G Ramachandran, Promoter & Director, Gold\'s Gym India, who brought the brand in the country about 12 years ago, talks to Wellness India and share his expertise in fitness industry with new vision and fiscal stratagem.
Established in Venice, California in 1965, Gold’s Gym is known for offering training fitness techniques, equipment and nutritional concepts that formed the foundation for the modern fitness revolution. The company has over 700 facilities and is one of the largest international gym chains across the globe. It is recognised for its passion, unique heritage and experience as the final authority in fitness and lifestyle.
Interestingly, G Ramachandran, who is the Indian representative of the brand, is also a renowned mentor capitalist with impeccable entrepreneurial spirit and financial expertise, and has a good hold on Indian market.
Tell me about your journey so far in the fitness industry?
Our journey began in 2002, when we set out to bring International fitness to India. This journey has now culminated into 82 operational gyms in 12 years with our graph only going upward.
What is the current scenario of fitness industry and among the top fitness brand, where do you position Gold’s Gym and why?
The fitness market is growing at a healthy clip of 25-30 per cent and the scope is high as more youth are becoming fitness conscious. The industry is unorganised with a large number of mom-and-pop gyms existing across India, along with very few global players. The sector is fragmented and there is a dire need for consolidation into an organised sector. However, the mom-and-pop structures are giving way to organised retailing in the gym business and it is felt that this process will accelerate in coming years and will open adequate opportunities for global players like us. Gold’s Gym is the fastest growing fitness chain and has the largest number of gyms outside US. Currently, our focus is smaller boxes in tier II & III cities and we intend to grow in this part in coming two years.
Comparing the year Gold’s Gym entered in Indian market to the current market scenario, some international brands have made good space in fitness market. How increased is the competition at present and how you overcome the growing competition?
Gold’s Gym India has completed 12 years of service in India and 50 years internationally and has managed to gather immense recognition in the industry because of the associations and the elite standing amongst other gym chains in India. With bagging multiple awards for excellence under its belt, including two awards for the ‘Best Fitness Chain’, an award for the ‘Most admired fitness chain of the year’, another for the ‘Best Debutant Franchisee & Best Master Franchisee 2013’, eight awards from Gold’s Gym International for ‘Best Interiors’, ‘Best Advertising’, ‘Best Marketing’ and more, make an eventful 12 years of the brand into fitness business.
With a variety of workouts and fitness activities like group ex classes, spinning, Rip:60, Zumba and corporate wellness programs, Gold’s Gym offers a 360 degree approach to fitness, giving it an edge over the competitors.
What are your views over Indian fitness industry? Is it still challenging to convince or motivate Indian consumers to hit the gym? If yes, how do you overcome this challenge?
The fitness industry has come a long way from the inception of the term ‘fitness’ being introduced at the local akhadas to providing international gym services. The gym and Fitness Industry in India is evolving and growing at 25-30 per cent and India is indeed making a growth story in the fitness market across the globe.
Today, fitness is driven towards health and well-being the market for health and wellness in India has been picking up gradually. The country is fast emerging as a modern community that sees the importance of sports and health. It is seen that people spend on an average 4-5 hours a day on recreational activities, be it leisure or sport.
Though, the country has one of the lowest market penetrations in Asia. The average market penetration is 3.75 per cent in Asia and 0.37 per cent in India as per the report published by International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA). It is 12 per cent in the US and other developed countries in Europe. The industry has seen major growth in the last three years, has grown close to 100 per cent. A recent study by the FICCI and Ernst & Young suggests that the wellness industry is growing at 30-35 per cent annually and is worth 110 billion.
What are the opportunities and challenges of fitness industry?
Earlier, it was predominantly used by male population, but today, we see 45 per cent of the female members in the gym. Education and access to the internet has changed the views of women to take up gymming. Osteoporosis cases have been on the rise, a warning bell for women to take heed of their health and fitness. Breast cancer continues to kill millions of women and is in fact the second most common form of cancer among women in India.
Still, the fitness market bears its own challenges like lack of education about the benefits of exercise, health & fitness and unplanned and unregulated opening of gyms of all types, shapes and sizes, which are not even equipped with adequate and well trained staff to provide safe and accurate exercise routine to the members. These kinds of gyms open up with a lot of fanfare and positioning but immediately start reckless discounting as they are not able to build a healthy membership base and cash flow.
What are the benefits of franchise business as Gold’s Gym also offers its franchise for the aspiring and upcoming entrepreneurs? Kindly elaborate.
At present, franchising model is the easiest way to become entrepreneur with instant benefits like well formed business plans, procedures, policies, and rules ready made from the franchisors. Therefore, a large part of your installation and initial setup work is already done. Franchising in India is growing at an impressive rate of about 30 per cent year-on-year. Presently, there are 1,200 franchisors existing in India, out of which 25 per cent are of international origin, with US companies the most prevalent one.
The franchise market in India has the potential to grow to $20 billion by 2020. Some of the successful companies that operate through franchises in India are Thomas Cook, Cox & Kings, Kuoni, SOTC, Raj Travels for travel and tourism, Euro Kids, Kidzee, Apple for pre- school, Café Coffee Day for food and beverage and Apollo Hospitals for healthcare and of course Gold’s Gym in the fitness sector.
The franchisee business has its own benefits which include; higher chances of success than in a sole proprietorship; shorter time to opening; initial training and ongoing support; assistance in finding an optimal site; the selling power of a known brand; lower costs through group purchasing; use of an established business model; national and regional advertising campaigns; customer lead generation through websites and centralized call centers; and a network of fellow franchisees to provide advice and moral support through a annual conferences and franchisee meetings.
With celebrities promoting various fitness brands and products, why Gold’s Gym is not taking any such initiative? If you would like to make any Bollywood celebrity as your brand’s face, who it could be and why?
Gold’s Gym promotes fitness in every sector of society and we believe every fitness enthusiast is our brand ambassador. Instead of promoting our brand through a celebrity, we believe in giving quality results to the members and when a member is happy he goes out and bring more new members.
What are your expansion plans? Any new outlet to open in near future? Which potential area in Indian market is still untouched by your brand and why?
Gold’s Gym currently has 82 gyms in 41 cities and has also launched the small format Express model gyms. Gold’s Gym India is planning to further expand its presence across India. The company is eyeing tier II and III cities in a bid to tap the country’s fastest growing fitness market.