Fitness centres especially for women are still in its nascent stage. To capture this growing segment, Manisha Ahlawat has signed Vivafit, a European fitnesss centre as its Master Franchisee. In an interview Manisha Ahlawat, Master Franchisee, Vivafit India speaks about the brand and its expansion plans in India.
Abha Garyali (AG): Share with us the growth and success of Vivafit India.
Manisha Ahlawat (MA): Vivafit India is going to be launched very soon in Delhi, NCR. We will start with our first centre in Gurgaon and thereafter have plans to open more such centres all over Delhi and Noida in the next one year. Each centre would inspire 500 women to make fitness a habit, which will spell success for us.
AG: What is the USP of Vivafit that made you bring the brand to India?
MA: Vivafit came across as a fresh new concept in women’s only fitness centre format. It is a European brand founded and run by the dynamic duo Constance Ruiz and Pedro Ruiz. When compared to the other international brands in the same segment, Vivafit had better franchisee support systems and world class customer service, sales and CRM systems that will help us in serving this market in India. I also travelled to Lisbon, Portugal and met many successful and happy franchisees who vouched for Constance Ruiz and Pedro Ruiz’s continuous support in running the franchise network. The whole team behind this system and support is very enterprising, energetic, creative and dynamic, this is very important for the success of any franchisee business.
AG: What inspired you to take the Master Franchisee of Vivafit? When did you sign the contract?
MA: We signed the Master Franchisee contract in July this year. We identified this great business opportunity due to a dearth of fitness centre/gym options in India for women of any age group. Most of the regular gyms cater to a predominantly male clientele and may have over looked the specific needs of women. We want to provide a place where women as young as 14 and as old as 80 can work out in a safe and comfortable environment. This is a growing need also as we know the increasing incidence of breast cancer, diabetes, blood pressure and coronary diseases in Indian women. Vivafit has successfully tapped the same market segment in Portugal and we want to replicate their success story in India.
AG: Do you think that you may face competition from other organised fitness brands? What strategies have you employed for handling the competition?
MA: We are not worried about the competition at all. The more the merrier! It will only provide more choices in fitness for our Indian women and as I said earlier, fitness is a growing need, and not a lifestyle choice anymore thereby creating opportunity for all.
However, we will have very interesting and eye-catching monthly marketing campaigns to increase brand and concept awareness. This is a customer centric business where, in the long run, qualified and well-trained staff, high customer service standards, customer relationship management systems, and operational excellence are the things that will pull in and retain customers.
AG: You are planning to open your first outlet in Gurgaon soon. What are your future expansion plans?
MA: We are focusing on Delhi NCR this year unless we get a very highly qualified franchisee application from any other areas. We plan to open up to 200 centres in the next three years.
AG: How many centres will you be opening by this year end? Will these new outlets be franchised?
MA: We will open only 10 centres by end of 2011. Yes, these will be franchised to qualified applicants.
AG: What are the qualities and the criteria for the selection of your prospective franchisees? Will you prefer to have women franchisees in your network?
MA: We are looking for partnerships with other like-minded business entrepreneurs who have accumulated business, management, and commercial experience. Experience in the franchising or fitness industry is considered a plus. There is no such preference given to women, we would prefer only qualified people.
AG: How will the company support and train the franchisees?
MA: We would offer a good initial training programme for 10 days in training all staff from owner, manager, commercial, and instructors. Our rigorous training programme will provide manuals and materials. All participants are tested and approved before going to work in the Vivafit. Our support is also extensive with intense support during the store preparation, pre-sales and opening of the centre. Afterwards there are regular support visits, an excellent intranet with a franchisee forum, updates to manuals, extra trainings offered, etc.