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Interview 2016-06-20

We are open to sub-franchise express gyms in tier II cities: Skulpt Gym Director

Fitness is considered to be the solution to many psychological and physiological problems. Today, Indians moving towards fitness as a means to de-stress from work pressure, and combat unhealthy eating habits and sedentary lifestyles.

We are open to sub-franchise express gyms in tier II cities: Skulpt Gym Director

Indian fitness industry has come a long way from being a non-existent upper middle class dominated industry that only reached a certain category of people. Over the years, the middle class with its highly disposable income and new found consciousness about health and well-being are keeping unwanted common ailments at bay.

The approach to wellness has shifted from a focus on avoiding sickness and on simple weight loss to a much more holistic approach, where food, exercise and broader lifestyle issues are seen as a whole, and as interacting with each other, to create an optimal wellness that encompasses physical and mental health

In an exclusive conversation with Divya Himatsingka, Director, Skulpt Gym, which is owned and operated by Ideal Gymnasium Pvt Ltd, shared her experiences in the Indian fitness industry as the franchisee of Gold’s Gym and establishing her own venture. Edited excerpt:

Journey so far

It’s been almost 12 years in this industry for me. At the time, this city did not have any facility/ gym of international standards, and being the first ever franchise of Gold’s Gym, an international brand, we opened our gates to a city which was just about warming up to the idea of fitness. Because of Gold’s Gym training, putting systems into place was easy, this time around. 10 years later, when we launched Skulpt, the city had not only become a lot more health conscious, but also aware of the importance of fitness. With the continuous support of our patrons, we have been going strong even on this venture.

Market observation

When we embark on our entrepreneurial journey, fitness was lowest in the East (region). Now gradually, apart from walks and YOGA, every nook and corner has a gym. People are getting fitness conscious. Health goes down because of exposure to constant weather change, rising pollution and dust and the changing lifestyle. Competition is immense. However, overcoming it is not always a challenge. Our motto is service. We strongly focus on member personalisation by paying special attention to their needs/ suggestions while at the same time, updating trainers regularly to bring in freshness in training format and style.

Existing opportunities in Indian market

Opportunity is immense because the market is growing at an extremely high speed. Man power is now extensively available to help set up gyms. Whole teams of advisors are now setting up business on such modules, which makes it all the more easier for business ventures to set shop. The avenues have increased for education on subjects related to fitness. Colleges now have introduced this subject not only in their syllabus, but as a separate department. The world of internet has made global access so much easier. There are various courses online where trainers can complete their certification with eminent brands without actually having to be there physically. They have the access to constantly upgrade their expertise which creates more opportunities.

Franchising plan

Plans are in the works for sub-franchising. Opening express gyms in tier 2 cities is also in the pipeline.

Growth boosting factors

Our customer servicing, personal attention to individual client needs, attendant service and valet and staff/ member loyalty is what makes us different and unique from every other gym in the city.We have succeeded in providing the finest equipment and fitness knowledge available, to help our members achieve their individual potential. We follow a globally proven fitness training module with updated infrastructure and delivery methodology. The gym continuously upgrades itself through regular training programs. With certified trainers and nutrition counselling, Skulpt provides a comprehensive approach to the health and well being of its members.

Major challenges

Being in a service industry, problems keep cropping up every day. It is extremely difficult to keep 700 people satisfied. Solving those issues on a daily basis is a little challenging. Everyday new kinds of workouts keep emerging in International markets. Keeping pace with that is slightly difficult as we don’t have the expertise of training in Kolkata. Attrition is very high in this industry and people do try and lure our staff. To make them feel at home, comfortable, and secure gets a little challenging.

Our biggest strength has been our team. Each one of us is a part of one big family and that speaks volumes about us. In an industry where attrition rate is very high ours is below 5 per cent. Members realise this about our gym and feel extremely comfortable with the surrounding and familiarity. We are also extremely particular about our services. We try our best to look into the problems and grievances of ‘every single member’. It is a little challenging but we go the extra mile to keep everyone happy.

Current turnover

This would not be the right platform to disclose it. Thanks to the support of our loyal members, we have been a part of this industry for 12 years.

Potential competitor

Commercial usage machines from world renowned brands, personalised attention to our patrons and being one of the largest in the city. We try and pay attention to every minute detail. People branch out and go but we have 11 year members who have stayed on with us. We specially take pride in the ones who have left have come back; that is the extent of our service.

Social Media presence

Digitally, we have social media presence on Facebook and Instagram. We also have our own website. Currently, we are not venturing into e-tailing format.

Overseas market

As said earlier, we are a Kolkata based brand, which has no overseas presence at present.

Expansion plans

As said earlier, sub franchising plans are in the pipeline. Also we have plans of opening express gyms in tier II cities. Strategy is small express gyms in tier II and III cities. However, there are hardly any areas untouched in the country where fitness hasn’t flexed its arms.

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