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Wealth from health


									                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Cover Story

                                                The business of beauty                                                                                                                               DO NOT DISTURB: The Como                        SMALL BEGINNINGS: Frederique Deleage

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Photos: Courtesy of Paua Group
                                                                                                                                                                                               Shambhala resort on Cocoa Island             first came to Hong Kong in 1977 and started her
                                                                                                                                                                                               in the Maldives, part of a portfolio            business with a three-room beauty salon and
                                                                                                                                                                                                       of exotic and high-concept                 a classroom out of her flat in Causeway Bay.
                                                                                                                                                                                              destinations owned by Singapore-
                                                                                                                                                                                           based wellness pioneer Christina Ong,
                                                                                                                                                                                            offers a retreat away from the hustle
                                                                                                                                                                                                             and bustle of city life.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        market. “There are so many different fac-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        ets to spa and the market is so huge. There
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        will be much more demand than supply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        for many years to come,” Singnon says.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Conquering China
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        It also became apparent to Georgie Yam in
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2001 that the spa industry was something
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        worth moving into following a career cre-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        ating successful hair salons. He has taken
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        the lead in China, a relatively new spa
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        market, with impressive results.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           “I first entered the spa-wellness business
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        about eight years ago in Singapore – by                  consider taking over the spa myself.”
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        chance,” he says.                                           He thus teamed up with a partner,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Yam graduated in Hong Kong in 1977                    Jeannie Sim, who was able to provide
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        before moving to London to study at the                  professional help on the treatments they
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Vidal Sassoon School of Hairdressing. He                 should offer. “I developed the concept
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        worked at one of their salons until 1980                 and the décor, while Jeannie designed the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        when he moved to Singapore.                              menu,” he says.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           “I was operating my own success-                         The partnership was a success and
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        ful salon concept for many years called                  in 1999, The Retreat opened in the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        ‘The Salon – Georgie Yam’ within the                     Grand Hyatt. This was swiftly followed
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Grand Hyatt and had a meeting one day                    the next year by another branch in the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        with the general manager who asked me                    Singapore Marriott.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        if I could share some advice on how to                      He cites this success as the catalyst to

          Wealth from health
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        improve the operations of their in-house                 launching the Dragonfly spa brand in
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        spa,” he recalls.                                        China in 2003, targeting the high-end
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           “I gave them my suggestions and within                market. The company quickly grew from
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        a week he was so enthusiastic about my                   a single retreat to a brand with 20 loca-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        ideas that he returned to ask me if I would              tions in seven cities.
            Much in demand in today’s fast-paced society, exquisite spas
      and wellness centers are proving to be lucrative ventures across the region.
                           Jane Moir sizes up the pioneers

              ever before have people been      against the backdrop of increasing compe-       Shivdasani was born to Indian parents                                            apparent,” says Six Senses communica-
              so well-tuned in to their bod-    tition as rivals readily line up to tap the   in England, where he spent much of his         Photo: Courtesy of Como Shambhala   tions executive Yongyuth Singnon.
              ies, minds and lifestyles. As     global US$500-billion wellness market.        education. He attended Eton College                                                   With competition intensifying, the
              spas, fitness centers and well-      Most relaxation-seekers will be familiar   and is a graduate of Oxford University,                                            group is expanding on the principle of
              being therapies boom around       with the Six Senses Resorts & Spas brand      where he met Eva.                                                                  quality over quantity. Company represent-
the region, a shift from hedonism to indul-     created by 41-year-old Sonu Shivdasani.         In 1990, the couple moved to the                                                 atives say environmental sustainability is at
gence is rapidly emerging.                      Together with his Swedish-born wife, Eva,     Maldives, leasing an island that would                                             the core of the Six Senses philosophy, along
   In the process, Asia has become home to a    Shivdasani targets the five-star spa niche.   become home to their first resort, Soneva                                          with a strong customer service theme.
growing number of wellness entrepreneurs.          The Six Senses spas can be found at his    Fushi, which opened in 1995.                                                          The spa operator believes there is ample
Whether they are developing high-end city       Soneva and Evason resorts, and are renowned     Today, the Six Senses portfolio includes                                         room for further growth in the wellness
spas or luxurious remote retreats for body      for their unique designs that blend nature    26 resorts and 41 spas that are either under
and soul, these individuals have made their     with the spa surroundings. The spa man-       the Six Senses properties or hosted by
                                                                                                                                                                                              FULL SERVICE: Guests can relax with a
mark in a rapidly growing industry.             agement brand can also be found across the    third-party managed properties.                                                         manicure or pedicure and a glass of bubbly at
   Brands have been born, nurtured and          world, from the Kempinski Hotel in Turkey       “Our first spa in Soneva Fushi was quite                                           Paua CentreStage, in Hong Kong. The Paua Group
                                                                                                                                                                                       also provides spa management, consultancy
catapulted on to the world stage within a       to resorts in the Middle East, Europe and     basic, but the success and the demand for                                                and education services, while a separate arm
relatively short space of time. This comes      aboard the luxury yacht Christina O.          a high-quality spa experience became                                                             deals with spa products distribution.

