Every evening, as the sun goes down in Pune, restaurants, pubs and nightclubs come alive with music, mood lighting and people winding down—before the 8 pm deadline. But, what happens to these spaces during the day? Most are either empty or shut.
However, a few of them are taking on a new identity— they become co-working spaces for professionals whose offices are closed due to the pandemic and those who do not want to work from home. This line of co-working spaces, called Friyey, are located in Baner, Wakad and Kalyani Nagar and is the brainchild of Yogesh Thore, an engineer-cum-MBA.
“The majority of nightclubs, pubs and restaurants lie idle during the day, while hundreds of people, from medical representatives to bank salespersons, do not have their own offices to work out of. Friyey built a business model that matched this gap. We got into revenue-share agreement with these restaurants and clubs. Today, they have more earnings and branding while professionals, who need a space to work, have an affordable option. We are around 70 per cent full most weekdays,” says Thore.
Friyey, which opened in May 2019, is adapting to a pandemic work culture where an increasing number of people are functioning remotely. “According to research, there will be one billion remote workers by 2035. This growing number of professionals will need vibrant and affordable working spaces,” he says, adding that Friyey will soon be branching into Bengaluru. “It is possible that the pandemic has done for co-working spaces what demonetisation did for wallets and other digital payment companies,” he says.
In 2016, Thore was working with a major MNC in Pune when he decided to quit and start “something of my own”. Raised on a diet of stories of Indian entrepreneurs who had created waves internationally, he wondered what kind of business he could start. “I asked myself, ‘What do I love doing?’ The answer was ‘hanging out with friends at nightclubs’. I told myself that this could not be a business model,” he says. Nonetheless, he took up work as a waiter at a restaurant to “learn that less-known side of the hospitality business” and then worked as a food delivery boy.
By mid 2017, Thore started an online business that sold discount coupons for various restaurants. “I had on board more than100 restaurants in Pune. I did not have an office of my own and used cafes most of the time, which turned out to be very expensive. The next time I went to a restaurant for a deal, I requested a manager to use the space for an hour to work. This became a habit until one manager said, “During the day, nobody comes to the restaurant”. That line hit me hard, and I thought, “I need to solve this problem for restaurants, who need businesses in the day and not evenings,’” he recalls, about the idea behind Friyey.
Friyey spaces operate from 9 am to 6 pm and are equipped with Wi-fi connections, charging points, water bottles and a round of complimentary tea or coffee. “During that time, the restaurant or club operates as a co-working space only and people are free to bring their own tiffins. Food from the restaurant is not served in the workspace. What we are focusing on is building a community of Remote Workers who can come up with ideas that can plug gaps in the post-COVID economy,” says Thore.