Health and fitness Oct, 21 2010

Shape-Up The Fitness Biz

Franchising offers enticing opportunity for the aspiring fitness franchisees. However, the cut throat competition posed by international and national players is making setting up and smooth functioning of fitness franchised outlet quite challenging. Read

By Ramanjit Kaur
Feature Writer
Shape-Up The Fitness Biz

India backed by strong economy and high consumerism is witnessing a steady rise of fitness centres. Fitness industry is emerging as a promising business opportunity with entrepreneurs mulling the franchise business route to open fitness centres across different geographic locations. In fitness franchising, there are some challenges attached to it. Through franchising, it is easy to set up a franchised outlet as the franchisor offers assistance in choosing locations, obtaining equipment, and setting up the gym etc, but operating it smoothly is quite challenging. The article offers a word of caution for the entrepreneurs aspiring to take up a fitness franchise.

Challenges posed by fitness franchisee

The advantage of buying a franchise over opening an independent business is the support system that comes with every franchise. No doubt the franchisee gets initial hand holding and regular trainings in running the franchised outlet but at the end, it is his responsibility to run the outlet successfully. With people becoming increasingly brand conscious and fitness freak, running a fitness franchise is bit challenging these days. Here are enlisted the challenges that a new entrant can face while running the fitness franchised outlet.

Competition: Emergence of large number of national as well as international brands in fitness industry has led to a fierce competition among players. No doubt, it is beneficial for consumers but for franchisee it is a big hurdle to meet the demands of conscious Indians. “India is emerging as a fertile ground for the fitness businesses as fitness is a growing need and not a lifestyle choice anymore thereby creating opportunity for all,” says Manisha Ahlawat, Master franchisee, Vivafit India. A franchisee need to come up with innovative promotional ideas and marketing techniques to grow the business. He needs to entice clients by offering special packages, promos, freebies and even fitness business cards. To meet the competition, franchisees might also have to offer discounts by compromising on ROI.

Retaining customers: As different brands are implementing different means to attract clients, retaining existing customers is a big hurdle. Therefore, franchisee can offer membership in order to lock-in the clients for a certain period according to the contract. As Chandra Gopalan, Master Franchisee, Contour International says, “Their biggest challenge is retaining existing members. However, launching a franchised fitness centre in a populated city near schools, colleges or corporate offices can help in getting memberships quite easily.”

Hiring expert and trained staff: With the desire to stay physically fit, people need the added incentive to go to a place where they are expected to work out to keep their body in good shape. They also need expert’s advice on how to take off weight or gain it back. So, to make the franchise fitness centre more attractive, franchisee need to recruit experienced staff and train them properly and regularly. To find out experienced staff at an affordable price, is also a big challenge before the franchisee.

Proper maintenance and regular up gradations: Keeping the franchised outlet up-to-date and hygienic is the also a challenge for the franchisee. Clients being very health conscious, franchisee needs to maintain the standards of the parent company by providing clients with newer and better gym equipments and basic facilities like clean washrooms, proper functioning of air-conditioners, water supply etc.

Initial investments and hidden costs: Fitness franchisebusiness usually has high start-up costs. Equipments, staff, and maintenance cost would lead a substantial money drain. Besides this, there are on-going payments included in a franchised business and other business expenses. Basically, the cost associated with starting a franchise fitness centre or gym will depend on size of the centre, location, equipments, and number of employees. Besides initial investment, franchisee needs to meet lot of hidden costs in running a franchised outlet. Meeting these expenses and generating profits along with it is the biggest challenge before the franchisee.

Fitness franchise business no doubt offers lucrative business opportunity, but in overcoming these challenges will ensure good returns for the franchisees.

Franchisor’s role

No doubt, there are many challenges in fitness franchise, but with the help of the franchisor such challenges are greatly reduced. Running a gym or a fitness franchise requires experience in the fitness industry. Franchisor should always look for adequate fitness qualifications and proper certification of the aspiring entrepreneurs before selecting the franchisees. As per Ahlawat, “We are looking for partnerships with other like-minded business entrepreneurs and experience in the franchising or fitness industry is considered a plus.” Apart from the specific requisites, a franchisee needs to have accumulated business management and commercial experience along with self motivational approach toward life. The most significant factor that counts is the franchisee’s physical appearance that helps in attracting and encouraging customers.

Highlighting the support provided for smooth functioning of fitness franchised outlet Sachin Malik, Founder, Diva Fitness, says, “We at Diva Fitness provide our franchisees with a comprehensive 360 degree assistance in all the aspects of running the business; namely detailed project report, site selection, interior design, architecture, procurement of equipments, Software and IT systems, manpower selection/training and pre launch activities.”

Similarly Gopalan says, “We assist our franchisees with site selection, extensive staff training, pre opening marketing activities and their grand opening.” The franchise companies even develop detailed operating manuals outlining each aspect of the operations in order to ensure the smooth working of the franchised fitness centres.

Thus, franchisees must take steps in overcoming these challenges in order to gain maximum returns.

Related: Shaping victory, the franchise way

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