First Movers: Exploring Opportunities Outside the Cosmopolitan Capitals

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Boutique fitness studios continue to flourish in the cosmopolitan capitals, with New York, Sydney, London and Los Angeles poised for a continuous flurry of openings and expansions. But as the wellness industry continues to globalise, there are a host of new and exciting markets which hold opportunities certain to be overlooked by the risk-averse.

In 2015, both Germany and France generated initial commercial interest, with the launch of BeCycle and Hard Candy in Berlin and the opening of Dynamo – the first indoor cycling studio in Paris. Cold pressed juice bars and holistic eateries are popping up everywhere from Singapore to Mumbai. And investors have the opportunity to play a big role by supporting and mentoring startups looking to enter these regions.

Speaking to Welltodo about the potential in Mumbai, Pankaj Gupta founder of FlexiPass – who’ve executed the ClassPass model with relative success – explained: 

“Mumbai is amongst the top 3 fitness markets in India. Currently it’s at an inflection point and is rapidly evolving due to technology, growth of new exercise formats and changes in consumer behaviour towards fitness.”

Businesses that seek to fill the gaps created by these changes have the opportunity to disrupt the market, she says.

In the Middle East, the success of SHP and Physique 57 in Dubai points to the steady increase in demand for boutique fitness destinations in new markets where consumers are becoming more educated about healthy lifestyle choices, and influenced via social media by the wellness culture of more advanced cities.

And the potential hasn’t gone unnoticed by more established brands. Both Lululemon and Barry’s Bootcamp are seizing the opportunity to penetrate the market, with a second Lululemon outpost in the pipeline and the first Barry’s Bootcamp in Dubai set to open this year.

Further afield, in developing markets like Kenya, a former lawyer has jumped on the opportunity to pioneer the capital’s first SoulCycle-style indoor spinning studio. The opening of Reform Cycling and Strength Studio in Nairobi this month, indicates growth potential for East Africa’s boutique fitness industry.

Founder, Saloni Kantaria, told Welltodo:

“There is clear demand for boutique, class-based fitness studios in Kenya and people are prepared to pay for classes that give them efficient and varied workouts. Additionally people want a space where they can meet like-minded individuals who live locally. Reform encompasses all of these qualities.”

Kantaria called upon Barbara Chancey Hoots, owner of the US-based consulting firm Indoor Cycle Design to orchestrate the project.

Importing state of the art bikes with performance tracking capabilities, flooring and soundproofing material from the United States, as well as hiring highly qualified instructors from Paris and London, Kantaria believes the upscale studio will allow clients to improve their strength, flexibility and cardiovascular performance by exercising in an exhilarating environment. She has also opted to include Pilates, circuit training and barre classes in the offering.

Over the past five years, the boutique fitness studio has become a global phenomenon. The IHRSA 2014 Health Club Consumer Trend Report shows that boutiques now comprise 21% of the $22.4 billion U.S. health club market and with an increasing number of investors entering the space, opportunities to enter new markets like Kenya are growing.

Boutique studios are a sustainable model and Kantaria argues that as Nairobi continues to become more cosmopolitan, as with other cities proving the concept, further studios will open.

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