As the co-founder and current manager of Moar, a coworking space with two locations in Bangladesh, Nabila Nowrin first discovered coworking after graduating with her Master of Design from the IIT Institute of Design in Chicago. Thereafter, Nabila and her best friend decided to establish Moar, which now has two locations in Dhaka: Moar Banani 11 and Moar Dhanmondi 27. Learn more about Nabila’s story to co-founding Moar and the community for coworking in Bangladesh in our latest interview.
How did you first discover coworking?
In Chicago, my school was right next to the coworking space 1871 in Merchandise Mart, where a lot of my colleagues went to. That’s where I first heard the term coworking. However, I never really made the time to go there to figure out what it exactly was.
In 2012, I was not that familiar with the concept. I could relate to the problem a lot though. After graduating from architecture school in 2010, I helped my friends set up a studio. We looked for an office space or a decent place to work from, but never found anything decent within budget and ended up working from home.
The first coworking space I ever went to was Impact Hub, São Paulo. I was conducting research for an immersion program in São Paulo in 2013 on millennials and their banking habits. I met most of them in coworking spaces which they were using as their place of work.
What coworking space do you currently operate?
Along with my best friend, I founded Moar in 2015 and have been managing it ever since. It has two locations, Moar Banani 11 and Moar Dhanmondi 27.
How would you describe the community at your coworking space?
Our community has dispersed and scattered at this point due to COVID-19. We were a very vibrant community before all this. Everyone were friends and we really enjoyed each other’s company and loved working together. Our community consisted of large corporate offshore professionals, freelancers, content creators, trainers, marketers, architects, designers, consultants, therapists, etc.
What would you say are the key characteristics of your coworking spaces?
Moar was designed with Bangladesh and its context in mind. We are not very tech-oriented, for example; our coworkers sign in by signing on a piece of paper. We want our service to have as much human contact as possible. We want our coworkers to feel that the space is their own and we want them to be as comfortable as possible here. We want them to be proud of the space they work out of and we want them to be able to show it off to their peers.
What are the key characteristics of the coworking scene in Bangladesh?
The coworking scene in Bangladesh needs some more time to mature. Most of the spaces still treat the business as a rental business. People are becoming aware of services that we provide, however its core advantages are not yet evident to all of those it can benefit.
Do you host any special events for members?
Yes, we do. We host yearly events to celebrate new years, the first day of spring, Bengali New Year, Ramadan, the winter season, and talent shows. Our goal is to create a bond among the community as well as give them a taste of things they would have if they worked for a conventional corporation.
What are three key ingredients of operating a successful coworking space?
- Appropriate location and flexible interior space
- Understanding the level of expertise required for tasks of staff members and recruiting accordingly
- Ensuring member retention
How have the effects of COVID-19 impacted your space?
We were closed for three months. We offered limited services until September 2020, and we moved back to our regular services this October. Some of our members have returned.
We have also had to rearrange some of our services. The cost of maintenance is higher since we are regularly disinfecting the space. We have to recruit more staff as backup since we are not allowing staff members to come in for two weeks if they show any signs of infection. We have more inquiries, but the number of members has not increased. We were planning on expanding before COVID-19, which we had to postpone.
What changes have you made to Moar to make things safer and more efficient for members post-Covid?
We have scheduled disinfecting throughout the day. Body temperature is monitored when anyone comes into the space, and masks are a must in the premise. Meetings and gatherings are not encouraged.
Do you have any advice for someone wanting to open a new coworking space?
Coworking spaces are all about community. Focus on building a community.
How would you like members to remember Moar?
We want them to think of Moar as their lucky charm, a place where that presentation gets done in an hour, where their clients say yes to everything, and where they can count on to come over and have a great day at work.