interview:
A big challenge in the Indian Spa industry is lack of skilled workers
30 Jan 2013

In an endeavour to bring all the spa professionals under one umbrella, Spa Associations of India (SAI) was formed five years ago. Indian Spa Industry has been performing well in the last few years and SAI in undertaking initiatives to make the industry bloom in every possible way.

Sana Mirza quizzes Rajesh Sharma, President, Spa Association of India, to know about the objectives of his association, the different categories of spas and their growth perspectives in India. Rajesh also spoke about the popularization of the spa culture among Indian women and the roadblocks that lie ahead of him as the President of SAI.

Tell us about the history of Spa Association of India (SAI)? Why was the need felt to build this association?

Spa Association of India was formed in 2008. I felt that this industry is getting better now, the business is booming as many international players are looking to invest in the country. That was the time we realized the need to bring everybody under one umbrella and try to bring them close and together, so that we can network, talk about issues, growth, training, improving things with the help of government official. That was the time we thought of building this association.

How do you see the Spa industry in India evolving over the past few years? Do you believe that the Indian Spa industry is in its nascent stages?

The industry has really changed and the spa industry particularly is evolving with leaps and bounds. Earlier it used to be a small beauty parlour and now things have changed. They are getting more into spa therapies. At this point spa industry is more into body massages and the major growth has taken place in this segment.

Things like Kerala massages, body scrubbing and body wraps are becoming popular. Many of the practices are being inspired from the western culture along with Indian traditional massages. A lot of new things are coming in to the industry and the Indian medical tourism is also booming. Medical tourism is going to a play a big role in the coming years.

I believe that the spa industry has crossed a line of being called in a nascent stage. I would say that the industry is into a budding stage though, and I really cannot announce that we have come out of the budding stage, as many of the companies and people are still hesitant. We are at the stage, where may be in a year or two we will be out of out budding phase, and we are growing.  In next two years we will be a full-fledged association.

What are your immediate priorities as the President of SAI?

Priorities are the government approvals, which is very important. Legitimate business and trained personnel is the need of the hour, we are really short on skilled workers. Getting academies regulated and holding proper training sessions for the students and for the professionals as well, who are into the trade for many years, they want to grow forward. Awareness is very important, awareness towards employees and awareness towards consumer.

Tell us about the different kind of spas operating in India? Which segment has seen and which one will see major growth in the coming years? 

In the past more of Ayurvedic spas and Kerala therapeutic spas dominated the industry. But the industry has evolved. The future looks like that more of fusion spas, including both Indian and western therapies will come into play.

I would say, two segments will surely notice a good growth, one is fusion spa, where you will see blend of western and Indian therapies. For western people it will be more inviting. Thai and Swedish massage therapies are popular massages, which can be rendered by any proper trained therapists. In India it’s sad that we don’t have registered massage therapists. In the coming years the academies have to wake up and put up a courses, so that they can give licenses or certificates to the therapists. 

Day spas are mushrooming very wheel. I have seen 20 per cent growth in day spas. In every city the spas are popping up. In coming two years there would be lot more growth in day spas. Hotel spas are also popular. Today no four or five star hotels would survive without a spa. Every hotel needs a spa to relax their customers. Destinations spas have already come a long way. For example Ananda Spa, is among the famous destinations spa in the world.

Which spa therapies have become popular in the Indian market?

Water therapies are not that popular in India but in the coming time I believe that it will be a huge hit. Body massages are very popular.

How has the industry performed in terms of revenue generation in the last few years?

According to the latest figures released by the Global Summit, the Indian Spa Industry is around INR 11,000 crore and it will grow. 

Share the total number of spas operating in India at present? Percentage wise how many local brands and international brands exists in the Indian market?

In the last two years, the total number of spas is 2200-2300 in India. But currently I would say over 2500 spas are operating in India. These are not authentic numbers, as there are many spa businesses which have not registered themselves and it has become very hard to find the total number of spas operating in India. This number consists of all kinds of spas I have been talking about. On an average I believe that we will be growing at a rate of 20 per cent in the coming years.

Percentage wise the international players in India is very low. Recently, Six Senses Spa has joined hands with Jaypee Group. Brands like Mandarin Spa and Banyan Tree are already there. Few spas like Red Door who are planning to open in Mumbai, few more international players are looking into the market. I believe that once the industry settles down, then more international players may foray in the Indian market. Local brands are rolling at this moment.

What response has the Indian spa industry got from the international players?

As I mentioned above, more international players will move in once the industry settles down. At this stage we are still growing and they don’t like to get involved in the nitty-gritty of a growing business. The international brands want the field work to be done by us. Once the field work is done, challenges have been met, now they will enter the market to grow their business and take over.  

What major challenges have you faced in the growth of Indian Spa industry?

The big challenge in the Indian Spa industry is the skilled workers. Ethics is very important in this business. I have lot of therapists and spa owners who are not maintain proper ethical levels. They try to cheat customers. 

How popular has the Spa culture become among Indians over the years? What trends have you noticed?

The spa culture is growing among Indians. It all depends on exposure, awareness and the spending power of the customers. Spending power of an Indian household has increased. Indian women are prepared to maintain and groom themselves. Lot of women are very much aware of the new treatments available. Same goes for the men. Lot of gyms have popped up, as people are aware of the need of staying fit. Today the women are keen in maintaining themselves like never before.     

Is spa treatment still considered a luxury?

Currently, the spa treatment is not considered a luxury any more. It is becoming or has become a necessity. Women want to keep themselves groomed and they are keeping a budget aside to maintain themselves.

Do you believe unbranded and unrecognized massage joints have given a bad name to the profession and the industry?

That is right. I think we really need to address this issue. We need to identify them differently. There are lot of places who are doing rough business, which is not good for the industry. Those who are working in the industry are getting affected by such unethical practices.

How does the future of Indian Spa Industry look like?

The future of Spa industry is very promising.  We have been looking for opportunities to supply spa therapists all over the world. In the coming years, we would take over the wellness industry.

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akshee bansal
01 Feb 2013

from above interview i go to know more about spa industry;by reading this most of my misconceptions about this field got cleared..such information is very much required..looking forward for more..