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                             Cover Story

                                       STRETCHING OUT: The relaxation area at                                                                                                                                                       GETTING AWAY: Sonu Shivdasani and                                                        Spas have never been more competitive
                                  Pure Yoga in Hong Kong. It now operates in 12                                                                                                                                                  his Swedish-born wife, Eva. The pair met
                                locations, with five Pure Yoga centers and three                                                                                                                                                while at Oxford University in England and                                                    and relevant and integral to our contem-
                                 Pure Fitness gyms in Hong Kong, plus two Pure                                                                                                                                                            moved to the Maldives in 1990.                                                     porary lifestyle.”
                                   Yoga outlets in Singapore, and one in Taiwan.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Paua has been planning a regional
                                                                                                                                                                                                                           She had previously travelled the                                                                  expansion, entering the Southeast Asian
                              Yam entered the China market when                                                                                                                                                         world for eight years as an international                                                            market in 2008 and China next year.
                           the spa industry was still in its infancy. “As                                                                                                                                               beauty consultant and trainer for Orlane                                                                Lucy Whittaker is the other limb to
                           we watch people become more discerning                                                                                                                                                       Cosmetic Company. On moving to Hong                                                                  this successful partnership, heading up
                           and quality conscious, we also see our                                                                                                                                                       Kong, she says: “I started by operating my                                                           the Beautiful Skin Centre before it merged
                           competition becoming broader and more                                                                                                                                                        beauty business with a three-room beauty                                                             with Frederique Group. After moving to
                           professional,” he says.                                                                                                                                                                      salon and one classroom out of my flat in                                                            Hong Kong in 1989, she trained in pro-
                              He believes constant creativity is what is                                                                                                                                                Causeway Bay.”                                                                                       fessional beauty. Today, she specializes in
                           needed to stay ahead of the pack, coupled                                                                                                                                                       Deleage sought to blend Western and                                                               product distribution at Paua.
                           with good business fundamentals such as                                                                                                                                                      Eastern health and beauty philosophies.                                                                 As she explains, the key element in the
                           attention to detail, strong customer service                                                                                                                                                 This ideal was further realized when, in                                                             spa business is a basic one. “You need to
                           and personalized care.                                                                                                                                                                       October 2003, the company merged with                                                                start with a great product,” Whittaker
                              “The bar is continually being raised and                                                                                                                                                  the Beautiful Skin Centre Group to create                                                            says, adding that the Elemis brand used
                           we focus on continuing to rise with it our-                                                                                                                                                  the Paua Group, currently one of the larg-                                                           in Paua spas has been a strong one for
                           selves,” he says. “The marketplace is very                                                                                                                                                   est spa wellness entities in Hong Kong.                                                              the group. “A strong spa brand will also
                           big and there is room for many players at                                                                                                                                                       Paua Group now operates six spas and                                                              provide excellent training and marketing
                           all levels. We have our particular niche                                                                                                                                                     also provides spa management, consul-                                                                support. These are often the things that
                           that we stick with, even while we try new                                                                                                                                                    tancy and education services. A separate                                                             sustain a successful spa business.”
                           concepts like our Qingdao Hideaway and                                                                                                                                                       arm deals with the distribution of spa                                                                  Business has continued to be brisk
                           our Yangtze cruise ship spa.”                                                                                                                                                                products.                                                                                            despite hefty competition, particularly
                              Looking ahead, Yam hopes to see the                                                                                                                                                          Today, Deleage sees the sector tak-                                                               from five-star hotels. “We thought when
Photos: Courtesy of Pure

                           Dragonfly brand grow to 100 locations                                                                                                                                                        ing on a more competitive edge. “As                    She believes attention to detail, good        the five-star hotels opened spas in Hong

