• Investing in Co-Working Spaces in Asia: A Complete Guide

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    The co-working industry has exploded in Asia and it’s currently the fastest-growing market globally.

    Not surprisingly, private investors and developers alike try to profit from this new market, and the supply of co-working spaces increases steadily.

    It’s not strange, as it’s said that 30% of office space will be co-working spaces in Asia by 2030. Thus, co-working is not a temporary trend, but here to stay long-term.

    In this article, you’ll learn the following

    • What is a co-working space?
    • The co-working space business model
    • The co-working space market in Asia
    • How much can I earn when investing in co-working spaces?
    • List of co-working Spaces by Country and Region

    What is a co-working space?

    Co-working spaces are started by individuals or companies who buy or lease office space and other types of premises, such as residential buildings and villas.

    The same as it goes with co-living spaces, the founders sometimes partner up with local investors or property owners, to secure capital or to reduce rents.

    They later refurbish the units and install necessary amenities, like public Wi-Fi, water stations, meeting rooms, and phone booths.

    Typical members include freelancers, digital nomads, and expats who don’t have a local corporate office.

    Working from home or in cafes can be manageable in the short-term for these people, but you often become less productive and feel isolated after some time.

    Co-working spaces also become increasingly popular among small companies and startups. They find it a better solution compared to traditional office space, for plenty of reasons.

    The costs to rent offices in a co-working space can be more expensive compared to a traditional office for these small companies, but it’s significantly easier to get started.

    At the same time, you have access to many utilities, services, and can interact with other people within the co-working space.

    With that said, we also see that many locals choose to work in co-working spaces.

    They’re often employed by foreign companies who don’t have premises in a specific country but need one or more persons to cater to the local market.

    Often, this helps to bring down the costs for salaries and rents.

    Simply put, it’s a good option if you want to share business ideas and be part of a community who share similar interests.

    Not to forget, the interior is often modern with much daylight, which adds on to the satisfaction.

    The co-working space business model

    The business model is simple and operators mainly make money from membership fees, but also events, food and drinks, and more.

    The outgoing costs mainly include salaries for staff, rent for premises, utilities, and cleaning services.

    Even if the start-up costs are low compared to other sectors in real estate, you should do thorough research beforehand.

    Costs for construction, refurbishment, long leases, installation of amenities and marketing can have a significant impact at the start. Thus, it’s not rare that co-working spaces receive funding to cover initial costs or to expand operations.

    Co-working spaces with locations in central areas and with good premises tend to focus on refurbishing units into private offices. This is especially the case in places like Hong Kong and Singapore.

    Companies rent private offices

    It’s more expensive to rent private offices and the units are used by companies with a higher budget, compared to individuals.

    In addition to private offices, co-working spaces usually offer dedicated desks and hot-desks. Sometimes, companies use dedicated desks and hot-desks, but it’s more popular among individual users.

    Worth mentioning, it’s generally more difficult to build a strong community in co-working spaces with many private offices, but the revenues from membership fees will be higher.

    Dedicated desks are usually around 50% more expensive than hot-desks, as you get your own private desk, with a more comfortable chair. You’re also allowed to keep your belongings at the dedicated desk 24/7.

    Hot-desks is the cheapest and simplest option where you have less space and bring your belongings at the end of the day.

    The co-working space market in Asia

    Asia is the biggest and fastest-growing region in the world for co-working space.

    From 2014 to 2017, the number of flexible workspaces more than doubled. In 2019, the region had almost 11,600 co-working spaces, well ahead of markets like Europe and the Americas.

    Let’s have a look at the co-working space industry in some of the most interesting markets.

    Hong Kong

    Hong Kong is the biggest co-working space market in terms of operators, having almost 300 co-working offices.

    It’s also one of the most expensive real estate markets in the world and membership fees can be in multiples compared to places like Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City.

    With that said, the market has become expensive, crowded, and real estate companies, such as JLL, predict that some operators will pull out of the market.

    The ongoing trade war and slowing Chinese economy harmed the co-working market as well. With that said, Hong Kong continues to be one of the most popular options to set up co-working spaces.

