Space Matrix banks on workplace technology to expand in China

timothy.tay@edgeprop.sg

From conventional to flexible work spaces, office design in Singapore has increasingly come to incorporate digital elements, says Arsh Chaudhry, CEO of home-grown design firm Space Matrix. “This means we must consider the role of technology and how it is playing a part in office design today. Increasingly, our services and advice to clients not only include the physical design, but also help them ensure their spaces are fully utilised from a digital perspective as well,” he explains.

To this end, the company has formed a workplace technology team that is focused on delivering integrated digital solutions to its office design projects around the world. Chaudhry states: “The role of the workplace technology team is to work with our designers and clients to suggest the right kinds of tools and technologies that should be put in place in their offices to enable them to create a ‘more digital’ experience.”

Chaudhry emphasises the importance of creating a digital user experience as opposed to adopting new technology and tools. When clients first approach Space Matrix, the first factor the design firm considers is the employees’ experience, he highlights. The technology is then adapted according to whether the client has a co-working space or a conventional office.

Some technologies Space Matrix has rolled out for its clients include interactive collaborative screens with real-time annotations, presentation-board solutions with in-built wireless presentation and conferencing software, and a visitor management system with facial recognition to eliminate front-desk registration.


When clients first approach Space Matrix, the first factor the design firm considers is the employees’ experience (Pictures: Space Matrix)


The focus on digital experience comes on the back of Space Matrix’s plans to expand its reach in new markets. The 18-year-old company started from a small shophouse in Singapore, and, to date, it has more than 14 offices in key cities in Southeast Asia, Australia, China, and the US. Its clients have included global corporations like Prudential Insurance, Coca Cola, and Ascendas-Singbridge. In September last year, Space Matrix acquired Muraya, a China-based design and construction company. Muraya has since been rebranded as Space Matrix China.

China strategy

“[This acquisition] was a way to get into the Chinese market aggressively. From here on, we hope to increase our presence in Shanghai and then into other markets within China,” Chaudhry says. Since the acquisition, the company has delivered several office projects in China to corporations like Airbnb, Tower Research, and Ascendas-Singbridge.

Over the next two years, the supply of office space in China’s Tier 1 cities is also expected to be high and is likely to be accompanied by low vacancy rates. While the ongoing US-China trade war is causing some global companies to adopt a cautious approach in their real estate strategy in China, local Chinese companies have continued to grow aggressively in their home market, he says.

In addition to Shanghai, the company is eyeing other cities in the Greater Bay area including Shenzhen and Guangzhou, where many technology start-ups are setting up. “Many Hong Kong-based companies are also relocating and expanding their presence in mainland China for cost and talent acquisition reasons,” he says.


Arsh Chaudhry, CEO of Space Matrix; and Ben Breen, Space Matrix Southeast Asia MD (Picture: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)


Projects in China are expected to be as proportionate as the company’s projects in the Indian market in terms of revenue generation over the next few years. The company says its revenues are expected to grow to $165 million this year, with about 45% coming from its businesses in India.

“I’d like Space Matrix to focus on growing in China, whether through organic means or by more acquisitions in the future,” says Chaudhry. “Certainly over the next 12 to 24 months we want to focus on Northeast and Southeast Asia, before looking to expand further into Europe or the US.”

Opportunities in Singapore

Meanwhile, Singapore will remain a key market for the company, which has seen strong growth in servicing the growing number of tenants moving into various office spaces. “Singapore has the full profile of office offerings as an Asian gateway city – from affordable spaces in suburban business districts like Changi and Paya Lebar, fringe areas such as one-north, yo ample space in the core CBD area,” says Chaudhry.

Some of the company’s latest projects include designing offices for Hilton Hotels & Resorts in Singapore; Airbnb offices in Singapore, China, and India; as well as American-based cloud computing company ServiceNow, which has opened a new office in Singapore.


The Singapore office of American-based cloud computing company ServiceNow was designed by home-grown design firm Space Matrix


Singapore is also where he is hoping to identify the next batch of design talent. At end-February, Space Matrix launched the “Dream Big Designathon” in partnership with Temasek Polytechnic (TP). The design competition challenged students from TP’s School of Design to conceptualise the future of co-living spaces in Singapore. The competition attracted more than 90 students and three winners were chosen. Each of the winners secured a four-month internship with Space Matrix and cash prizes.

“We wanted to find one of the best ways to help budding students and give them opportunities. There are many great schools here that teach a lot of great talent, but a lot of these students do not get the opportunity to express themselves on a bigger stage,” he says.

In the medium term, Chaudhry has his sights set on the commercial space in Singapore. With the expected completion of new commercial projects like CapitaSpring and Guoco Midtown in the pipeline, he has a bullish outlook for Space Matrix. “I see significant opportunities for us to grow in terms of our market share; as office design demands and expectations become more sophisticated, there will be fewer players that can provide the level of services corporate customers are looking for,” he says.

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