Co-working spaces in China are usually related to the concepts of entrepreneurialism and startups. This may be because it rose to popularity in the wake of the startup boom. But as the emerging working model becomes mainstream, more large and medium-sized companies are jumping onto the bandwagon to benefit from the new style of office management. naked Hub, the Shanghai-based network co-working space, is one of the companies that’s leading the way.

naked Hub @Xintiandi

In Xintiandi—a landmark entertainment area in the heart of downtown Shanghai—naked Hub launched last week its flagship location, a four-floor property of spaces, hot desks, open offices, and meeting rooms that have been designed to meet the taste of “Hubbers”. As the eighth addition to the coworking network, naked Hub Xintiandi has all the trimmings of a typical co-working space, only much, much nicer. All kinds of facilities from a meditation space, fitness area, wine tasting, and chess facilities are offered to keep with the co-working vibe.

Of course, co-working spaces are known as much for the infrastructures and alcohol as for their online communities. naked Hub’s namesake app facilitates and adds values to the physical community. “When an online community is created, people start to work with each other not because they are forced to because they trust each other, that’s, in our opinion, the secret sauce,” said Manoj Mehta, CEO of naked Group.

Going For the High-Tier Market

In an increasingly crowded co-working industry, naked Hub is going for the higher end of the market. For one space in the newly launched Xindiandi location, people have to pay 5,000 RMB (around 719 USD) per month. The cost of a hotdesk starts at 1,800 yuan; others vary by location and privacy ranges from 2,500 RMB to 5,000 RMB.

“We believe the majority of the crowd is at the bottom end. We actually want to give you an office which is significantly better than what you can afford with the same amount of money or less because we help everybody to share the space,” Mehta says.

For a diversifying group of tenants from large corporations to medium-sized companies, the price difference is offset by the other values offered by the space, such as businesses opportunities that arise from an active neighborhood, reception service, parcel pickup, and career development.

“This is probably most expensive in the whole of China, but still more than 35% cheaper than office building next door. But the object is not to be cheap, the object is to give value to our member,” says founder Grant Horsfield. “Most of the Chinese co-working companies are more of trying to focus on startup companies, But people are not going to move from Plaza 66 to other some low-end co-working spaces, but would move from Plaza 66 to here.”

Lots of Chinese co-working spaces mix incubation with co-working to broaden their revenue sources. naked Hub, however, has stayed away from investment.

“At this point, we have no plans for incubation. I relate incubation to a baby formula milk, you only take it for a short period of time, after that you grow to real things,” says Horsfield. “Incubation is for people who are trying to pick companies that they want to invest in. We want to provide a service and create a community.”

xtd_02Is there a bubble in the Market?

“I think most of the co-working spaces in China, if not all, are there for the wrong reason: it’s the next attractive thing to do,” says Mehta.

“It’s not necessarily a bubble; it’s a fashion everybody is following. The defintion of bubble is too much right capacity. Right now there’s too much wrong capacity. The places where co-working to thrive are places where normal companies not just incubators, not just startups companies, normal companies as well as startup companies can be together,” he points out.

It’s Not Fast Enough

Launched late last year, naked Hub, backed by hospitality service naked Group, has expanded quickly over the past year. Xintiandi is the eighth location of the co-working network and more are in the pipeline. But, according to Mehta, this is not fast enough. Backed by recent funding, naked Hub has some aggressive expansion plans of establishing 30 new locations in the coming year.

“Our goal right now is to be No.1 in Asia. We already leased some places in Hong Kong and Beijing,” he says. “We are still evaluating the market of Southeastern cities about whether they can bear something like this.”

The company is looking at expanding to all the tier-one cities in China as well as overseas, including Singapore and Sydney.

“All the operations staff has to be local. We have 4-5 five people for each localization. With the use of technology and self-service, it’s important to create an environment where people are doing things themselves,” says Mehta.” Last month, in about 6-7 hubs, we had 90 events. So it’s 15 events per hub per month, things could be quite efficient.”

From Co-working to Co-wellness

In addition to co-working, naked is going to apply the model to the fitness and gym industry. Company founder Horsfield disclosed that naked is going to launch early next year a co-wellness infrastructure and platform where people can rent wellness centers, yoga rooms, and gym studios on an hourly-basis.

image credit: naked Hub