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Of body sculpting and silo existence

Of body sculpting and silo existence

Afew days ago Darshan Sanghvi, director of Pune-based Sanghvi Brands, announced the launch of Spa L’Occitane in India. As the master franchisee of the luxury spa from France, Sanghvi is taking the brand to Devi Resorts in Rajasthan which will launch it across its properties, including an expansive 20,000 sq. ft one at Devi Ratn in Jaipur.

Sanghvi, who belongs to the Pune-based business family with interests in real estate and manufacturing, says he will focus solely on the health space and bring to the Indian consumer the most comprehensive portfolio of international luxury wellness brands—spas, ateliers for male grooming, hi-fashion salons, gyms and 360-degree fitness concepts.

Of course, the roll-out of these services brands will be staggered. Sanghvi chose to introduce fitness concepts over upper-crust global apparel brands because, he says, “Fashion is frivolous." But he has no qualms about offering what he calls “responsible luxury" to Indian consumers since such products and services are good for the body and soul.

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By no means are Sanghvi’s intentions philanthropic and there’s a pronounced economic driver to his plans. Spas are an underserved sector. Data collated by him shows that while the global spa Industry is valued at $256 billion, the Indian spa industry stood at $350 million in 2008 with a 14% annual growth rate.

But has Sanghvi or others in similar businesses ever looked beyond the clichéd explanations of more disposable income and increased stress as reasons for Indians buying into wellness and fitness products? Sraboni Bhaduri, a behavioural scientist with Future Brands, the branding services company of Kishore Biyani’s Future Group, who delves deep into consumer habits, has found some answers.

Bhaduri is continuously striving to get to the bottom of our behaviour as consumers, analysing our motives and probing why we buy what we buy. A recent qualitative piece of research conducted by her team offers vital insights into why the wellness/fitness industry could be growing. Incidentally, the study was done for an international oral care brand keen to enter India but threw up a host of interesting insights into other aspects of consumer behaviour.

Her findings suggest that the Indian consumers are sharply focused on their bodies—probably more than they are on their clothes. That’s not all. Fashion today is not just social facing. It is more inward and for the self. Especially so in the metros where the consumers are moving inward.

There’s an overarching need to sculpt the body to make it look perfect…so it’s all about spas, pilates, dance workouts, cosmetology, tattoos, body glitter, aroma therapies and much else. Clearly, the consumers are busy addressing the sensorial.

The “inward-looking" trend can be explained through tattoos for instance, which are more conversations with the self—it could be a joke, a milestone or a coded message, fashionable, yet personal.

The research also explains why the “self" has become the centre of attention. It is because sustenance offered by other relationships—family or friends—is low. There is very little overlap between one life and another…there’s not even a shared rhythm of the day that was taken for granted earlier. For instance, the youngsters don’t even wake up or sleep at the same time (as is evident from the recent cover story on “The 2am People" by the weekly news magazine Outlook).

That the existence is more in silos needs no proof. The isolating technologies are at hand. Gadgets with earphones help you log out of a common universe into one’s own world at the click of a button. On the one hand, there are no common milestones; on the other, the network of friends is more virtual than real. “Touch and stroking has been outsourced through spas as in a virtual world the real touch goes missing," Bhaduri observes.

Against this backdrop, the body, being an immutable, stable and very real entity, becomes an anchor in a world where more and more things are mutable and virtual, proffers the Future Brands expert. Needless to say, beauty parlours are not enough. Gyms and cosmetic procedures are paramount in the quest to recreate the perfect body. The self needs to be perfect: If it is the only thing that you depend on, it better be the best.

The loosening linkages with the outside world lead people to look within for resources to cope and company to be with.

Therefore, the industries that lead you to invest in and play with your appearance (changes/makeovers) will do well, especially those that ensure definitive rather than superficial change.

As long as that’s the consumer mindset, people such as Sanghvi stand to gain.

Shuchi Bansal is marketing and media editor with Mint.

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