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Evoma: Nurturing Budding Businesses

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Entrepreneurs struggling with setting up their first office can now not only have one running within 24 hours, but also live leisurely in the same building

Is it a hotel or a business incubation center? Well, the beauty of it lies in the fact that it can be either, or even both.

We are talking about Evoma, the brainchild of Ashok and Kameel Vohra, who term it as a “business incubation center that provides an optimum business environment for startups, small and medium enterprises, as well as multinational corporations to sustain and grow.”

What is so unique about it? Five-star hotels also provide you with similar facilities, right? Well, if you are an entrepreneur looking to set up your business in Bangalore, Evoma can assist you during that critical incubation stage of your business. From getting your company registered, taking care of legal matters, to ensuring the right infrastructure and recruiting, etc—Evoma helps in dealing with the plethora of issues that need to be addressed while setting up a company.

Meanwhile, a considerable chunk of business also lies in their hotel facilities. Whether you are based in Bangalore, or just visiting the city in need of a place to stay in, think of the kind of networking that can happen in such a place! Not to mention the much-needed change in ambience from the regular hotels.

DARE/big idea
Sector: Incubation/Hospitality

Big Idea: Providing emerging businesses in Bangalore with incubation facilities and solutions, blended with hospitality services.

Target Audience: Startups, SMEs & MNCs

Entrepreneurs: Ashok Vohra and Kameel Vohra

Brand: Evoma

For entrepreneurs that are based out of Bangalore, this could also possibly mean having your place of work and your place of stay, all under one roof, giving you a “zero commute” benefit.

Blending business with hospitality
Apart from the services mentioned above, Evoma also assists its clients with payroll services, travel desk and back-office services. For those who are still looking for a location to set up an office, Evoma provides a virtual office environment solution. This could include boardrooms or a simple one office desk, combined operational and support staff, Internet and telephone lines.

So does an entrepreneur need to have a deep pocket to have such an office running? “There are no long term leases or hefty deposits. The virtual office environment is perfect for a company that doesn’t require fulltime premises, but wants to create the right impression for prospective clients. So, you can have an office up and running within 24 hours of signing up,” claims Vohra.

Besides the entire gamut of services offered in the virtual office environment, there is a range of individual facilities offered by Evoma. For instance, space and facility provision for training programs, meetings, video conferencing, etc.

Coming to hospitality, Evoma’s 66-room luxury hotel comes with café, bar, restaurant and garden banquet facilities. Other amenities include round-the-clock security, medical services, wi-fi and broadband Internet connection, cable television and laundry service.

Sounds like this is going to burn a hole in the pocket for sure, right? However, the costs vary from company to company, depending on the services they avail of. Some just need a place to operate from, whereas others are looking for assistance with everything starting from their paper work, to stationary, logo designs, Website, etc. As said by Kameel, “Every client has their own set of quality standards, price preference and time frame in which they want the work to be completed. There are companies that need us for as little as three months, before they are ready to venture out on their own, but at the same time, we even have companies that stay with us longer than a year. Depending on the magnitude of the problem, the pricing alters.”

Gestation of the business
Evoma was conceived about four years ago. This happened while Ashok and Kameel Vohra were working in Esco Audio Visual of the Esco Group. In their work role, they were setting up offices in India for the company. It is during this period that the idea of Evoma sprang up. “Although Esco already had offices in Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, we faced a lot of difficulty in setting up an office in India,” says Kameel, “We realized if this is a case with an established company like Esco, who already had offices in other locations, surely many other Indian companies must be facing a similar problem too,” says Kameel.

After researching and evaluating, the Vohras realized that there indeed was a gap that needed to be filled. As Kameel puts it, “The available infrastructure is not flexible and there is no easy mechanism for setting up an office. The concept of Evoma evolved from this very premise.”

The tale behind the name
Evoma, as a brand name is as unique as the concept itself. The Vohras were looking for something that did not have any implications in any language. Also, they wanted something distinct, so that people could look them up easily.

“We came across the name Evoma while browsing through a list of possible names on the Internet. It suited our requirements since it did not mean anything else and would only refer to us,” says Kameel, “Just like Intel is Intel, Microsoft is Microsoft, Evoma would also just mean Evoma—the business incubation center,”

Taking the plunge
How did Evoma, which now assists several others in getting established, get established itself? A mix of funds had them up and running. Evoma got private funding from the Featherlite Group and Esco Group. Besides this, Ashok Vohra himself had some funds that he could put in for Evoma. Even though the Vohras can’t quite recall the actual investment made for the first incubation center, the claimed investment for the second unit is a whopping $12 million.

“We decided to get our first office building custom made to suit our requirement. This was to avoid taking on an existing building compromising on proper facilities, parking space, etc and then modifying it later. It took us around nine months to raise this building in Whitefield, Bangalore,” claims Kameel.

During the time when the office was being built, the Vohras did a comprehensive market research. They contacted a lot of young businesses to understand their needs and mindset. At the same time, they were trying to figure out how to convince clients into availing their services.

How did they reach out to their clients? “We started with trying to plough as many fields as we can. Then we waited to see which one we will be able to harvest,” answers Kameel. “Being a part of the entrepreneurial community ourselves helped a lot in spreading the word across.”

This strategy is being implemented even now. “We get most of our customers through referrals and direct marketing. Our sales team of around eight people reaches out to emerging businesses, telling them who we are and what we can do to help them. Although advertising helps people in recognizing our name, it does not play a big part in bringing in clients.” Kameel says.

Hurdles in the way
One obvious challenge at hand was tackling the drawing of parallels between them and hotels with business centers. As Kameel puts it, “For us, it was like asking how an apple pie was different from an apple. Making our customers believe that we were more than just a business hotel was extremely difficult.”

Besides this, the Vohras had to provide customers with whatever they required and for that they had to ensure that the processes were properly in place. “Initially, companies would come asking for assistance with things we weren’t equipped with or had no experience of dealing with,” says Kameel. For the first 18 months, the Vohras constantly re-evaluated their policies and procedures. Additionally, there were regular checks for loopholes, so that a solution was in place for the clients’ problems and queries.”

Another challenging aspect is providing businesses with staff. “We get the staff for the clients, i.e. operational, support, legal, accountants, etc from human resource outsourcing players. Finding the right players and getting them to recruit as per our customers’ requirements, is exceeding difficult,” claims Kameel.

Looking at what lies ahead
When asked about plans to expand their business in the years to come, Kameel replied, “In terms of our services, we constantly change and improvise according to the demands of our clients.” In the years to come, Evoma is expected to start operations in Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai and Hyderabad. Sounds like good news for budding entrepreneurs wanting to set up a base in these cities.

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