact with one another..PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Some firms choose this arrangement over typical offices, for flexibility as they expand

Instead of typical offices, some foreign companies have been renting shared working spaces here to expand into Singapore and the region quickly, while keeping costs down.

Hong Kong-based Giles Publications, which provides copywriting, translation and design services, is one of them.

Last November, it moved to JustCo, the largest so-called co-working space in the central business district (CBD) spanning five floors at 120 Robinson Road.

"We have just two employees here - myself and a copywriter. When you're still growing and not sure how big you're going to be, co-working offers you flexibility to expand," said managing editor Beatrice Seilern.

Another perk was the convenience of being able to start work immediately and terminate leases easily. "You can just plug and play, and then pull the plug," she said.

"And we wanted somewhere in the CBD where our clients are. Office rental rates can be pretty expensive, so co-working was ideal."

Across the Singapore River from JustCo is The Co at 75 High Street, another co-working space. There, foreign companies make up 80 per cent of tenants.

One of them is Japanese IT firm Alexsolutions Inc, which has four employees based here at its branch office. The company has been at The Co for three years now.

"When we first came, we were less familiar with the IT industry here," noted general manager Aki Ubagai.

Weekly networking events organised by The Co proved to be a great help, though. "We got to know other companies in the same industry," explained her colleague Milu Mathew.

"That helped us better understand the IT trends in Singapore," Ms Ubagai added.

Fellow co-working firm at The Co, Ve Interactive, is London-based but has three employees in Singapore.

The tech firm expanded here as it viewed Singapore as "an excellent springboard to enter new markets in the region".

Account director Sophia East likes The Co's cross-city package in particular. The co-working space has offices in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, that its tenants can also access.

"When you're entering a new market or going to a new country, you might not know your way around," said Ms East.

"It's good to have an office somewhere that you know you can go to, where everything is already set up and you can start working."

Earlier this month, investment holding company ERC Holdings launched BIG Work, a network of co-working spaces with offices spanning Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

"The traditional office rental concept... doesn't serve the needs of modern businesses anymore," said chief executive Andy Ong.

"Now, you can work anywhere. You can outsource to other countries where costs are lower and you can maintain smaller offices in different areas... co-working gives you that flexibility."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 23, 2016, with the headline 'Co-working spaces help to keep costs down'. Print Edition | Subscribe