An exclusive interview with Sarvesh Shashi, Founder & CEO, The Zorba, A Renaissance Studio
Yoga originated from India. However, the business of yoga is yet to take off in India. The players have to make this form of exercise more relevant to the present day customers to increase its receptivity. In a candid conversation with Sarvesh Shashi, Founder & CEO, The Zorba, A Renaissance Studio, Utpala Ghosh finds out how commercialisation of yoga and alliance with one of the largest fitness chains, Talwalkars helps in leveraging maximum growth in the business.
What inspired you to start The Zorba, A Renaissance Studio?
I was seventeen years old when I started taking yoga classes. Very soon I started realising its benefits that brought about phenomenal transformation in me in terms of – physically, mentally, socially, financially and spiritually. By 21 I became a professional cricketer and I had remarkable confidence level at that time as I was physically and mentally strong. This inspired me to make this learning available to people and I decided to start Zorba, A Renaissance Studio. I started by taking a loan of five lakhs which went on to become 17.5 lakh at that time. I also took help from my dad and started Zorba at Mount Road in Chennai.
When and how did you start franchising?
Both my second and third studio was franchised to very close acquaintances. Both the studios are Franchise Owned Company Operated. Then we developed a very good module for our studios.
How do you see the consumer’s behaviour change towards yoga?
The mindset of people in India is that Yoga means meditation and Surya Namaskar. Yoga means unity of mind and body. If I say hatha yoga to people, they might not come. So I had to commercialize yoga in a way that would be exciting to them. It was important to break the typos in order to get the people to come for yoga classes. You need a lot of innovation otherwise no industry will survive. So we have introduced aqua you, paddle yoga. So once people have good experience out of it and they came to know that what they are doing is yoga, they started doing the regular yoga.
Where do you see this industry headed to in the next five years?
Within the next 4 to five years there will a 10-20% growth in the people getting into yoga. An unfortunate data in India reveals only one percent of the population is fitness conscious. And I don’t know out of that one percent how many are practicing yoga. I hope with Narendra Modi coming in for a yoga day, and people like Baba Ramdev and Ravi Shankar influencing people, will be beneficial for the Yoga segment as a whole.
What are your criteria for choosing franchise partner?
Any investor who is ready to invest and leave the operation to the professionals is welcome. But it would be nice to have people who are well versed with the virtues of fitness and yoga. They should know about the growth of the industry and the importance of fitness. It requires an investment of Rs.40 to 45 lakh for a plug n play model where they pay the money and I do the entire infrastructure, interior, software everything and 40 days of marketing free.
Tell us about your joint venture with the Talwalkars Better Value Fitness ltd.
In the service industry the most important this is the space and people. So we get a ready space at about 100 odd locations and we get their registered database. Talwalkars have taken 50 percent stake in Zorba. They will be dedicating a specific amount of area between 350 to 1700 sq ft area that varies from city to city. We will do a complete makeover of the space to make it aligned with our brand identity in terms of colour scheme, decor, logo, lights and music etc.
What was the reason behind this collaboration?
Talwalkars have the biggest fitness chain. But they realised that they are focussing more on the physical aspect while the whole fitness world is shifting towards a more holistic approach addressing both mind and body. So they wanted someone who can handle this particular mind aspect. So the Talwalkers had a readily available gym, and they wanted to bring fresh air into the gym. So they chose us to partner with them. Talwalkar caters to the physical level and Zorba caters to the mental level and wholesome level.
What are your plans for franchising?
I am planning to give a master franchisee too various investors in the major metros who are going to open 10-20 centres in each city.