    Constant Tedder, the founder of the Hive, saw Hong Kong as his first option thanks to (quoting Constant): Its open economy, regulatory framework, entrepreneurial spirit, and for being a regional business hub.

    Singapore

    Singapore’s co-working space market has boomed and will continue to grow in the coming decade.

    In 2017, the market grew as much as 53.9% compared to 2016. Yet, the market is not as big as Hong Kong’s and there are currently around 120 operators in Singapore.

    Yet, it remains highly active and where the demand is mainly driven by big companies. It’s a great advantage in terms of flexibility and costs, being able to move and mobilize workforces.

    We also see that property developers try to enter the market, such as Capitaland, to reap the benefits from the market.

    Developers have realized that co-working spaces are here to stay and will transform the rental market completely. We’ll see more integration of conventional office space and flexible work space.

    Vietnam

    Vietnam has one of the fastest growing co-working space markets in Asia and has even outperformed Singapore and Hong Kong, in terms of year-on-year growth.

    The market grew by around 55% annually from 2013 to 2018, which is self-explanatory.

    Yet, keep in mind that there are significantly fewer operators in Vietnam. Year-on-year growth is not always a reliable way of measuring market performance.

    At the moment, there are around 50 co-working spaces around Vietnam, where Ho Chi Minh City accounts for around 56% and Hanoi 44%.

    Membership fees and rents are significantly lower compared to Hong Kong and Singapore, thus, we can expect lower returns here.

    Many companies who rent private offices are small or startups and chose Vietnam thanks to the lower living and operating costs.

    Malaysia

    Malaysia has a growing co-working space market where Klang Valley and Kuala Lumpur account for most of the supply.

    Places like Johor Bahru, Ipoh and Penang are still in an infant stage.

    One of the key drivers of the creation of co-working spaces is due to the over-supply of office space. Property owners simply use vacant space to refurbish units into co-working areas.

    Malaysia’s co-working space market is predicted to grow in the coming years as it’s cost-efficient and highly popular among small companies and startups.

    At the same time, the increasing number of millennials add to the demand.

    Thanks to the flexibility of co-working spaces, the trend will continue upwards and we’ll see more integration of regular office space and flexible workspace in Malaysia in the future.

    Thailand

    Thailand’s co-working space market started as early as 2012 and has grown steadily. At the end of 2018, there were around 150 co-working spaces nationally, up from 4 in 2012.

    The market is mainly driven by multinational corporations, rather than startups and SMEs. We also see that established operators, like WeWork and JustCo, account for much of the new space.

    Most of the spaces are located in prime office buildings in Bangkok, located in the central areas and close to the BTS and MTR stations.

    Thailand is well-known for having high occupancy rates, a reason why we’ll see an increased supply in the coming years.

    Japan

    Japan’s co-working space market is still relatively small. This mainly boils down to the norm that Japanese feel “forced” to take up corporate employments.

    Yet, it’s becoming more acceptable for young people to work as freelancers or take on entrepreneurial paths and the number of co-working spaces have increased fast in Tokyo.

    The biggest growth has been seen in the five wards of central Tokyo: Chuo Ward, Chiyoda Ward, Shibuya Ward, Minato Ward, and Shinjuku Ward.

    The growth started to take off in 2017 and the co-working space area doubled in just one year. It’s predicted to double in the following two years.

    It’s said that Japan is currently going through a work-style reform, mainly due to its aging society and declining birth rates. The introduction of co-working spaces will increase labor efficiency and reduce commute times, which will be crucial for Japan in the coming decades.

    Korea

    Korea draws less attention in the co-working space industry, but we see a significant growth here too.

    The market is predicted to grow from KRW 60 billion (USD 50.34 million) in 2017 to KRW 770 billion (USD 646 million) in 2022, in terms of value.

    The market is mainly driven by foreign co-working operators, such as WeWork, who acquire more space to cater to the local demand. Thus, it’s a similar trend we see in many other countries, like in Thailand.

    Not surprisingly, most of the co-working spaces are located in Seoul, and the central areas.