                                                                                                                                                                                       Photos: Courtesy of Six Senses
                           across China within the next three to five                                                                                                                                                   the industry expands, so does consumer              management practices and customer serv-          Kong it would be an issue for us, but we
                           years. There are also plans to expand selec-                                                                                                                                                 awareness and a desire for higher stand-            ice are crucial. “I also see the spa boom as a   are only seeing our business grow.”
                           tively into more countries abroad, particu-                                                                                                                                                  ards,” she says. “This is an industry where         global, not just a regional trend,” she adds.
                           larly in Europe.                                                                                                                                                                             we can never stop learning. We can either           “Spas are changing the standard of excel-             EXTRA SENSES: The Six Senses Resort, Soneva
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        drive the growth we are currently enjoy-            lence in the hotel industry as more and            Fushi, in the Maldives, opened in 1995. Today, the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                group’s portfolio includes 26 resorts and 41 spas
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        ing with intelligence and forethought or            more five-star hotels today offer amazing          that are either under the Six Senses properties or
                                                                                   Yoga master                                        first Pure Fitness gym was built in                                               merely follow it.”                                  spas to cater to guests’ discerning tastes.               hosted by third-party managed properties.
                                                                                   From humble beginnings in Hong Kong,               SoHo, in Central.
                                                                                   Colin Grant has catapulted the Pure brand             Pure now operates in 12 locations, with
                                                                                   of gyms and yoga to the world stage, with          five Pure Yoga centers and three Pure Fitness
                                                                                   a New York branch opening this year.               gyms in Hong Kong, as well as the RED
                                                                                      Grant became hooked on yoga in 2001             restaurant. There are also two Pure Yoga
                                                                                   after a game of golf was rained off while          outlets in Singapore, and one in Taiwan.
                                                                                   on holiday in Canada. Instead, his friends            Through a joint venture, Pure Yoga will
                                                                                   opted for a yoga class. Little did Grant           now be in New York, something Grant
                                                                                   know it would change his life.                     describes as a “remarkable milestone” for
                                                                                      “When I came back from the trip, I              the company.
                                                                                   was so keen to start my yoga practice                 He does see the market becoming more
                                                                                   but there were only a few small studios            competitive. “As people become more
                                                                                   in Hong Kong with small classrooms, no             receptive to yoga or fitness and knowledge-
                                                                                   showers, yoga mats or towels provided,” he         able about which fits them, the demand
                                                                                   recounts.                                          for a sophisticated studio or center keeps
                                                                                      “So I started talking to some friends and       increasing,” he says.
                                                                                   looking for sites that would allow a fully-
                                                                                   equipped studio where people could come            First mover
                                                                                   for class, then take a shower with towels          It thus helps to get in early in the industry,
                                                                                   and yoga mat provided. That’s how our              which is something Frederique Deleage
                                                                                   first yoga studio was born in 2002.”               did with her Frederique Group spa in 1986
                                                                                      Another studio followed just seven              in Hong Kong.
                                                                                   months later and then, in 2003, the                   She came to Hong Kong alone in 1977 as
                                                                                                                                      a single French woman with HK$50,000
                                                                                                                                      (US$6,400) in her pocket. “I brought with
                                                                                   FINDING PEACE: Colin Grant opened his              me a dream and the holistic concept of
                                                                                   own Pure yoga studio in Hong Kong in 2002
                                                                                   after he found no suitable facility in the city.   wellness,” she says.

Cover Story

                                                                                                                                                    Photos: Courtesy of Georgie Yam
   Most recently, the group opened offices           Como Shambhala is part of Singapore-              QUIET MOMENTS: The secluded treatment
in Taipei and Bangkok and hopes to open            based Ong’s luxury hotel empire, the             room at heaven on earth by Georgie Yam, who
                                                                                                      also owns the Dragonfly spa brand in China.
in Shanghai next year. “The main plat-             Como Group, which recently moved
form for growth is through our distribu-           into the health-food sector, taking over
tion business,” Whittaker says.                    Supernature, one of Singapore’s first      magazine, is worth about US$150 million.
                                                   organic stores.                            Her adherence to a healthy lifestyle took
Private retreats                                     Ong is the wife of Malaysian hotelier    on a new edge in 1998 when she opened
Another wellness entrepreneur who                  Ong Beng Seng and, according to Forbes     Shambhala Yoga.
has seen business grow significantly is                                                         Capitalizing on the yoga boom, she
Christina Ong, who created the Como                                                           followed this foray with a Shambhala
Shambhala brand of spa retreats.                                                              beauty range. Today, her spa retreats
   The property executive turned her eye                                                      are snapping up awards. The f lagship
to wellness early in the game, and now                                                        Como Shambhala Estate at Begawan
boasts some of the top spa retreats in Asia,                                                  Giri in Bali, which opened in 2005, is
with locations in the Maldives, Parrot Cay                                                    renowned for its rustic opulence. Como
and Bhutan.                                                                                   Shambhala owns, designs and manages
   The holistic resorts have classes in                                                       seven wellbeing retreats at properties
yoga, pilates and qigong – the traditional                                                    worldwide.
Chinese practice of working with breath-                                                        Ong is famously private, rarely giv-
ing and centers of bodily energies – while                                                    ing interviews. The Singaporean also
offering the ultimate in pampering and                                                        has a controlling stake in the Mulberry
relaxation. Privacy is also a cornerstone of                                                  bag empire and is managing director
these spa retreats, with the exotic locations                                                 of Club 21, which runs the Giorgio
becoming hot hangouts for celebrities.                                                        Armani and Emporio Amarni fran-
                                                                                              chises in Britain.
               HEAD STRONG: Former hair stylist
            Georgie Yam entered the business by                                                   Value-added views.
         chance when the general manager of the                                                   Visit,,
           Grand Hyatt in Singapore asked him to                                    ,
                       improve the in-house spa.                                              and for more information.


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