Nikita Patel and Rhea Patel are two Dubai-born and raised millennial sisters who worked together out of the same confined space during the lockdown after a decade of living in different cities.
They both had very different work styles, with 30-year-old Nikita wanting pin-drop silence, whereas her younger sibling Rhea preferred music playing in the background. They disagreed on everything from the room temperature to the working hours.
That’s when they realized there was a gap in the market in Dubai for a place that Rhea best describes as: “combines the convenience of office with the comfort of home.”
Two years later, at the beginning of this year, The Bureau opened its doors in Dubai. Adds Nikita, who had worked from a coworking space in Boston before the pandemic, “We held many focus groups prior to proceeding with The Bureau and even conducted a survey. We invited women of different ages, nationalities, career stages, and so on to participate in our focus groups and understand the more nuanced needs in a coworking space. Taking the restrooms, for example, some women requested hair ties and cotton buds, while others requested tampons and ovulation sticks. The key is not assuming what women want based on our own needs.”
OPEN TO ALL
While it is a female-led space, it is open to all, and they have found that several of their founding members are male. As Ahmed Hamed, Business Director, Social Mode, a social media marketing agency, says, “We are happy to be one of the first members to join. We found everything we could have possibly wanted — a fantastic space, top-tier amenities/facilities, a community, which is not easy to come by.”
Every detail has been thought of in this 930 square meter space at Dubai’s Gold and Diamond Park, from the Equiti metro station, which is just a few minutes away, to including a pumping room, showers, and changing facilities.
Housed within The Bureau are NAO fitness studio and Jones the Grocer, with a café stocked with healthy eats. Choose from private office spaces or a communal desk, take your zoom calls from soundproof booths, and there is also a podcasting studio.
BUILDING A COMMUNITY
Perhaps, before the pandemic, the idea of a coworking community would not have appealed to Dubai’s entrepreneurial community. Says Hamed, “the high demand in such a short period proves how Dubai is now ready for a space like this.”
Like most coworking spaces, The Bureau wants to be flexible enough to attract independent workers. There are day pass options for those who still need to get ready to commit to membership.
The Patel sisters are looking to build a community, not a workspace. Partnering with Lighthouse Arabia, Nabta Health, and Baraka, their “taboo talks” programming will look at health, financial independence, and women empowerment. In the plans are pop-ups with salons so women can pamper themselves from their workplace.
So far, The Bureau has been privately funded and opened in one location, but that could all change soon. “Our Gold & Diamond Park location is the pilot project. Once we perfect our model, our next step is to expand The Bureau across MENA, South Asia, and beyond. And we may be open to external funding in the future,” says Nikita.
With 11 out of 12 private offices being rented out, the Bureau is filling a gap in the market.
Rania Masri El Khatib, the former Chief Transformation Office at The Chalhoub Group, who now runs her experience design advisory for brands, The RMK collective, says, “As an independent advisor, I was working from home and cafes and doing my meetings all over town. I missed the structure and routine I had during my corporate days but could not find an inspiring environment to work from. Most coworking spaces were too cold and formal for me. I joined not only because of the setup, but I also loved the offer and the environment.”
And she adds, “We have always worked in spaces and environments designed by men, now it is exciting that men and women get to experience another work and community style. I wish The Bureau existed when I had my kids and was desperate for a maternity room!”
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