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Health and fitness 2016-11-11

Zorba: A 24-year-old CEO and 25 forms of Yoga

With 20 studios and more coming up, Zorba: A Renaissance Studio is the largest chain of yoga studios in India.

By Associate Editor
Zorba: A 24-year-old CEO and 25 forms of Yoga

The multi-billion dollar Yoga market of the world is dominated by America. Even as Yoga originates from India, the country has a minor share in the world Yoga market. What’s needed is to broaden Yoga in India to changes and to modernisation. 24-year-old Sarvesh Shashi has taken up the task and is trying to make Yoga more upbeat and cool at Zorba: A Renaissance Studio.

Wellness India spoke to Sarvesh about Zorba, about the forms of Yoga at the studio and the expansion plans. Here are excerpts from the interview:

Tell us about Zorba.

Zorba is a renaissance studio. It means a person who lives life to the fullest each day. Renaissance means rebirth, so it’s a studio where we practice any form of lifestyle wellness and fitness activity having Yoga as the base. Yoga is the core for us. We are currently India’s largest chain of Yoga studios, practising over 25 different forms of yoga ranging from Athar Yoga to surf boat Yoga under one roof. We have Yoga for children, for senior citizens, for corporate, Zumba, Salsa, we have a bunch of activities, but the base of the brand is yoga.

How many studios do you have? Where are they located?

We’ve currently got 20 studios. We’re there in Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bengaluru. We’ve signed up 15 in Delhi. Then there are three coming up in Kolkata, Pune, Vizag. A couple of them are coming up abroad too – in London or Dubai.

How many of these studios are franchised studios?

Two of the current 20 are franchised.

Tell us about your business model.

The approach towards the business is very niche. Our interiors are based on the five senses. It creates an intimate space with a lot of grass etc. The lights are specific. We recruit people from Haridwar. They are all Masters in Yoga and they have a Diploma in alternative therapy. There is a yoga centre called DSVV (Dev Sanskriti Vishwa Vidyalaya). They come to Chennai and Bengaluru and undergo a 90-hour training under Zorba, learning the Zorba way – from how you shake hands to how you take the class. Every three months, they are upgraded. We focus largely on how we market ourselves. We focus more on digital and obviously the word of mouth has been there. Our marketing is very specific. We do classes for underprivileged children, for old age homes, and then we have corporate.

How many members per studio do you have approximately?

We can accommodate about 100 members per studio. We have about 8-9 sessions in a day and we are accommodating about 14 people in each of these sessions. So this is the maximum capacity.

Tell us about Zorba’s franchising model.

We require a 900 square feet space. We recruit the instructors, train them, we do the marketing, we do the interiors. Everything is done by us. Only the money is being put in by the franchisee, Rs 27 lakh. We give you a plug and play model.

How many studios are you looking at by the end of 2017?

We should have more than 100 of these studios by end of next year.

How many are you looking at establishing through franchising?

In the ratio of owned and franchised – 70:30.

What makes you take the franchising route?

In every city, we are looking for people who could run the show, predominantly in the southern cities that I am, I take it up. I’m not too strong in Delhi, so I look for a like-minded partner who could take up the task. The reason for franchising is that more the people and experience, the better you can run your company. But I’m sure it has its own pros and cons.

Any specific areas that you are looking at primarily expanding in India?

Mumbai for sure. And then, we’re starting a sub brand which is going to be covered by Zorba, which is going to be known for affordable classes like Rs 900 per month. We are growing pretty well.

Tell us about your pricing strategy?

We have a one month program and a three month program – Rs 5000 and Rs 12000, five times a week. We have a one hour class. What we do is completely different.

Once you get clients, what does Zorba do to hold on to those clients?

The classes themselves are pretty interesting and we’ve got a retention rate of about 90 per cent unless and until the reasons are something like I’m out of the country.

What was the investment that went into starting the first ever Zorba studio?

The first one cost us about Rs 17.1 lakh to set it up completely.

How have the returns been?

We broke even in four months.

Tell us about the USP of Zorba.

The USP of Zorba is in the quality of the cl;asses that we conduct and the upgradation policy that we have. In addition to that are the interiors, the ambience which are the plus points that we have. And I don’t think any other studio in the country does basket ball yoga, and fusion yoga. We’re very result oriented.

Do you have any tie-ups with gyms or schools?

We’re open to it.

What’s your view on the current fitness industry in India?

It’s pathetic to be honest. One per cent of the overall gym population are fitness conscious. But I think the awareness has largely increased. Yoga is the third most revenue generating form in the world. But India contributes less than 1 per cent to it even though it originates from India. Ultimately it is a person’s call on how they want to be fit.

Do you think it is good to be a young entrepreneur?

I believe in duality. Where there is good there is bad for sure. I’m not thinking about the good or bad. I’ll go wherever the wind takes me. But I have my own advantages and disadvantages and obviously, experience being the biggest disadvantage. But the advantage is a broad minded thought process, there is no traditional family involved here. I have mentors who are doing a fabulous job as we speak.

Who do you turn to for advice for running your business?

Harsha Ramdas Bhatkal or my dad and I have a brother, Aditya. I turn to anybody and everybody, I learn from everybody.  

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