COLABS is Pakistan’s fastest-growing collaborative workspace with a community and ecosystem network at its core. A community of over 1000 residents and 100 ecosystem partners are currently based at two Lahore sites, with a third on the way.
The entrepreneurial ecosystem is a booming trend in Pakistan and has made its mark globally as countless rising startups have acquired millions of dollars in seed funding and accelerated their products. This overall results in new opportunities and advancements for the country. However, COLABS, a Lahore-based startup, has a very unique approach as it’s hyper-focused towards empowering 100,000 entrepreneurs and freelancers through its coworking spaces, business solutions, and scaling programs with its partner network.
COLABS is at the center of the Tech Ecosystem, where everyone can interact and network with powerhouses of the entrepreneurial community. They consider the needs of their clients not only in regard to the furnished space that they provide but also in regard to the empowerment that the community brings. Additionally, it serves as a hub for events and activities that further encourage entrepreneurship. A few of the world’s most recognizable companies and business people have utilized the platform. COLABS also hosted numerous events to promote internal networking and communication within their community. In the first year alone, it has hosted over 250 events.
When we asked Fatima Mazhar, the current COO of COLABS, why she chose to work at COLABS after serving Careem as its head of expansion and Keep Truckin as a General Manager Pakistan where she managed a team of over 1500 people, she said,
“Joining COLABS was not really a choice for me, as I was here to take space to help me figure out what to do next and Omar talked me through his exemplary vision of how he wants to see COLABS in a couple of years. As expansion runs within me, I was instantly drawn to his passion and the idea of joining hands with COLABS for its expansion. I have always been asked why I have chosen the places that I have worked at. I look at TWO things, the value of the co-founder and the impact I can help create and COLABS is a place which I believe is on its way to creating an impact in the tech ecosystem.”
Fatima told Techjuice that for her, every day is a new adventure at COLABS, where she gets to meet so many great startups, investors, and entrepreneurs. She added that there is nothing monotonous about COLABS because it’s full of the energy of driven people thriving in their businesses. For her, COLABS is not just a coworking space as it provides experiences and gives an opportunity to learn and grow from the community. What really makes it different is that they have a huge team of people who are willing and capable enough to serve others at all costs. She said,
“We are so fond of our clients that we even offer them customized office space solutions, to make them feel more at home in their own office.”
When we asked her about the daily challenges that she faces at COLABS, she shared that given her past experiences and record, the community is more involved in networking with her. This makes it a bit challenging for her to prioritize the time with the team, as most of her time is spent networking with the community. She also added that it is so important to take feedback on every level, that the team has to take care of everything whilst being a part of the ecosystem in itself.
A lot of people compare COLABS with different coworking spaces such as WeWork and a number of others. The way COLABS differentiates itself from WeWork or so is primarily because of the business model that it follows, technology at the center that enables it, and the ecosystem impact that it wants to create. Omar and Ali Shah, Cofounders of COLABS come from a background of constructional development, which has been a family business of theirs for over a few decades. This is also one of the reasons why the founders of COLABS have a vision of making it a big thing in the Pakistani tech ecosystem. The team envisions expanding in the Gulf countries as well as in Africa and furthermore in South East Asia. In 5 years COLABS has a target of reaching 100,000 seats across its network of facilities. The thought and effort COLABS put into cross-promoting their clients and dissolving the social barriers between them take more than brick and mortar. So across all these aspects; the facility itself, the services, and the culture they stimulate, COLABS provides a holistic offering that undoubtedly sets it apart from all the other coworking spaces in Pakistan.
What makes the space a hub for entrepreneurs and freelancers while being different from other coworking spaces is the team which is not an average group of facility and community managers rather it consists of technology experts with an entrepreneurial and digital ecosystem’s background, ex-hospitality workers, advertisers, artists, architects, financial advisors, and multiple other industry experts who all work as one large team towards a common and specific goal. This goal of an empowered community is well ingrained in every step that the team takes.
When we asked Fatima what it means for the COLABS management team when they say that we keep the community at the forefront of our work, she told Techjuice that they have designed and built the space keeping the community at the core in a way that even their 3rd site is planned in a very customized manner for the potential clients so they feel the space is not just a co-working space but their own office space well managed and taken care of by the COLABS team.
Although there are numerous rising prominent coworking spaces in the country, COLABS stands out due to its immersive and energetic environment and experience based on the networking between external and internal ecosystem partners and the community, hence removing the usual office hassles of a traditional job culture and allowing its members to grow and build their network as they reach for new heights in their respective ventures.
Apart from its basic workspace, COLABS is very profound in the environment and overall design of its premises as it creates positivity and clarity for members when operating. In addition, when joining COLABS, they take care of everything an upcoming startup would have trouble handling i.e.from payroll processing. to recruitment and even accounts and marketing services through COLABS Business Solutions. The startup believes that upon joining COLABS members should not experience any pain points in regards to their business proceedings and the startup even focuses on removing the usual social barriers which most startup founders and freelancers have had to experience. All in all, COLABS brings something new to the table.
COLABS is currently having an initiative called COGROW through which the startup partners up with the key players of the ecosystem in order to help emerging startups to grow exponentially. The company further added,
“Within our plans to reshape work in Pakistan, we are providing a platform for young startups to come to use our ecosystem and the spaces to set up and grow.”
Through this initiative, we look for startups with big ideas that aim to solve big problems through innovation and revolution in various industries. From there we help them actualize their ideas and grow using the ecosystem we have built, the sharing of knowledge, and a space where their efforts are rewarded.
The company’s media outlet is one of its focuses, through which it studies the ecosystem, top startup founders and focuses on the insights to help aspiring entrepreneurs and freelancers understand the ecosystem well and portray the bigger picture so that they can contribute effectively to the ecosystem. The company’s overall goal is to create and maintain a community of 100,000 entrepreneurs and freelancers, with their passionate team looking forward to the startup’s growth and expansion.