    Some claim that Korea’s market is facing an oversupply, something that could disturb the market, at least temporarily.

    Mainland China

    China has been one of the strongest performers where the amount of co-working spaces grew by 60% in the four Tier 1 cities, from 2017 to 2018.

    A key driver is the high vacancy rates for regular office space, which has enticed property owners to convert these into co-working spaces. We also see strong urbanization and an increased amount of millennials, which adds to the demand.

    Yet, with a slowing economy, operators in China also faces challenges.

    In the first then months of 2018, 40 co-working brands had closed operations and 40% of the co-working spaces were half-empty.

    How much can I earn when investing in co-working spaces?

    First of all, this highly depends on where you set up operations and what your goals are.

    Some founders start small boutique co-working spaces in places like Vietnam, while others acquire complete buildings in places like Singapore.

    Let’s have a look at two co-working spaces located in Hong Kong and Ho Chi Minh.

    Garage Society: Co-working space in Hong Kong

    Garage Society is an established co-working space provider in Hong Kong and currently has three locations:

    • Central
    • Sai Ying Pun
    • Sheung Wan
    • Wan Chai

    On top of that, they operate in India, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, and Cambodia.

    Let’s focus on their office in Sheung Wan, trying to come up with a theoretical calculation example.

    Garage Society has 17 dedicated offices according to their website. The offices fit companies of 1 to 50+ persons. Let’s assume that there are 200 registered members for the dedicated offices.

    They also offer hot desks, but don’t show how many seats are available. Let’s assume that there are 80 full-time hot desk users.

    Garage Society also rent out event & meeting space for HKD 2,500 per hour. Let’s add 10 hours per month.

    Monthly revenue:

    Dedicated offices: HKD 6,500 x 200 persons = HKD 1.3 million (USD 165,605)

    Hot desks: HKD 1,600 x 80 persons = HKD 128,000 (USD 16,305)

    Event space: HKD 2,500 x 10 hours = HKD 25,000 (USD 3,184)

    • Revenue = USD 165,605 + USD 16,305 + USD 3,184 = USD 185,094

    Outgoing costs:

    Let’s assume that the floor area is 1,500 square meters and the monthly rent is HKD 40 per square feet or HKD 435 per square meter.

    The total rent is HKD 435 x 1,500 square meters = HKD 652,500 (USD 83,121).

    Let’s neglect the costs for utilities, maintenance and cleaning services.

    But, 10 full time employees earn HKD 12,000 per month, which equals to a total salary outlay of HKD 120,000 (USD 15,286) per month.

    • Outgoing costs: USD 83,121 + USD 15,286 = USD 98,407

    Profit (Monthly revenue – Outgoing costs):

    • USD 185,094 – USD 98,407 = USD 87,497

    Keep in mind that this is just a theoretical example.

    The Company: Co-working space in Bangkok

    The Company is a popular co-working space located on the 23rd floor of GMM Grammy Place in Asok. Thus, it’s in one of the more exclusive addresses.

    The Company offers several different options, such as hot desks (shared seats), dedicated desks, and private offices (2 – 12 persons).

    Let’s assume that 40 persons use hot desks, 20 persons use dedicated desks, 10 persons use private offices for 2 persons, 24 persons use private offices for 4 persons, and 24 persons use private offices for 12 persons.

    Monthly revenue:

    • Hot-desks: THB 4,000 x 40 persons = THB 160,000
    • Dedicated desks: THB 6,000 x 20 persons = THB 120,000
    • Private office (2 p) = THB 14,000 x 10 persons = THB 140,000
    • Private office (4 p) = THB 19,000 x 24 persons = THB 456,000
    • Private office (12 p) = THB 24,000 x 24 persons = THB 576,000

    The total revenue would be: THB 160,000 + THB 120,000 + THB 140,000 + THB 456,000 + THB 576,000 = THB 1,45 million (USD 48,400).

    Outgoing costs:

    Let’s assume that the monthly rent is THB 650 (USD 22) per square meter. The total floor area is 1,000 square meters.

