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Sep, 01 2008

Health regime at global centres

India is now all set to hit a strict health regime. This rage on the health & wellness front is beckoning a plethora of global players, especially in the spa and fitness segments. Their arrival will breathe a new lease of life into franchising in India, i

The Indian health & wellness market that is estimated to be at Rs 20 billion with a year-on-year growth of over 25 per cent is encouraging a lot of international players to invest in the country. The changing lifestyle and preferences of the Indian consumers are giving fillip to the globalization of this segment. Of late, the segment is buoyed by the emergence of international spa companies. The demand for spas is growing at 7.9 per cent every year. Also, the fitness market in India, which is estimated to be worth Rs 2,500 crore and growing at about 40 per cent year-on-year, is also alluring to the well-known international players seeking to make investments in this country

International spas` expansion via franchise

The new image of India, with a huge population, robust economic growth and the prospect of tapping a virgin market, is driving the spa companies to venture into the Indian market. India, along with China, is seen as one of the fastest growing countries and will remain so for another decade according to the World Travel & Tourism Council. Considering these factors, international spa companies, especially from Malaysia and Thailand, are anchoring themselves in India.

Spa culture so far has been touted as the luxury indulgence of the rich. The spa facilities were earlier available only at luxury holiday resorts, but with people becoming more and more health conscious, spa culture is spreading out of the territory of high-end customers and becoming more accessible to the masses with the popularizing of day spas where service is provided on daily basis without overnight accommodation.

The spa culture was introduced quite a long time ago by the ayurvedic treatment centres mostly located at Kerala, Ananda at Hrishikesh and the Mangalore based Serena spa, which has expanded its territory outside India. Besides their presence, globally known companies like Angsana Resorts & Spa, a sister concern of Singapore-based Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts and Thailand based Thai Privilege Spa Co are making their presence felt with their world class treatment facilities. These companies are mostly tying up with hospitality groups and property developers through the franchise route to set up spa centres. They are generally in two formats – at luxury hotels or tourist resorts at some exotic location or day spas in the heart of a city.

In India, Angsana has tied up with the Oberoi Group of Hotels, Prestige Constructions and Brigade Hospitality Services of Brigade Group and Kerala based Tejas Ayurvedic. According to the agreement, Angsana supports the Oberoi Spas at Oberoi Hotels, by supplying masseurs and therapists, whereas the business operation is taken care of by the Oberoi Group itself. Bangalore based Prestige Constructions, one of the leading construction companies, has developed Oasis Spa and Resort and runs two day spas of the same brand in the city, informs Ajay Rao, Marketing Manager, Prestige Constructions. Brigade Hospitality has taken up a Rs 100 crore project for developing a spa resort under Angsana banner. It has another tie-up with the Kerala-based Tejas Ayurvedic trust to incorporate ancient ayurvedic treatments.

In April this year, Thai Privilege Spa Co. inked a franchise deal with Krislon Group, which is involved in the property and garment businesses, to open two spa outlets. Thai Privilege has tied up with another company, Agrigold Group of Industries, with interests in consumer products, food processing and power plants, to open six outlets in India. These two companies will be opening spa outlets in South India and Mumbai. The spa centre at Mumbai will be introduced under the brand name “Sarahn”. A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between leading real estate developer Omaxe and Thai Privilege Spa Co. to establish and operate 10 spa outlets of Thai Privilege Spa in New Delhi and Northern India in the next two years. As a part of the agreement, Rohtas Goel, Chairman & Managing Director, Omaxe Ltd, divulges, “The Consultant engagements will assist us in establishing and operating spa business including spa management, spa technique, spa franchising and the other knowledge areas in our projects”. The Pune-based Sahil Group has inked a 6-year agreement with MSpa Ventures Ltd. of Bangkok to operate and manage Mandara Spa at its property Radison Resort and Spa, Alibag.

