Saturday, June 20, 2009

Setting up an office in Karachi

About 6 months ago I started looking for an office here in Karachi. I was tired of working out of my home ... the lure of the TV and my comfy bed was too strong to resist when working in the adjacent room. Plus I had a few opportunities to expand my work and hire some developers to do my bidding :P

And hence my search began. Following were some of my concerns at that time:

  1. The Location of the Office
    That was kind of a big debate in itself. On one side, I had the option of getting an office near my home in DHA. That would've been pretty convenient for me, but Defence is on one end of Karachi. It would've been pretty hard for other people to come from other ends of the city. The second option was getting an office on Shahra-e-Faisal. There are hundreds of office buildings and thousands of offices over there. And since it's somewhat in the center of the city, getting there would not be that big of a hassle.

    I eventually decided to get something near Shahra-e-Faisal. I knew that in the beginning, I'd need to work with freelance developers and designers and I didn't want them to make a fuss everytime I asked them to come to the office. Plus, its hard to attract good developers to come work in a startup, I didn't want to add the burden of a long commute to their decision to come work for me.

  2. Decision to get a furnished office:
    Being a stingy memon that I am, I wanted to risk the least amount of upfront cash in this venture. Because I didnt know if I'd still be needing the office after a few months. And buying air conditioners, desks, chairs, other furniture would have costed me hundreds of thousands of Rupees. After meeting with the first real estate agent, I realized that furnished offices were only 3000-5000 rupees/month more than unfurnished ones. So that decision was not a tough one. I ended up getting a furnished office for Rs. 20,000 / month and it had cubicles and cabins to seat 7 people. It even had ethernet cables in place, so all I had to do was bring my computer and get settled in from day one.

  3. Lease Duration
    The standard leases ran for 11 months and had a two month notice period if I decided to break the lease before the 11 months were over. This wasn't bad at all. Plus I was able to negotiate down to a 3 month deposit + a 3 month advance rent.

  4. Other Expenses
    Even though the office was mostly furnished, there were a few things that we needed to start off. The unreliable power supply required an electric generator. I found a diesel generator for Rs. 30,000 that works just fine. It did give us problems twice in the last 6 months, but other than that it works like a charm. I found an extra microwave oven and a electric water cooler in the basement of my house which I quickly transported to the office. With just that, the office was ready to be moved into.

  5. Internet Connection
    I got one of those WorldCall EVDO wireless routers the very first day. The speed was painfully slow, but at least I had internet access from Day 1. Applied for a DSL connection, and got delayed by the stupid beuracracy and the bribe induced stupor of our telecomunication department. The PTCL DSL department told me after wasting two weeks that they don't provide service to my number. And even though I didnt get the connection, they've been billing me for the internet for the last 3 months :(
    Finally got a LINK.NET connection, but the telephone lineman in our area wanted to wet his beak too. By this point I was just battered, exhausted and irritated by using slow internet for a 45 days (shared by 3 people) and didnt care how much bribe I had to give to get decent internet at work !!! After haggling with the lineman, I paid him Rs. 1,500 to just turn on the switch that they had purposely turned off in the first place.

And thats the story of how the office started off :)