Rasheed Shroff is changing the nature of work with Banyan Workspace – a boutique work and events space combining an authentic design with a strong social and environmental business model
What’s your story?
While visiting a serial entrepreneur I’ve known for 20 years, I had an epiphany and decided, on a Friday night in Manila, to leave a secure leadership role at an industry-leading multinational firm, after two decades, to start a business. I told my wife on Saturday, my parents on Sunday, and resigned on Monday.
Four months later, I launched Dragonfly Asia-Pacific, helping brands to penetrate the newly emerging markets of Asia. My wife and I went looking for a small office for our fledgling start-up. After weeks of looking at Coworking spaces, but not finding anything inspiring that reflected our passions and principles, we decided to open our own coworking space. This is when the idea for Banyan Workspace was born.
What excites you most about your industry?
I believe the Coworking industry is leading the way when it comes to the future of work in a post-pandemic world. All the so-called “revolutionary” trends that are being observed and predicted for flexible work, office design, and functionality, such as hygiene protocols, flexible desks, and collaborative spaces, the provision for remote-meeting and presentation technology, are all things that Coworking has been doing for years. It is an industry that was ahead of its time and it will be fascinating to see how more companies and entrepreneurs transform how business is done in Coworking spaces.
What is your connection to Asia?
I was born, bred, and educated in Hong Kong. My grandfather fled here from Shanghai during WWII, my father built a very successful business here, and I’m proud to say that my children are third generation Hong Kongers. I have a profound love for this city and am fully invested in its future. The love my family and I have for Hong Kong is very much reflected in Banyan Workspace, through both its Hong Kong inspired design and its community “Giving Back programme,” where we have officially partnered with four local non-profits and provide ad-hoc support to many more.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Obviously, I am going to say Hong Kong. This city has provided me with opportunity and exposure like no other! I love the diversity in every aspect of life, from the city hustle and bustle to the glorious hills and beaches at our doorstep. From renowned fine dining to the equally delicious local dai pai dong and cha chan tengs that are just next door. From the world’s most efficient MTR subway system to the old trams that crawl the streets above, and most importantly, to the people of Hong Kong, both local and international, who call this place home.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“It’s never too late to make a change!” This was something that I truly embraced when, in my mid-forties and after over 20 years of rewarding service, I left the most fantastic company, and the only job I had ever known, to start something from scratch, with nothing more than the vaguest idea of what the future would look like. There have certainly been ups and downs, but I can honestly say that I have not once looked back or regretted making the change.
Who inspires you?
Both my parents have inspired and continue to inspire me. My father left medical school to join my grandfather’s company which needed help. Through hard work, smart decisions, building relationships based on honesty and trust, some much needed luck, and always giving back to people in need, he built a massively successful business. I watched that business grow from a young age through my teenage years and into adulthood. My mother’s calmness, spirituality, never ending support, encouraging presence, and positive persona was instrumental in every success my father had, as well as in anything that my siblings and I have achieved in life.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
The environmental impact of society’s love affair with SUV cars is staggering! Apparently, if SUV drivers were a single country, they would be the world’s seventh biggest culprit contributing to global emissions. Can you believe it? Larger than both the UK and the Netherlands combined! Yuk! I’ve become far more conscious of environmental issues since setting up Banyan Workspace and I work with the most wonderful team of eco-warriors who love what they do as they strive to do things better and be more eco-friendly each day!
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
You mean, aside from launching two businesses in the midst of civil unrest and a global pandemic? In all seriousness, I have learned that every experience and encounter can teach you something and this is equally true in life as it is in business. I have come to believe that making a bad decision should be viewed as ruling out a poor option rather than making a mistake. One example? Don’t take on a business partner you have not worked with before. Two people can see the same thing very differently and that can lead to an unfortunate (and perhaps avoidable) split.
How do you unwind?
It’s critical for me to get enough exercise and I like to workout almost every morning. It helps me clear my head of all the noise and it de-stresses me which makes me a better husband and father. Inevitably, I get my best ideas when I’m working out. The gym closures have definitely been one of the hardest things for me during this pandemic, but I’m slowly building up enough equipment at home, and thankfully, the hills of Hong Kong are at my doorstep.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Every Easter my extended family and I descend on the same Koh Samui holiday rental for a week of eating, drinking, and relaxing under palm trees, with a coconut, and perhaps a drop of vodka, as the sun sets. Parents, siblings, spouses, and children, under one roof, might sound like hell, but we are all very close-knit, and it has become like a second home to our family. To be at my most relaxed, it is the people I am with just as much as the location. Easter 2020 was the first year we have missed our annual trip since the kids were tiny and we’re all longing for the next one!
Everyone in business should read this book:
Admittedly, I don’t read a lot of books, though I read many articles and research reports.One book that I did read, early on, still inspires me today. Every entrepreneur should read the book, “Shoe Dog,” written by the co-founder of Nike, Phil Knight.
My favourite quote from his book: “Let everyone else call your idea crazy… just keep going. Don’t stop. Don’t even think about stopping until you get there, and don’t give much thought to where “there” is. Whatever comes, just don’t stop.”
Shameless plug for your business:
Banyan Workspace exists so that our members can be part of something meaningful and just a little bit special. We are an inspirational boutique Workspace and Events Venue in Quarry Bay, Hong Kong, modelling sustainable luxury and promoting social purpose. Our eco-friendly home is built around sustainable principles and operations, that makes being green an easy part of your company culture. We partner with carefully selected Hong Kong non-profits, making financial donations on your behalf and facilitating your corporate altruism. Our members are genuinely proud to have their offices with us and to entertain clients in our space. You can find more information on https://banyanworkspace.com/.
How can people connect with you?
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To hear how entrepreneurs around the world overcome their challenges, search your favourite podcast platform for ‘CallumConnects‘ to hear a 5-minute daily breakdown.
Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built, and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder and CEO of MBH Corporation PLC. He is the author of three best-selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’, ‘Agglomerate’, and ‘Entrepreneurial Investing’.