Uniquely positioning itself as an affordable high quality spa, The Four Fountains Spa manages to attract even those consumers who were earlier not core users of a spa. In an interview, Anurag Kedia, The Four Fountains Spa shares brand’s ambitious growth plans via franchising.
Namita Bhagat (NB): Brief us on the origin and development of ‘Four Fountains Spa? What is its USP?
Anurag Kedia (AK): I and my partners, Saurabh and Sunil were managers employed with multi-national companies and we were in fairly stressful jobs. We would travel frequently and stay in hotels. However, despite being reasonably well-paid we could not afford a relaxing massage at the hotel spas due to the exorbitant prices. We realised that if India had to be made stress-free, spa therapies would have to be made more affordable. That common experience provided us the inspiration to start The Four Fountains Spa, a chain of spas that would put spas within reach of more people. We launched two spas in Pune in 2007 to test our model. The brand offers high quality spa services at prices less than half of our competitors. This value proposition is so strong that we manage to attract a lot of consumers who were earlier not core users of a spa.
NB: Could you share the brand’s current presence in India?
AK: We currently have 19 locations across 10 cities with another six locations in the pipeline. We are present in most of the major metros like Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Gurgaon, Bangalore, Kolkata. We plan to launch in Chennai and Hyderabad soon. While our current locations are a mix of ownweship and franchisee model, the future growth will come through the franchising, which is a focus area for us now.
NB: What factors motivated you to select franchise business model?
AK: Since the time we launched our first spa, we have had an active interest from potential franchisees. In the beginning, we were a little skeptical if they would be able to maintain the right brand standards, however, the profile of franchisees who were expressing interest was extremely good and we could trust them not to cut corners. Though, capital was not a problem for us, we realised that franchisees would bring in their time commitment and passion into the business and help us expand at a much faster rate than we would otherwise. Hence a conscious decision was made to expand through franchisees.
NB: What all products and/or services does the brand offer?
AK: Our typical spa is around 1200 sq. ft. carpet area with six treatment rooms and the rooms are multifunctional and unisex. Steam is inbuilt into the shower enclosures which are attached to the treatment rooms. The most popular spa therapy is a Swedish massage which is a full body massage and lasts for 60 minutes. We have our exclusive range of products which are blended specifically for our spas and are not available elsewhere. All the aromatherapy oils are procured from Italy, Dead Sea salt from Middle East and ayurvedic oil from India. The cost varies from location to location. However, we are normally 40 to 50 per cent lower in pricing compared to the other spas in the market, in whichever catchment we operate. Our clientele includes a 50-50 mix of men and women, who are self employed, working professionals or housewives.
NB: Share brand’s further expansion plans via franchising in India?
AK: We aim to set up 30 new centers in the coming calendar year and work towards the overall target of having 300 spa locations by 2016. The target cities are all metros including those in which we are already present.
NB: What are the area and capital needed to partner with The Four Fountains Spa as franchisee?
AK: The area requirement is 1200 sq ft (carpet area) and required investment is approximately Rs 45 lakhs (depending on the location). Our business model has zero franchisee fees.
NB: What are the qualities you are looking for in the potential franchisee? What kind of training and support will you offer to the franchise partners?
AK: We do not believe in advertising for our franchisees in a big way. Most of our franchisees are known to us as customers, business partners or their friends. Our franchisees are typically in their 30s and have had experience of working in a corporate for a few years including women. We like them to have a passion for the customer service industry and be willing to commit four to six hours every day. All recruitment and training for employees during the launch and later on is managed completely by the brand. The franchisees also undergo a structured training programme to learn the business even before the spa is operational. Support is available on different aspects of the business such as sales and operations, marketing, recruitment and training.
NB: What are the challenges and competition for the brand in India? How would you overcome them?
AK: The spa category is relatively unorganised and there are few branded players in the market. The proposition we offer to our consumers is quality spa services at surprisingly affordable prices. Most other known spas operate in the luxury segment and often charge a price which is difficult to justify. So to begin with, our business model is fundamentally different and well proven across several outlets in different cities.
At The Four Fountains Spa we do not believe that competition is from other brands in the market. We genuinely are happy when new spas get launched. The challenge and the opportunity are to convert non spa users to spa users by educating them about spa benefits. Our entire service and communication is designed to reduce jargon and help customers learn more about spas, so that they can adopt spas a part of their lifestyle and not just something which can be done once in a year.