Alum Ventures: Golden Square Business Center – Balaji Pasumarthy, PGP 1993
A visionary business person envisions and chooses his place in the future, and thus formulates actions and paves a pathway to reach there. One such businessman is Balaji Pasumarthy who envisioned an idea which was unheard of at the time of its establishment but is one the most wanted solutions of today. Balaji’s company – Golden Square, provides remote working solutions for companies and business saving their time, resources and thereby increasing their productivity. It’s a win-win set up for everybody. In conversation with Balaji getting a sneak peek into his entrepreneurial journey.
Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. Oscar Wilde
Can you please tell us something about yourself.
My passion is to Liberate business leaders from constraints, so that they can be in their state of flow. Over the years, I have gained expertise in creating highly engaged and self-organising teams. I share this expertise in the Liberated Enterprise Creators Workshops.
Through BNI (Business Network International), Golden Square Offices and Venture Catalysts, I smoothen the process of getting clients, having a productive workspace and getting funds for startups. I did my B-Tech from IIT-Madras, and PGDM from IIM-Bangalore (Batch of ‘93). I have been an entrepreneur for most of my career. Though I worked in the Unilever group straight out of campus, I caught the entrepreneurial bug very soon. I wanted to create an organization where work can be joy, which I call Liberated Enterprises.
Tell us more about your company – Golden Square. How did you get this business idea, what triggered you to be in this space?
Golden Square provides Serviced Offices and Support for small teams. We started in 1995, when getting a telephone line took 6 months. India had just opened up to foreign companies and I felt there would be a need for them to have access to ready facilities. Our philosophy is Joy at Work® – clients focus on what’s important for them while leaving all the hassles to us. Our office spaces are distraction-free and designed for teams to be productive. Support is another distinguishing factor. For example, if a client needs an agreement to be notarised, our team can get it done, saving the client half a day of unproductive work. Our team can also handle tasks that are even more complex, like automating a spreadsheet or managing a routine business process. With Golden Square, one can get a lot more done. We have 6 locations across Bangalore. Office spaces and meeting rooms can be used either by the hour or long term dedicated spaces for teams. Office costs drastically reduce because of this flexibility, without compromising on the quality of the facilities.
With Covid changing the norms of working across industries, what kind of changes do you foresee in the virtual office/ real estate industry?
People have now become comfortable with working from home. The idea that one has to go to the office every day has changed forever. Companies are going to seriously re-examine how to use an office for productivity. Flexibility and proximity to home will become the key criteria. Whether to work from an office every day or not depends on how actively team members have to engage with each other in order to get work done. If constant brainstorming or dialogue is important, then going to the office every day would be required. Understanding the nature of the team’s work and then deciding on the workspace requirement will become important in the future.
At Golden Square, we believe that one needs to go to the office to collaborate with other team members and get support. There are times when one is most productive when working alone – that is when working from home works out just fine. On the other hand, we have seen clients coming to Golden Square because they wanted a quiet place to work from. Zoom calls and other online collaboration tools are fine for having regular touchpoints and reviews. However, for those casual conversations or those deep collaborations and brainstorming sessions, we need to have in-person meetings. Some of our more astute clients have been having the best of both worlds, even before covid, by working from home day-to-day and having in-person meetings once in a while. And because our spaces are available by the hour, office costs can come down dramatically. For instance, a team of 5 were meeting twice a week for 2 hours in Golden Square and using meeting rooms by the hour for meetings with clients and vendors, and the monthly cost for the entire team was just Rs.10,000/-. This type of flexibility in working will become the norm going forward. Team members can work at a location close to their own home if working from home is not conducive, and meet in a central location for team meetings. Of course, some teams need to work a lot more closely, in which case they do need a dedicated team space. In Golden Square, dedicated spaces work out to 40% less than a rented office, with the added benefit of saving the time and effort that goes into maintaining an office.
I believe that in the long term, businesses are going to seek flexible, distributed, serviced and supported office spaces.
Who can benefit most from a set up like Golden Square?
Individuals and teams of less than 20 benefit the most from Golden Square if one is just looking at cost savings. Plus, such teams often cannot afford to have many people with different skills. This is where the Golden Square support team comes in handy.
For larger teams, having a typical office starts making more sense economically. However, if the team members want to work closer to their respective homes and have more flexibility, again Golden Square would make sense because of our 6 locations across the city.
You chose to walk the entrepreneurial path very early in life, what was the inspiration behind it?
For me personally, it was a lifestyle choice. I was working in one the best companies, yet I was feeling like a cog in the wheel. I felt that the corporate world was not suited to me. The quest I gave myself was to create an organisation where people do not feel the way I felt about work in a typical corporate environment, and also personally have the freedom of time and work. Over the last 25 years, I have been experimenting, learning and now sharing with other entrepreneurs how to build organisations like this. There are some fundamental shifts we need to make in our understanding about people, work and teams to be able to do this. Golden Square works in a very liberated structure. The results are very satisfying, with loyal team members, satisfied clients and personally, I have a lot of time to focus on what I am passionate about. I share these concepts in workshops I conduct, and more than 30 entrepreneurs have implemented these practices in their own organisations.
As a successful businessman, what in your opinion are the key skills essential for entrepreneurship?
Believe in yourself and create a world for yourself. There is no one way to be an entrepreneur. One thing that is for sure is this – one needs to make this a lifelong journey and have clarity as to why one wants to be an entrepreneur.
How do you unwind?
My wife and I watch a movie or TV serial episode every day. I read a lot, and I am especially interested in how organisations are built and what inspires and motivates people.
What role has IIMB played in your journey? Any learnings from your days at the institute that you have carried with you?
The brand IIM opens doors and establishes credibility instantly. To me, that has been an amazing asset. I remember, once when I had taken a car loan and gone to the bank, the branch manager and his team stood up and started applauding when they saw my academic credentials. I think that is a big asset as an entrepreneur. The other thing I feel helped me a lot is finance and accounting, thanks to the professors at IIM. Business, in a sense, finally boils down to a spreadsheet. The case studies and discussions that happen in the classroom at IIM do one every important thing – they instill in us the idea that things can be questioned, there is not one way to do things, that we need to look at different perspectives and arrive at a particular point of view. A very different approach as compared to that of science and engineering, which was my background before IIM.
Another heartening thing I am seeing now in these Covid Times is how alumni are coming together to help and support each other. There are Zoom Calls and WhatsApp groups like the Help & Grow group. This trend of alumni coming together and helping each other will be amazingly beneficial.
From Golden Square, we are extending a special privilege card worth Rs.3500/- free to Alumni. With this alumni have instant access to Golden Square offices across our 6 locations in Bangalore for meetings. Meeting rooms are available starting at Rs.250/- per hour. Also, teams can use dedicated office spaces for a month free. More details here www.goldensquare.in/iimb