An open workspace at The Rook India in Lal Ganesh area of Guwahati, Assam

Guwahati: What are the primary concerns while starting up? Given the fact that you have the idea, finances backing it up and the manpower as well, the next thing that comes to everyone’s mind is — where will we put up our office? Where is the office space? Do we construct one and empty almost half of our finances without even dipping our toes in the actual business scheme?

This are the questions that plague almost every start-up. However, if you happen to start up in Guwahati, the nerve centre of Northeast India, help is at hand.

The Rook India, the brainchild of Dharmendra Kalita, a native of Barpeta district of Assam, has already built up a successful business of co-working spaces in Kasturi Nagar in Bengaluru. The company branched out to Guwahati earlier in the month of January. The co-working space is located in Lal Ganesh area of the city.

To cut a long story short, The Rook India is providing fully-furnished office spaces for various businesses for as less as Rs 4,000 per seat per month. Wi-Fi, conference rooms and coffee are complimentary in this plan.

Dharmendra Kalita, founder and CEO of The Rook India, a co-working space venture 

“I am relatively new to this field as well,” said Kalita, 35, who was a former software engineer for 10 years before he started The Rook India in Bengaluru in June last year. “I was friends with an investor who started this venture with some other name. Then I got an opportunity wherein there was a space near the place that I was staying, so I thought it was a good opportunity to get into it first-hand,” said Kalita, recounting his days of inception. Things started to become so exciting then that he decided to quit his job and get into the venture full-time.

While he invested about Rs 30 lakh for the Bengaluru setup, he spent about Rs 26 lakh for the co-working space in Guwahati.

The word Rook had a deeper meaning for Kalita and being a chess player himself he knew the importance of the corner piece in the game. “One of the definitions of the word rook is siege tower and was used as a war tool during the medieval wars,” said Kalita, an alumnus of Gauhati University (BSc in Computer Science) and Tezpur University (MCA) in Assam.

So, just like the way soldiers used the rook aka the siege tower to scale the ramparts of a country they are trying to invade, Kalita wanted to provide the start-ups a way to conquer their goals, achieve what they want to achieve. In a way, he wanted to act as a rook for them.

Cabin spaces at The Rook India in Guwahati

Kalita also stressed on the importance of exposure that a co-working space as such would bring to the northeastern states. According to him, co-working spaces enable businesses from other states and countries to come and explore this region, thereby generating jobs and providing employment to the people.

“Also, offices as such are cost-effective with zero investment in the infrastructure part. As these spaces allow different kinds of businesses to work and function under the same roof, this allows B2B transactions in a very simple way,” he said.

Meanwhile, The Rook India is all set to organise an event called “Rookathon” (an IoT-based hackathon) at Royal Global University in Guwahati in April this year. “It will be a technical event and the participants will be from the technical institutes/colleges from all over the Northeastern states along with Sikkim and nearby countries like Bhutan, Nepal & Bangladesh,” he said, adding, “I am into office space business and one part is office space and the other is resources. The jobs that you create and where is the ground that you get people and resources from, it’s the institutions.”

Undoubtedly these institutions provide the manpower enriched with technical and non-technical skill sets. Hence, according to Kalita, one needs to be a part of that ecosystem to see the bigger picture of the business. “So we want to showcase that our institutions and our students are technically skilled enough,” said Kalita.

A believer in experimentation and trying out new things, Kalita advised the students and budding entrepreneurs to explore and even commit a lot of mistakes. “For unlike us, the young ones have time in their hands,” he added.

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