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Sep, 19 2013


From being an unstructured industry in the 90's, Wellness has come a long way, rapidly evolving with the increasing demand of its products and services. With organised and big players entering this Rs 490 billion worth sector, it is galore with franchise

The concept of wellness is not new to India. It has been there since eons, though changing form and appearance with changing times. Centuries ago, traditional medicinal and health practices like Ayurveda and Yoga pioneered in letting people know the importance of mental and physical wellness.

Over the years, changes in society, lifestyle, globalisation and growing awareness have added new dimensions to the concept of wellness. In the recent past, India has experienced an influx of new trends in wellness from world over and nation's Gen X has embraced them whole-heartedly. Not many years ago, one could spot gyms, spas, slimming centers so easily. Neither were they so accessible.

Today, the scenario is different. According to a recent FICCI PwC study, the wellness market in India is about Rs 490 billion and wellness services account for 40 per cent of this market.

Out of this, fitness and slimming industry constitutes about 8 per cent of the wellness market, with organized fitness services accounting for merely 25 per cent of the overall fitness industry. With an aim to capture the bigger portion of the market pie, organised players are entering the arena.

Pegged at about $ 0.78 billion, the Indian fitness & slimming industry is slated to grow at a CAGR of 25 per cent to reach $ 2.4 billion by 2015. And both national and international brands are vying for the lion's share in this rapidly growing Indian market.

Franchise opportunities

With franchising being one of the favourite and convenient modes of expansion for this sector, most of the brands opt for it. From indigenous names like R3 Naturals, Talwarkar's, Leena Mogre's, Iosis, Four Fountains Spa to international brands like Seacret Spa, Gold's Gym, Snap Fitness, Aura Thai Spa, franchise opportunities are available across the spectrum.

Snap Fitness, headquartered in Minneapolis (USA), is a recognized global player in the fitness industry with a focus on providing members with the best equipment, guidance and value-added services. It is present in US, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, England, Egypt and India with more than 2500 clubs signed and 1450 locations opened.

Snap Fitness made its Indian debut through its Master Franchise Force Fitness in the year 2008. As of 2013, it has successfully launched 36 clubs in the cities of Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Gurgaon and Vellore. The brand envisions 300 clubs across the country in the next 5 years and is in the process of raising a $10 million (approximately Rs 55 crore) growth fund to fuel this expansion.

Snap Fitness’ robust business model, streamlined operations and  value-added franchise services help its partners accomplish their goals successfully.

“We offer a thought to finish support. We hand hold the franchisee right from site selection, build out, ordering the equipments, recruitment, training, pre-sales, corporate tie up, cross promos, software, marketing collaterals design and ideas, club reviews, etc.”, says Dr Vikram, C.E.O- Snap Fitness India.

Another American brand, Gold's Gym International Inc. which originally started in California, has also come to the country. With over 700 facilities across the globe, Gold's Gym entered India via Master Franchise route in 2002 and opened its first branch in Mumbai. The brand further started franchising in 2003 and is now present in 40 cities, with 67 franchise units and 17 company owned outlets. For a franchise fee of Rs 30 lakh, Gold's Gym is offering franchise opportunity pan-India; with a focus on tier II and tier III cities.

“For the brand to grow it is very important to have likeminded business partner to take it forward. The investors take up a franchise, run it with the complete expertise from Gold's Gym head office and play a very important role in the expansion of the brand. So a franchising route is very crucial as it helps you grow at a faster pace and make it a success,” says Istayak Ansari, COO, Gold's Gym (India, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand). The competition gets a new meaning with some high-end home-grown brands also in the fray. Having started franchising in 2010, Talwarkars HIFI is looking at an aggressive roll-out pan India, via franchising.

With over 145 branches across 76 cities, Talwarkars is one of India's largest chains of health clubs. HIFI- a brand designed to make fitness a part of people's lifestyle and a business model that is franchise friendly- will have the backing and guidance of brand Talwarkars.

Vishal Rupani, CEO, Talwarkars HIFI says, “We believe health is wealth and we have done everything possible to make this come true for our franchisees. The entire franchise system is geared to make every franchisee successful and help him multiply.” Talwarkars HIFI is a compact, affordable fitness community center that aims to take fitness to tier I, II, III and IV towns and even catchment areas of metro cities.

Here’s another brand on its way to make it big. With a mission to make wellness a part of every individual's life, IOSIS- brainchild of Kiran Bawa (a wellness specialist) is looking for suitable partners to expand pan-India. With actor Shilpa Shetty as its celebrity partner and brand ambassador, IOSIS- a unisex beauty and health boutique, is among India's foremost luxury wellness chains.

The brand has devised a unique method of service delivery encompassing four aspects of wellness- Spa, Skin, Salon & Slimming. Currently, IOSIS has five operational boutiques (three in Mumbai and one each in Lucknow & Guwahati) and eight more in the pipeline in Mumbai itself.