    That leaves us with a monthly rent of USD 22 x 1,000 square meters = USD 22,000 per month.

    There are also 8 full-time employees that earn 600 USD each per month. The total salary outlay would be USD 4,800.

    Let’s neglect the costs for maintenance, cleaning services and utilities.

    • Outgoing costs: USD 4,800 + USD 22,000 = USD 26,800

    Profit (Monthly revenue – outgoing costs):

    • USD 48,400 – USD 26,800 = USD 21,600

    Again, keep in mind that this is a theoretical example.

    Are co-working spaces profitable?

    According to research, around 48% of co-working spaces in Asia are profitable, which is a low number.

    Truth be told, there’s been a lot of hype about the industry recently, a reason why the markets have started to cool down in places like mainland China and Hong Kong.

    The founder of JustCo, for example, claims that they should have an occupancy rate of around 60% to stay profitable and to cover the investment over four years.

    You should also keep in mind that there needs to be a balance between traditional office space and co-working spaces. Over-exposure of flexible space, such as co-working spaces, can bring down the value of prime office space.

    List of co-working Spaces by Country and Region

    Below I’ve listed some of the most interesting and popular co-working spaces in various countries and regions around Asia.

    Hong Kong

    The Hive
    • Hot desk fee: From HKD 2,800
    • Dedicated desk fee: From HKD 5,500
    • Private office fee: From HKD 6,500 / person
    • Locations: Multiple locations
    • Website: Click here
    The Garage Society
    • Hot desk fee: From HKD 1,200
    • Private office fee: From HKD 6,000 / person
    • Locations: Central, Wan Chai
    • Website: Click here
    WeWork
    • Hot desk fee: From HKD 2,700
    • Dedicated desk fee: From HKD 4,860
    • Private office fee: From HKD 6,080 / person
    • Locations: Multiple locations
    • Website: Click here
    Ooosh
    • Hot desk fee: From HKD 1,000
    • Dedicated desk fee: Sent upon request
    • Private office fee: Sent upon request
    • Locations: Kowloon
    • Website: Click here

    Singapore

    The Hive
    • Hot desk fee: From SGD 250
    • Dedicated desk fee: From SGD 580
    • Private office fee: From SGD 900
    • Locations: Multiple locations
    • Website: Click here
    WeWork
    • Hot desk fee: From SGD 250
    • Dedicated desk fee: From SGD 630
    • Private office fee: From SGD 1,100
    • Locations: Multiple locations
    • Website: Click here

    Malaysia

    WORQ
    • Hot desk fee: From RM 300
    • Dedicated desk fee: From RM 600
    • Private office fee: From RM 600 / person
    • Locations: Multiple locations
    • Website: Click here
    Colony co-working Space, KLCC
    • Hot desk fee: From RM 410
    • Dedicated desk fee: From RM 920
    • Private office fee: From RM 2,390
    • Locations: Multiple locations
    • Website: Click here

    Vietnam

    The Hive
    • Hot desk fee: VND 2.5 million
    • Dedicated desk fee: VND 3.4 million
    • Private office fee: From VND 5.5 million / person
    • Locations: Ho Chi Minh City
    • Website: Click here
    Spiced
    • Hot desk fee: VND 2.5 million
    • Locations: Ho Chi Minh City
    • Website: Click here

    Thailand

    HUBBA
    • Hot desk fee: THB 3,900
    • Dedicated desk fee: Unknown
    • Private office fee: Unknown
    • Locations: Bangkok
    • Website: Click here
    The Work Loft
    • Hot desk fee: THB 4,490
    • Locations: Bangkok
    • Website: Click here

    Japan

    The Hive
    • Hot desk fee: From JPY 16,000
    • Dedicated desk fee: From JPY 60,000
    • Private office fee: From JPY 90,000 / person
    • Locations: Jinnan, Tokyo
    • Website: Click here
    Servcorp
    • Hot desk fee: From JPY 25,000
    • Dedicated desk fee: From JPY 40,000
    • Private office fee: From JPY 100,000
    • Locations: Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, Nagoya, Fukuoka
    • Website: Click here

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