Venture: Air Life Studio, Pune
Promoters: Sunanda & Sudhir Mehta
Air Life Studio is a gymnasium founded by a homemaker turned business woman, Sunanda Mehta. Dissatisfaction with a service can lead to a customer turning to another service provider (in most cases) or setting up one’s own service (which is not exactly common). Here is a look at how Sunanda Mehta steered her venture Air Life Studio to a position that has made it a force to reckon with in Pune city. Here is her story followed by lessons in enterprise building and positioning that entrepreneurs will find enlightening…
What happens when you join a gymnasium and find that you are not satisfied with the facilities? Most people would say, “I’ll enroll with another gymnasium with better facilities.” But not Sunanda Mehta, founder of Air Life Studio. When she found that the gymnasium that she frequented did not meet her expectations she decided to establish her own gymnasium.
Business Lesson No 1: Problems are often precursors to business ventures…the next time you encounter a problem, it could be a business venture waiting to be explored.
An MBA by training and education this 42 year old was motivated by her need for personal growth and encouraged by her friends and family to set up her own venture. With financial assistance taken care of by virtue of a bank loan, Ms. Sunanda Mehta inaugurated Air Life Studio at Aundh, Pune on 1st June, 2006. Another branch was opened in quick succession next to Giga Space, Vimannagar, Pune.
Business Lesson No 2: Your top motivators for business are family, friends, financers but the biggest motivator is “You”. Look within!
Getting in to the business of fitness was definitely not a cake walk that too without formal experience in business. Ms. Mehta ensured that she undertook a great deal of promotion ahead of opening the first outlet at Aundh.
Hoardings, print advertisements and road shows were used to generate awareness about the soon to open Air Life Studio. This resulted in them having over 700 pre-launch members. Inaugurated by Bollywood actor, Kunal Kapoor, Air Life opened with a bang. Manasi Scott regaled the audience with her performance at a glittering opening.
After opening the facility a number of competitions for members were organized. The idea behind this endeavor was to break monotony and encourage members to attain their desired/required levels of fitness faster. With this end in mind they conducted the competitions, Mirchi Queen BEE in August 2009, Survival - The Challenge of the Fittest October 2009 and Survival II - The Challenge of the Fittest December 2010.
Business Lesson No 3: Don’t make a low key entry. To get noticed…make some noise. Promotion, awareness and advertising are the top tools to use!
This fitness venture has received tremendous response from Puneites and the fact that Air Life Studio made it to the top 5 league in Pune in the first year itself speaks volumes for its popularity. Spurred by this success Ms. Mehta is opening another branch at Karve Nagar which at 25,000 sq.ft which is slated to be the biggest gym in Pune after the Aundh branch.
Business Lesson No 4: Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Start small. There will always be time for expansion once you are successful.
Five years from now Ms. Mehta sees her studio at the Numero Uno position in Pune. Ten years down the line she hopes to have at least ten branches in Pune city and twenty years later she hopes that “Air Life” will be a brand to reckon with in the country.
The route to expansion that she plans to take is through opening of branches in Pune and in other cities. The only bad experience that Ms. Mehta recounts is that the opening of the Aundh studio had to be postponed by one month, that too because interior work was not completed in time. Other than that she is grateful for achieving success through customer satisfaction and high quality service.
Lesson No 5: It is important to have a vision for your brand and knowing how you can make that a reality is important. Choose your expansion route…branches; franchisees…know the perks and pitfalls of whatever you choose.
Ms. Mehta’s leaning towards social issues is evident from her association with an orphanage which she regularly visits on weekends. A smile on the face of a child makes her feel happy and relaxed.
Lesson No 6: Give back to society.
She feels that aspiring entrepreneurs should carry out research before starting a venture. This will help them to determine its viability. She advises people to do business in a line that interests them; this she says is a crucial factor in keeping ones energy and motivational levels high.
Lesson No 7: Do what you love; love what you do.
[The case study has been contributed by Mariam Noronha.She is a teacher with over eight years of experience. She has taught a wide range of Management related subjects and has authored and presented papers at national and international seminars and conferences. An avid reader, researcher, writer and blogger; she has authored numerous articles in the fiction, web writing and travel writing genre. ]