IOSIS started franchising in 2012 and just within one year, opened two franchise units (Guwahati and Lucknow.) For a franchise fee of Rs 30 lakh, this wellness chain offers four different modules of franchise namely, Fusion of four, Hair & Body Spa, Beauty & Slimming Centre and Beauty & Salon. “We provide complete management support, with respect to our managers and staff in the unit, for day-to-day operations. Our plethora of services ranges from apprising the franchisees with tried and tested systems and procedures to initial recruitment, social media support and even training on new launches”, says Kiran Bawa, Managing Director, IOSIS.

Another premium franchise opportunity in this sector comes from The Palms Spa, a boutique luxury day spa. The Palms Spa started out just two years back but is now ready with its franchise model. Currently present in Mumbai, the brand lays great emphasis on impeccable service and quality standards. It wants to partner with like-minded individuals, passionate about the wellness business as well as the companies that recognise the immense potential that the industry offers.

“We have just started accepting offers from potential franchisees and our screening process is rather rigid. It's not just about who can afford us, but who we feel can take our brand to even greater heights; through their expertise or access to great locations for the spa etc.”, says Karl Irani, Owner, The Palms Spa.

Promising all support and training to its franchisees, Irani further elaborates, “The franchisee can expect us to provide a turnkey set up. From interior design support, floor plans and optimal layout, to recruiting and training all therapists and support staff; we provide our franchisees all the tools to make their venture a success.”

And here's an opportunity in the field of spa consultation as well. With over a decade of experience in wellness sector, R3 Naturals provides turn-key solutions for spa management and consultancy across the nation and internationally. It was established in 2001 as the 'one stop spa shop'. The brand forayed into franchising in 2008. R3 Naturals Spa Services has expertise in providing customised solutions for management and development of spas and wellness centres. It offers services to day spas, 5 star hotel spas, resort spas, farm house spas, club management etc. R3 Naturals is the only company in the sector which successfully manages over 25 spas, two spa training academies and first 'In-flight Spa'. Franchisees can expect support in terms of spa business operation planning, purchase plan and vendor selection, etc.

Shekhar Harish, CEO and Founder, R3 Naturals, says: “We follow a flexible work module for any project undertaken. We deploy our team of expert designers, architects and interior decorators who work in sync with the franchisee's vision to ensure a profitable business venture and the best of experience to the discerning clientele.” 

Investment & potential franchisee

Since the investment required of a franchisee in this sector is huge, most of the brands have a straight jacket approach when it comes to selecting their associates.“We are extremely selective about whom we partner with. Our brand is different from others and it shows. We therefore prefer someone who can invest both his/her time and efforts into the business. We prefer someone who is more hands-on and would like to be involved in daily operations, whether it be overseeing the accounts or being involved with us in menu evolution or product expansion”, says Karl Irani of The Palms Spa.

Though being from the industry itself or having some prior experience in the wellness sector works in favour of the potential franchisee; some brands are open to providing opportunity to passionate starters. “In our module even if the franchisee is not from the industry and is not aware of the health and beauty business, we have no issues therewith. We provide complete management support and training to the aspiring individuals so that with their high level of enthusiasm and inner drive, they can make their dream a success. Their attributes to take calculated risks and acute business sense become the driving force behind success of our vision”, says says Kiran Bawa of IOSIS.

But can a franchisee expect some financial support from the brand? The house is divided here too. While certain brands are ready to impart all technical know-how, training and constant support; they have no financial support system in place to help their partners. Other brands may have a mechanism in place in case the franchisee needs help.

“Though we have a strong business module in place, in select cases we do enter into a joint venture wherein the investment and the profits are shared, therefore reducing the investment burden on the franchisee”, says Kiran Bawa of IOSIS.


The scarcity of skilled and trained personnel is one of the biggest challenges in the wellness industry. A PwC report states that the wellness services will require 600,000 additional skilled personnel over the next 3-5 years. And so, their availability is a concern.  Also, effective and efficient monitoring of the industry needs to be regulated.

Growth drivers and the road ahead

The Indian fitness and slimming industry is set to ride high in the times to come. Rising disposable income and urbanisation (which in turn are leading to growing awareness about the benefits of a healthy mind and body) work in the favour of this industry.

Also, significant changes in lifestyle, peer pressure, rise in sedentary jobs and lack of physical activity combined with increased consumption of fast food are fuelling the demand for gyms and slimming centers.

The awakening to the need for healthy lifestyle will see spas, alternative therapies, ayurveda treatments and beauty services grow by 30 per cent, according to a FICCI PwC study.

The study further suggests that despite the current economic slowdown which has impacted several sectors, the Indian wellness services market is expected to remain optimistic and has the potential to sustain its annual growth.

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