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Oct, 01 2008

Fitness industry shaping up

The customised lifestyles of today`s Indians have given increase to a number of health problems. Owing to this, preventive healthcare is on the rise as prevention is always considered better than cure. Fitness is one such industry that falls in the catego

“Being a pilot in the US meant I had to go through regular health and fitness check-ups for the 17 years that I worked and lived there. Fitness was always at the top of my mind. As a cargo pilot, I had to shift the stuff I carried from the aircraft into its waiting transport. Once while doing that, my back gave way. It was yoga and exercise that helped in my speedy recovery.

When I decided to return to India, I researched the fitness industry and found only a few good brands. I found the need for fitness, hence FitnessOne came into being.”

The above narration by P Vivekanand, Managing Director, FitnessOne India describes the dire need of fitness centres in India and how it works in the betterment of preventive healthcare. Currently valued at Rs 2,500 crore, the fitness industry in India is showing huge potential for Indian as well as international chains.

Awareness spurs growth

Over the years, the whole perception about fitness has changed. Regarded earlier as just a way of being slim for someone who wanted to participate in a beauty contest, fitness today, has taken an altogether new meaning given the rise of fitness centres where the main thrust is on the wellness of the person. After all, a healthy mind resides in a healthy body.

Being fit is the new fashion statement of today`s youngsters who reside to the right ways of being healthy instead of starving. Even research shows that having an apt fitness routine helps improve the quality of life.

Talking about the factors compelling the growth of the fitness industry, Alisha Chauhan Kudanmal, Director, V3 Fitness says, “The fitness industry is growing very rapidly because people are now starting to understand and become aware of the importance of healthy living. The fashion trend also seems to have changed in India from considering fat to be `healthy` and a sign of prosperity.”

To this Vivekanand says, “It is a case of demand and supply. Fitness is beginning to get its fair share of awareness, and we are geared up to provide the necessary facilities.”

“The industry is growing at a robust 60 per cent and this is mainly due to the steep rise in disposable income clubbed with a lot of focus on personal appearance, good health and fitness,” informs Gopalan.

Talking about the need of fitness chains in today`s world, Manoj Shah, CEO, Evolve says, “Today lifestyle has changed radically with the changing economy and trends. Consciously, Health has becomes a crucial concern in this fast-lane lifestyle, since it plays a vital role in the pursuit of achieving your professional and personal goals.”

Adding to this, Istayak Ansari, VP, Gold`s Gym India says, “The amount of awareness created though media has gone up tremendously in the past two years. There are dedicated shows on all major television channels on health and fitness. Lots of gyms have opened up in the past three years which are also creating and developing the market. Most importantly, people are realising the importance of exercising which is one of the key factors towards preventive maintenance of your body.”

The fast paced life of today`s youth has restricted them to desk jobs, leaving them with no time to relax their bodies. A motivator is required in these cases to excite them to turn towards a healthy lifestyle.

Changing trends

Today`s gym goers are much more informed and well read than earlier. Owing to this, gyms are introducing newer ways to attract customers. International fitness chain Gold`s Gym offers a juice bar inside the gym. Balanced diets taken by gym goers have also given a rise in introduction of healthy eating joints within the gyms. Even corporate houses today encourage in-house gym centres for having healthy employees. Companies like LG, Hyundai and Infosys just to name a few, are companies which boast of conveniently located gym centres in-house.

Studies show that it`s very easy for a person to sign up for a fitness centre but it`s very difficult for him/her to keep going with his/her fitness regime. Today`s fitness chains have understood this well and have infused the unique elements and motivation tools which helps them keep going.

From customised workout sessions and personalised diets to a café serving delicious health food, soul soothing massages, a well stocked library and a cozy lounge: you will find everything you need, everything you want, at Evolve.

In its main services, V3 offers the Cardio Weight Room, which has all the cardio machines such as treadmills, ellipticals, bikes, etc. and strength training stations. Its other main service is the group exercise studio, where it provides its members a large variety of group classes such as aerobics, bollywood dance, salsa, zumba, kickboxing, cardio kickboxing, step aerobics and body toning classes to name a few.

Established in 1965, Gold`s Gym offers standard facilities like cardio, strength, free weight, group ex, spinning, spa and juice bar across all its gyms. Other facilities like rock climbing, swimming pool, squash court, child care, salon and in body composition assessment are offered at select gyms.

Leveraging its expertise of over 75 years, Talwalkars specialises in innovative programmes such as the Personal Exercise Programme (PEP), body sculpting and body shaping which ensures that their customers not only gain the desired results but at the same time make exercising an enjoyable experience. Talwalkars claims to have 20 per cent of the market share.

In turn, today`s fitness clubs inspire you to stay healthy.

