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Indian Spas

By: Priyanka Bhattacharya
Posted: June 5, 2007, from the June 2007 issue of GCI Magazine.

With estimates for double-digit growth, the Indian spa industry is on the verge of a boom. Long considered a niche segment, the Indian spa industry has begun to attract both local and international attention over the past year and a half, and the reason for this attention and growth is multifaceted.

First and foremost from the local perspective, the spa industry has benefited from increasing consumer awareness about concepts of beauty and wellness. Wellness is no longer just an aspiration; it is fast becoming an affordable indulgence—especially in major cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai and Kolkata. “[Society’s] views in respect to wellness [are] drastically changing,” says Carina Chatlani, chairperson of Spa & Wellness Association of India and CEO of Body Bistro, a range of spa products. The consumer mindset has moved from going to a doctor to cure ailments, to using therapies for better lifestyle management, she explains. In fact, Indians are now traveling to both Indian and global spa destinations for recuperative wellness vacations. In conjunction with this trend, there is a rising demand for exclusive and customized beauty and wellness services that only spas can offer.

While women still comprise of 70% of the clientele, men no longer shy away from going to a spa to look and feel good. According to an estimate, the entry of male customers into spa and wellness centers is increasing by almost 80% annually. According to Chatlani, 69% of the population falls into the highly health conscious 25–45 age group, making them highly potential spa customers.

Meanwhile, over the past few years, Indian ayurvedic and herbal therapies have been gaining ground among consumers in U.S. and European markets. Thus, India has become a destination for wellness tourists seeking specific Indian therapies. In addition, specialty spas in the U.S. and Europe have also begun to offer Indian ayurvedic and herbal beauty and wellness therapies, which translates into business for many Indian manufacturers, who can contract manufactured products for these spas or supply base materials for therapies.

Emergence of Day Spas

Until recently, India has been promoted as a place most suitable for resort or specialty spas, with a special focus on the Kairali (Kerala) therapies offered by resort spas in South India, notably in the state of Kerala itself. This market was very small and catered specifically to foreign tourists looking for a medi-spa experience. However, this has changed. Over the past couple of years, Kairali massages have given way to many more exotic therapies taken from other global locations, especially Southeast Asia. This is directly due to demand from Indian consumers.