The thriving co-working space industry

Ko Lwin Maung Maung is looking for a space in Yangon to run his business.

He is a freelancer who develops web-based ap plications. After deciding to work for himself, he quickly discovered that the costliest part of his business was not investment in technology or software, but rather the high rents for office space. This is particularly true of the apartment rental market in Yangon.

“The monthly rents for a low quality apartment are between K200,000 and K300,000. It’s not convenient for me to rent long term either,” said Ko Lwin Maung Maung.

Such high rental prices are a hurdle for many people wanting to run their own businesses in Yangon. After searching the market, and looking around the city, he finally found a solution – but it wasn’t through a real estate agent.

He operates his business from a new working rental space service called “Co-working Space” with Phandeeyar. It’s a new type of service not previously seen in Myanmar and, as work practices become more international (and flexible), the demand is increasing.

Co-working spaces are a little different from typical working spaces. Overall they’re more cost effective than offices and apartments, while offering the same facilities as a leased office space. They also provide renters the opportunity to cooperate with other small-scale business organisations and individuals.

“Technology researchers, freelance web developers and entrepreneurs commonly use these spaces,” said Ko Zaw San Aung, Operations Associate at Phandeeyar Co-working Space.

Phandeeyar was the first co-working space established in Yangon. It won the 2018 Co-worker’s Members’ Choice Awards of Myanmar. Moreover, Phandeeyar’s co-working space was the eighth “Best Co-working Space,” nominated by co-working-space users and businesses around the world.

Freelancers are able to work from home or coffee shops, without ever needing an office. However, especially in Yangon at the moment, coffee shops can be noisy or even lacking a reliable electricity supply. The founders of the Co-working Space said that their co-workers never experience these kinds of disturbances.

“If you go to a coffee shop for work, you may not be able to meet like-minded people. If you come to the Co-working Space, you can work with others. Our place is unique, in that freelancers from different fields will work there,” said Ko Zaw San Aung.

In addition to office furniture like desks and chairs, the space is equipped with coffee machines, water coolers, air-conditioning and wifi.

“These days it’s easy to work with just a laptop, from anywhere. But aside from the furniture and equipment, it’s a great place to meet acquaintances and other co-workers. Meeting other people who do similar work is a good way to stay motivated,” said Ko Lwin Maung Maung.

He has been using the Co-working space on and off for three years when he first started freelancing.

Depending on the space and services, Co-working spaces will cost one person between US $11 to $30 per day. Clients are able to rent on a daily or monthly basis.

Some prefer smaller Co-working spaces, which can be hired on an hourly basis starting from US $2.

“It’s better than renting an apartment or property, because you don’t need a yearly or monthly lease. That helps reduce the burden for those who will start a business but don’t want to invest heavily in an office. Because office space rentals are expensive in Myanmar, we are trying to provide a cheaper alternative,” said Area 39 Co-working Space’s founder Ko Pyae. According to the website, there are a total of 25 co-working spaces in Myanmar of different sizes, 23 of which are located in Yangon. About 30 different clients using co-working spaces in Yangon, and most are Myanmar nationals.

Offering services for workshops and seminars, the co-working space industry has branched out into offering educational facilities such as projectors, whiteboards and recording equipment.

“We intend to work together with other businesses” Ko Okkar Myo, Managing Director of Impact Hub Yangon, told Metro. “We also connect clients with outside companies.”

“The co-working space owners are not there to just rent out the spaces, but to support the freelancers to succeed in their work. It is a great way to contribute to the country’s business development. There is no doubt that this kind of support for freelancers will also help the overall economy,” he said.

Due to the increasing number of freelance jobs around the world, Myanmar certainly needs an alternative besides the few coffee shops in the city. Add to this the high price of rentals, and the co-working industry is set to thrive in the coming years.

Source: Myanmar Times

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