Gyms not for men alone

With the onslaught of media showcasing our actresses` toned bodies and with Kareena Kapoor`s size zero becoming a fad amongst today`s girls, the need has all the more increased for women`s gyms.

A lot of companies are targeting women only gyms and are also coming out with special features to target women audience. The fitness industry is now witnessing women entrepreneurs setting up women only gyms.

Contours International which started in September 2006 in Bangalore has a women only concept. Catering to the upper middle class segment, Contours International offers circuit training, toning, core stability, group aerobics and diet and nutrition counselling.

Talking about bringing the international chain Contours International (re-branded in India) by taking its master franchise, Chandra Gopalan, Director, Contours International says, “Its time effective workout seemed ideal for the Indian woman. This inspired me to franchise the product.”

Fitness One India has PINK in one of its divisions, which is a one of its kind in India. PINK from FitnessOne is a chain of fitness studios for the fairer sex. These gyms are equipped with machines made especially for women and are all staffed by ladies, with a focus on `Trim` weight management programmes. If someone has a minimum area of 1,500 sq.ft carpet area, they can set up a PINK gym.

Alisha Chauhan Kundanmal, the daughter of Parle Agro head chose a different career path for herself due to her passion for fitness by starting V3 Fitness. V3 started in 2003 with an all women`s group exercise studio in Juhu; from there it opened another centre in Malad which was unisex.

International companies` entry

National and international, the spread of fitness chains is on the rise these days. Given the economic growth, a lot of international fitness chains are making their mark in India.

Snap Fitness is renowned for its no frills attached fitness centres where the members get to use the state of the art exercise equipment located at convenient locations with experienced trainers that are close to their residence or workplace. The affordability of the gyms is another important factor that attracts the consumers. Talking about its specific products and services for the Indian market, Peter Taunton, Founder and CEO, Snap Fitness says, “We will also bring in other value added services like online diet counselling, online training, etc.”

SNAP is located at present in the U.S and Canada. Other than India, it is at present firming up on plans to enter Australia, New Zealand, and Mexico by 2008. The company is always on the lookout for partners anywhere in the world.

Talking about its further expansion in India, Taunton says, “We will be following the franchise model as we do across the world. We look at capturing 1 per cent of the market share by the end of 2008 and about 10 per cent of the market share by the end of five years.”

Snap Fitness began franchising in April of 2004 and quickly spread to more than 130 locations nationwide in 2005.

Today, club locations exceed 1,000 in the United States and Canada.

Celebrity Fitness, Asia`s largest health and fitness spa, chose JMD as its preferred real estate partner for its foray into India. Spread over 38,000 sq.ft, Celebrity Fitness will bring world class fitness solutions complete with state of the art gym equipment, international standard spa and professional personal trainers at JMD Ltd`s upcoming retail mall, JMD Regent Arcade on M.G.Road, Gurgaon.

Another major international company that is soon expected in India is Anytime Fitness. The company is one of America`s fastest-growing franchises, and is now the largest unisex fitness franchise in the world.

Talking about the growth potential for international fitness chains in India, John Kersh, Vice President of International Development, Anytime Fitness, says, “The fitness industry is virtually untapped in India, in terms of the low levels of participation overall, much less than 1 per cent of the total population, compared with 5 per cent in Europe and more than 10 per cent in the United States. From this standpoint, the growth potential for fitness participation is immense.”

He further adds, “The common assumption is that the sheer population size of the Indian market, combined with a growing middle class and emergent economy, makes for a great business opportunity. At the same time, everyone needs regular exercise for good health, and Indian consumers are affected by many of the same things affecting Americans and Europeans – sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy eating habits. Exercise helps combat both.”

As in other markets outside of North America, Anytime Fitness plans to work with a master franchise partner or partners, in India who will sub-franchise the concept to others. Anytime Fitness will work closely with those partners to replicate the high level of service and support that it provides to its franchisees in North America.

Expansion via franchising

Given the need of fitness for Indians there is a need for more number of gym centres to be opened which are approachable to gym goers. Many companies are taking the franchise route for easy establishment of large number of gym centres in all parts of the nation. A recent study has shown that many gym goers leave the fitness routines in between because of lack of accessibility. Franchising helps these companies in the fitness sector in establishing fitness centres across the country.

On adopting franchising for the expansion of V3 Chauhan says, “Since we are looking at a fast growth rate we decided to look at franchising as an option. Franchising has an advantage of being owner run so it`s more personalised as well.”

The fitness industry is open to people who are passionate about fitness. Even a person without any background in the fitness industry is welcome by these fitness chains as franchisees. Chaunhan says, “We are looking for people who have a thirst and are passionate about running and managing a business and not for people who are only looking out for overnight returns.”