International spa products now in India

Franchise India Holdings Ltd. has recently tied up with Thailand based Spa Siam to retail their products in the country. The company plans to open 120 Spa Siam centres across India in a period of 4-5 years, where retailing of the spa products in combination with spa facilities will be made available. This expansion will be based on franchise model. Though its products are categorized as premium, the price point will remain at mid-level.

International fitness centres take up franchise route

US based Gold`s Gym started its operation in India in 2002. They are consistently expanding through franchise route providing services both in institutional and individual categories. In September 2006, Contours Express opened its first women`s fitness centre in Bangalore. It started its operation through the franchise route. In the same year, Indo-Dutch joint venture brought in the Netherland-based fitness company Elemention Health and Sport. The US-based Snap Fitness, 24*7 express fitness centre, has recently entered India through the franchise route by striking a deal with Force Fitness of India. Snap Fitness is planning to open 250 centres by the end of 3 years and 500 by the end of 5 years. For expansion, they will mainly follow franchise route.

Services provided

Talking about the services, Rao of Angsana Oasis Spa Resort reveals that their service has a gamut of different types of massages like Swedish massage, Thai massage, Fusion and more. For a facial massage they charge Rs 900 and for treatment it goes up to Rs 2800. The entire range of holistic spa treatment includes Thai herbal wrap, tangerine body wrap, sunburn soother, natural and mud body wrap and a host of other therapeutic remedies. The masseurs and therapists here are trained at the Banyan Tree Academy located at Singapore.

Contours International, earlier called Contours Express, is pioneer in introducing organized and hygienic ambience at their fitness centres.

Spread over 20,000 sq. ft, MSpa has spa suites, and offers Balinese, Thai, Swedish and Ayurvedic massages. The treatments include aromatherapy, reflexology, seaweed, mud or herbal body wraps, scrubs, facials and a selection of freshwater baths priced between Rs.3,800 and Rs.25,000. This spa centre will be serviced by international staff that will be trained at its headquarters in Thailand for three months, as revealed by Vinay Phadnis, Chairman and Managing Director, Sahil Group of Companies.

The USP of Snap Fitness India is its 24*7 service at an affordable price of Rs.1200 per month. Their centres will have world class equipment (Cybex brand, which is currently the world leader), certified trainers and nutritionists from abroad.

Target customers

It is interesting to note that initially, spa businesses were a south India phenomenon, especially in the Kerala belt, where national and international visitors were heading to avail of services. But now, the rest of India is catching up with the trend.

As far as fitness centres are concerned, Pune and Bangalore are fast emerging as India`s fitness capitals with probably the largest number of premium gyms and fitness centres in the country. It is due to the presence of a large number of IT companies and the employees` mindset of staying fit.

The health & wellness segment is experiencing high popularity among the upper middle class. Nowadays, corporate houses too are showing keen interest in the segment, encouraging their employees to stay fit. They have taken the initiative to set up in-house fitness centres, but recently, due to space crunch the trend has shifted towards offering employees membership to prominent fitness and wellness centres. These centres too are eying bulk corporate memberships rather than that of affluent individuals. In this context, Srileka Reddy, Director – Marketing, Snap Fitness India, reveals, “Our target customers are in the age group of 20 to 60 years. Their response has been very positive. Though the pricing is affordable, we are not compromising on quality by offering the best equipment and training facilities. We are also leveraging on technology where people can track their workouts even if they are traveling.” Speaking about the Thai Privilege Spa Co., Goel informs, “Our target customers will consist mostly of the residents of our projects who would be able to enjoy the amenities at a reasonable cost. As of now, we don`t have day spas, but we are open to the idea and given the response to our services, we will take a decision to this effect”.

Franchising: the way forward

India`s recent image of being a potential ground for business ventures has resulted in a surge in international players in various sectors including health and wellness, and to accommodate them in the Indian market, franchise is playing a crucial role. To fuel the growth plans of these companies, franchise in India is sure to have a prospective avenue to explore.

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