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Interview 2016-04-26

Inside-out of Talwalkar’s HiFi franchise project: Amrith Rao

As of 2010, the Indian fitness industry was valued at Rs800 crore, which today is estimated at a whopping Rs3,000 crore. It has taken a leap at a scorching average of 28 per cent year-on-year.

Inside-out of Talwalkar’s HiFi franchise project: Amrith Rao

Spread across India is the presence of about 1,200 clubs and independent local gyms, bringing fitness to the lives of about 1.35 million Indians. Out of 80 million middle class households, 55 million (69 per cent) reside in tier II and III cities and towns, which is the main target for the HiFi brand. India already has 42 cities with population exceeding one million.


In an exclusive conversation with WI Bureau, Amrith Rao, CEO, Talwalkars Franchising Division- HiFi brand said, the key reasons behind the growth of fitness centres in India is the rise in fitness conscious individuals in the entertainment industry. In fact, due to ever growing conditions of life threatening conditions like obesity, diabetes etc, which is now come to be understood as avoidable, if a fit life is led. Edited excerpts:

Franchise journey

“It had taken us about 3 years to complete the meticulous planning and finalization of the HiFi project. Post that, we first opened our doors to those already closely associated with the Talwalkars brand, with a known passion towards Fitness and an urge to grow with the brand despite all challenges. It took us about 1.5 years to finally open up for those outside the Fitness Industry. During this period, our models underwent a lot of tweaking, tuning and smoothening,” shared Rao.

Growth story of the brand

Talwalkars being one of India’s largest chains of health clubs with over 150 ultra-modern branches across 78 cities. HiFi is its franchise brand, designed by its visionary Chairman, Madhukar Talwalkar, to create a movement, where every individual has the opportunity to join, irrespective of age, sex and income.

It is a movement to spread fitness across the country, exemplifying the slogan Healthy India Fit India (HiFi). The franchise brand provides complete end-to-end operational support throughout the business association.

“We keep up with the challenging and ever changing times. Our knowledge and experience brings with it the highest level of expertise in the field, which is a boon that makes the major difference in the business,” said Rao.

Significantly, HiFi offers a business model to provide assured results with low investment and high returns, backed by the guidance and assurance of India’s biggest name in health and fitness. HiFi gyms are market-tested, compact models with modern facilities: gym, cardio, steam, weight loss (in-house dietician), personal training and an enclosure for mind relaxation called the community area. HiFi is specially designed for high profitability to its franchisees.Every single thing has been detailed, right from site selection to finally launching the project successfully.

Best performing franchiseesMeanwhile, talking about the best franchisees of HiFi, Rao said, “Most of our gyms have recovered their costs in less than two years time and some even earlier. To name the few exceptional ones, Latur, Ajmer, Jaipur, Ahmednagar, Pune (Wakad) and Pune (Sukruwarpeth) are doing good. For the rest, additional support is given to route them to the top and to make them extraordinary gyms.”

Franchisee support
“Right from site business analysis and site selection to setting up the interiors, equipments and getting them to the high standards of our visionary Madhukar Talwalkar, to manpower recruitment, training and configuring the gym management software. Post setup - continuous monitoring and support is provided in handling operational issues. We also have training and refresher programs which can be requested by franchisees,” disclosed he.

Franchisee selection criteria
The key importance is given to site selection and to ensure sufficient spend capacity of prospective cliental, location – visibility, accessibility and proximity from other Talwalkars and HiFi gyms. “Other than this, the financial status and current income and businesses held by our potential franchisee is also analysed,” informed Rao.

Technology play

Rao further informed, “We make use of one of the industry’s best centralized CRM software to track, monitor and analyse our franchisees. In addition, high quality biometrics and access control are installed along CCTV Cameras, to monitor client footfalls and employee.”

He also unveiled that he sees a way bright future for his firm. “We estimate 500+ branches with about 40 - 50 in SAARC countries,” said the Franchise Division CEO.

Acknowledging HiFi success

“We acknowledge our franchisees success as it is ultimately their success that will reflect the overall growth of the brand in spreading fitness to every nook and corner of the country.We do this by granting them Royalty discounts, recognising their accomplishments in our quarterly Newsletters and launching schemes to award them and their hard working staff,” said Rao.

Young vs experience franchisee

According to Amrith Rao, the young are flexible, innovative and generally more aggressive with a hunger for quick success while the experienced excel in managing cash-flow, business dynamics and operations which is essential for the long run.

Each come with their own set of advantages and challenges and we do not treat them any different from each other. Ultimately what matters is their passion towards Fitness and growing with our brand.

Expansion plans

Up until now, our expansion plans has only been centred on rapid expansion in India but we shall be opening our doors to other countries, mainly SAARC countries, soon.

Preferred location

“Any location that meets our extensive selection criteria is fine. Backed by our expertise of launching and operating 150+ outlets, we need not restrict ourselves in any way. However we do give preference to Tier II and Tier III locations with population of minimum 3 Lakhs, as they are up-coming and with low rentals which ultimately reflect in higher EBIDTA. We target carpet area of 1500 – 2000 and 2,500sq ft as this is a compact model,” said the Talwalkar’s spokesperson.

Other franchisee support

“Our recruitment process involves a high range of Creative Behaviour Evaluating Interview process to attract and retain the best talent.A lot of emphasis is placed on fitness training.The practices and methods are strictly monitored on capabilities of the training program to avoid any deviations. Equipment is entirely provided by us as per the model. Initial staff recruitment is done directly by us and we impart rigorous training to all staff which includes theory and structured practical sessions for various subjects like human anatomy, principles of exercise and equipment usage,” noted he.

Since, Talwalkar’s franchisee owned franchisee run model, post launch, it is upto the franchisees to retain the staff. However the brand does provide complete end-to-end support throughout the journey with the franchisees association.

“Our team of experts gets stationed at the gym to handle the complete initial pre-launch challenges for a hassle-free system and to match expectations. Special training is also imparted to house-keeping and security personnel as well,” concluded Rao.


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