Given its benefits, franchising obviously reduces the growth for any company. Adopting franchise route for Fitness One a year ago, Vivekanand says, “This was done to bring about the benefits of fitness to the community in South East Asia much faster than we could have without franchising.”

Talking of further expansion he says, “We plan to add 40 - 60 centres a year in the next few years.”

Discussing the expansion of Evolve via the franchise route Shah says, “We have a target of about 40 centres in the next three years. Our target market would be tier I and tier II cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, Cochin, Hyderabad, Vizag, Ahemdabad, Surat, Baroda, Jaipur, Nagpur, Aurangabad and Indore.”

Contours International began franchising eight months after the inception of its pilot unit. Gopalan mentions, “Franchising is healthy, as it allows the franchisee to concentrate on administering his/ her unit whilst product issues are dealt with by the franchisor.”

Contours International is looking at all the tier 1 & 2 cities for expansion. Worldwide, Contours International is 750 gyms strong and is expecting to reach the 1000 mark by 2009. Chennai, Hyderabad, Cochin, Bengaluru, Coimbatore, Mumbai, Indore, Ahmedabad, Surat, Goa and Baroda will be its focus in the near future.

Foreseeing a great potential for the fitness industry, Chauhan says, “The fitness industry is a fast growing industry. It is only in its beginning phase just now with a great growth potential.”

Gold`s Gym India has three modes of expansion i.e. franchising, joint ventures and company owned gyms.

Franchising is the key driver for Gold`s Gym`s business growth and expansion.

Ansari feels, “Franchising helps to replicate a business model over larger territory in the shortest possible time. A franchisee not only brings investment on board but most importantly, also the management bandwidth. Once you have successful franchisees in the system, they start multiplying very fast.” In the future, Gold`s Gym India aims to be present across 22 cities with over 50+ open and operating gyms by the end of Dec 2009. It has a set target of taking Gold`s Gym to 60+ cities with 150 gyms by 2012.

Talking about taking the franchise route for expansion, Prashant Talwalkar, Director, Talwalkars Better Value Pvt. Ltd says, “The gymnasium business is booming in India, and Talwalkars is seeking like-minded partners to expand their reach. This is the right time to set-up a franchise business in this booming sector.”

He further adds, “By 2009, we expect to touch 100 centres. After testing waters in the metros we are gradually moving to the tier II and tier III cities across India.”

Launched in 2002, Anytime Fitness immediately focused on franchising as its primary growth strategy. By the end of 2008, Anytime Fitness will have 1,000 sites open and operating, with a total of more than 2,000 franchises sold.

Though it`s much too early for Anytime Fitness to reveal its expansion plans in India, it expects the Indian market to grow to at least 2,000 Anytime Fitness units over the next 5-10 years.

Talking about its international expansion, Kersh says, “Anytime Fitness recently signed its first international deal for Australia and New Zealand, and our first franchises will open there in October. We anticipate 300 locations in those markets during the next 10 years. We are also in the process of signing an agreement in the Middle East, to cover the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and we have been active in Canada for several years. Overall, Anytime Fitness has nearly 1,000 sites in operation.”

Snap Fitness has come with very high expectations from the Indian market given the growing penchant for fitness today. It aims to open around 500 -1000 centres in the next five years.

Fitness is actually a science in which some companies have reached a success mark. Partnering with such companies ensures constant support and hand-holding which is all the more required in the business of fitness. Starting a fitness gym on your own might sound like a good idea but it will entail a lot of pains for establishing its name in the market and more importantly setting the systems in place. Ensuring best services to your customers is the best that works for the popularity of a gym and it can be guaranteed in a franchise. The fitness industry offers huge potential if a well grounded business model is supported.

Promising future

Today there are no statistics available for gym memberships exclusively. But there are clear trends of healthy growth in gym memberships in the last three years and it is expected to grow by 10 times in the next 10-15 years.

“As of now, gym membership penetration is pegged at below 0.3 per cent as compared to 16 per cent in US and 9 per cent in Australia, so one can imagine the growth potential of this industry,” avers Shah.

Foreseeing a great future Talwalkar says, “The industry is growing rapidly- within three years it will grow to be a robust Rs 4000 crore industry. With general awareness among the common man for health and well being, it will grow by leaps and bounds.”

The fitness world is expanding and there is a lot of demand for good fitness centers, so it obviously throttles the scope for more players. Today the market is expanding faster than ever, but finally the success will depend on the quality of service and fitness experience one provides to the customer.

Foreseeing a healthy growth for the fitness industry Ansari says, “The industry will witness a very high growth rate for the next few years. It is just the beginning for this industry. There is a huge business opportunity for people who want to get into this industry as it is currently in the growth stage.”

As per industry experts, the future seems really bright for the fitness industry. Investment in this industry will definitely produce rich dividends.

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