Spaces are powerful storytellers, especially if the occupants happen to be a sporting brand. Colourful themed meeting rooms, Astroturf floors, lots of imagery of sporting heroes and a running track that loops around the office—welcome to The Stadium. It’s the new headquarters of Dream11, the flagship brand of Dream Sports, and India’s largest fantasy sports platform.
The company moved into the Bandra-Kurla Complex space in Mumbai, in June. It follows a mostly in-person model of work, where employees must work in office four days a week, and can choose to work from anywhere for one day a week.
Mint has featured several sports-themed offices in this Office Review series over the years. All are designed on similar lines to The Stadium, but the level of detail that has gone into the Dream11 office design warrants a closer look. Designed in partnership with Space Matrix, a veteran corporate interior design firm, the office exudes sporting energy.
One enters The Stadium through a turnstile, naturally. Visitors can wait in a goalpost at the reception. Each of its 40 meeting rooms are based on an iconic sports-team or sports related body. Graphic design doesn’t stop at conference tables or at the walls. In the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) board room, for example, some of the chairs have backrests made of cricket bats and cushions based on the 1983 cricket team jerseys.
The designs are enough to make any sports fan (or even a non-believer like me) inhale the sports experience, from all directions.
It is a dense workplace with deep floorplates. Over 700 employees are packed into two large floors, but adequate natural light makes it a comfortable work environment, with as little or as much noise as one would expect in an open-plan office such as Dream11’s.
Where priorities lie
Eye-catching as they are, none of these frills and flourishes are really exceptional in themselves. The most interesting item to me was a dull grey office chair, something that could be easily overlooked in this lively setting. I recognized it to be a Herman Miller chair, one of the best-regarded office furniture brands in the world. Herman Miller ergonomic task chairs are priced ₹55,000-60,000 each.
A hefty investment for Dream11 to make, having bought more than 1,000 chairs. Very few Indian companies, leave alone a mid-sized business such as Dream11, make an investment on this scale.
It suggests that the company has looked at sports as a metaphor beyond branding and visual element, and has translated it into individual well-being. Just as physical fitness is essential for athletes, “we believe that if we are at peak fitness, then we’ll be able to give our best as well,” says co-founder Bhavit Sheth.
According to Kevin Freitas, the chief human resources officer, the decision to invest in ergonomic furniture was based on data and common sense, to provide comfort to hundreds of employees working for more than eight hours a day. The chairs also come with a 10-year warranty, proving to be a good long-term investment, he says. “And by design, we want these small things to be inserted in such a manner that people don’t feel that we are doing them a favour, we don’t advertise the brand, we just want them to experience it,” he says.
Tangible workplace well-being is complemented by HR policies supporting intangible work-life benefits. For example, the company offers “proximity to The Stadium benefits”, which entails subsidized rent up to 67% if one lives within 30 minutes from the headquarters.“It’s to improve work-life balance. The objective is that not only do people feel a strong sense of well-being at work, but the policies that support where you live are also focused on that,” explains Freitas. This policy tends to be popular among newer hires, many of whom are from out of town and not bound to a location within Mumbai.
It’s the space between us
Individual well-being at work is also enhanced by providing the only feature that most employees in an open-plan office crave: space for private work.
The office is dotted with quiet corners for individual calls or 1:1 discussions, which were not available in the company’s prior space, say Paresh Parmar, a software development engineer, and Priyanka M., a security engineer at Dream11.
Who’s the champion?
Predictably, the sporting metaphor extends to team performance too, in tangible and intangible ways. “Sports give a lot of lessons in everyday life and management. We want to integrate sports into our culture itself, into our way of thinking. We tell people that when they face any problems, when they hit a wall, they should think about what a high-performing sports team would do if they were to be in a similar situation,” says Sheth. The organizational hierarchy reflects the mindset. “We don’t call anyone the leader or boss. We call them captains. CXOs are called coaches. We want the thought process of our team to be as integrated as in a sports team,” he says.
Teams need space to perform and these needs have been accommodated in two ways. First, informal collaboration spaces have been created between groups of teams where members can huddle, without needing to book a meeting room. These also serve as noise buffers.
Second, one of the most insightful design features is the size of the meeting rooms. “The size of the meeting rooms is more than the number of meeting rooms. As you become a larger organization, your teams also become larger. So you need to have bigger spaces,” points out Freitas. The company has as many as four large boardrooms that can turn into war rooms.
Early days yet, but the Dream11 workplace is a good reminder for creatively minded companies to look beyond exciting graphics and visual elements, and to insert their brand considerations into work culture in thoughtful ways, ideally to promote individual and group workplace well-being.