As you may already know, we opened our first physical office in Bangalore earlier this year. And now, we have another exciting announcement to make – on July 9, 2023, we inaugurated our second office in Chennai.

The journey to find the perfect office space in Chennai has been quite an adventure, one that spanned nearly six months. We meticulously scoured the city, searching for a location that ticked all our boxes. It all came together at the eleventh hour as we diligently coordinated the interior work, furniture setup, internet connectivity, and cleaning services. While there are still some finishing touches to be made, we are delighted to have found our new home in Chennai, complementing the fantastic office we already have in Bangalore.

We wanted to share our office-hunting escapade with you and highlight some valuable lessons we learned along the way in the hopes of helping others who are currently in the process of finding their ideal workspace in Chennai.

Why a second office in India, and why Chennai

When deciding to launch the company together, the founders of Atomicwork had three cities in mind for the physical office: Bangalore, Chennai, and Hyderabad.

After a few weeks of using temporary offices and coworking spaces in HSR Layout, we moved to our first office in Bangalore. The city was our first choice because the majority of the founding members were located there, not just because our CEO Vijay lived there. 🙂

It made sense to us to open a second office in India, both to follow our employees’ location preferences and to access local talent. And Chennai was an obvious choice, given that many of our founding team members had worked in Chennai at some point in their careers, for companies such as Zoho, Freshworks, Chargebee, and the like.

There was a natural affinity to set up an office in Chennai and we believed that we would be able to get the support of the local startup ecosystem and hire candidates with relevant experience.

The fact that Chennai and Bangalore are close to each other also helped, as it would make it easier for people to move between offices, while setting up their base in one of them.

We want them to have the convenience of choosing their preferred location, while still being able to meet up with their teammates whenever necessary. We’re certain that Hyderabad will join this list in the future as the team expands.

Before/After #1 – We kept the cubicles to save money, but improved everything else.

Our office checklist

It needs to be accessible. Once we started looking for offices in Chennai, we knew we wanted to pick a location that would work for everyone; both our current employees and new hires. What’s the point of opening an office if no one wants to go there and if it’s so far away they’d rather work from home?

It needs to be spacious. The office had to have enough room to not only accommodate the Chennai team but also manage visitors from Bangalore and other places. We also wanted a couple of meeting rooms (or at least phone booths) in addition to the workstations. This was critical as we are a hybrid team, and we need to have dedicated spaces to get on quick calls and meetings.

It needs to be in close proximity to eateries. We wanted to make sure that there would be plenty of food options within walking distance, as opposed to having to drive somewhere just to get lunch. After we opened our office in the heart of HSR Layout in Bangalore, close to a number of restaurants and cafés, we knew we could not settle for anything less with the Chennai office.

It needs to be at the heart of the ecosystem. We wanted to have the SaaS ecosystem around us for support. Considering we would be starting with a small team in Chennai, we would need all the positive vibes we can get to stay motivated, be it in the form of friendly companies next door or people whom we could turn to for help.

It needs to be budget-friendly. Obviously, on top of everything else, we wanted to find a space that was available for a good price. As a pre-launch startup, we do not have the luxury of paying exorbitant rent or designing a fancy office for ourselves. We had to be frugal and get the best value for our money while still finding a place that met our other requirements.

Before/After #2 – We managed to turn a dark closet into a well-furnished conference room.

The story of how we landed the Chennai office

Our original plan was to get a temporary space for 3-6 months and take more time to find an office that we really liked. But most of the options we saw initially didn’t feel right, even for a few months. They simply didn’t meet any of the criteria we had, and some of them felt downright depressing.

A few months into the search, we got introduced to CBRE, and it made things significantly easier for us.

The CBRE team was well-connected to the local ecosystem and all of the local providers for both conventional offices as well as co-working spaces. They understood our needs immediately and within a week were able to show us spaces that were not just well-located but almost met most of our requirements. They were also able to negotiate on our behalf to make sure we didn’t exceed our budget.

Our final shortlist included two private offices in coworking spaces. While we preferred the coworking options because they were fully-managed and the rent included everything, they did come with some catches.

We had to choose between small spaces in great locations that just had desks and larger spaces in not-so-great locations with private meeting rooms.

Right before we made a compromise and chose from one of the coworking options, a new warm-shell space opened up in Global Infocity. We found it thanks to Kula, a friendly neighbor SaaS startup full of people we had worked with in the past.

They had just moved into a larger office at Global Infocity, and right next to their space was a tiny 1122 sq. ft space that looked pretty abandoned. It was literally the smallest space in the entire IT park that housed a million people, with offices spanning entire floors and 100x the size in comparison.

Before/After #3 – The new lights and a fresh coat of paint made all the difference.

Now there are several reasons why this is such a great deal.

The only catch for us was having to take care of the space ourselves – designing the interior, purchasing furniture, hiring someone for upkeep, arranging for water delivery, servicing the air conditioning, testing the fire alarms, and a dozen other tasks.

This would obviously mean more overhead in terms of cost, time, and effort, which is also why most startups generally prefer coworking spaces to independent offices. But this space had too much going for it for us to let it go, so we decided to make it work.

Before/After #4 – The second meeting room with a window and a missing table 🙂

How we found the office vs. what it became

The two weeks leading up to the grand opening of the business were certainly the most remarkable of this experience.

We signed the contract at the end of June and planned to inaugurate the office on July 9th, with less than a fortnight to spare and a lot of work still to be done. It seemed impossible at first, but we pushed through, knowing that we could make some smart bets.

Lessons learned, and tips for fellow office hunters

People who made this possible