The connection between India and France has always given spectacular results. Ask Louis Vuitton and Cartier. So the collaboration between French skincare brand L'Occitane and exotic Indian hotels is also bound to be impressive. Darpan Sanghvi, master franchisee of L'Occitane Spas in India, waxes eloquent on it
By: Soumya Jain
Posted on: January 10, 2011
We all should learn to speak about our brands from Darpan Sanghvi, Managing Director of Sanghvi Brands, which is the master franchisee for L’Occitane Spas in India. As soon as you start talking about the spa, you will only hear words like ‘incredible’, ‘magnificent’, and ‘phenomenal’ from him. Usually, other interviewees drawl out in a well-controlled, well-rehearsed voice with that trusted press release in front of them. Sanghvi was thinking, talking, explaining excitedly and I wasn’t getting bored! It was a genuine pleasure to interview him. And the interview left me with this tempting desire to experience L’Occitane Spa first hand.
The Devi Spa by L’Occitane at Devi Garh, Udaipur
Started just about four months back, The Devi Spa by L’Occitane at Devi Garh, Udaipur, is a visual, physical and emotional treat. The L’Occitane Spa gives a fusion Mediterranean-Indian experience. You can go into the backyard and actually pluck the fresh fruits, herbs, flowers which are needed for your treatment. The therapist will then mix it with the L’Occitane products and prepare it in front of your eyes – a la minute!
Their fabulous spa treatments include an exfoliating Desert Sand Scrub, a nourishing Devi Signature Wrap with Shea, and Sweet Lime Massage including fresh holy basil. And these treatments have been designed only for India. You won’t find them in any other L’Occitane Spa across the world. So just spread out in the outdoor cabana and let the therapist do her work as you enjoy breathtaking vistas.
The Devi Spa by L’Occitane has coupled the massages, wraps and scrubs with yoga and meditation. So you can take a bicycle and ride it up the mountain where they have created a little lake. Practice some yoga there as you watch the sunrise. Then take a treatment in the cabana. Go by the pool side and take a foot reflexology treatment there. Take a walk in the village, then come back, take another treatment. And when you are back in your room at night, there are ‘bathologists’ who will create a fantastic bath experience for you with fragrant candles, oils and soaps. Sounds fabulous!
Within three months of opening, the Devi Spa by L’Occitane has been acknowledged by Conde Nast Traveller and asiaSpa magazines. Though he is very excited about the accolades, Sanghvi says, “My biggest benchmark is the guest comments we get everyday. I go through them myself and touchwood they have been fantastic! They love our signature treatments.”
However, if you truly want to pamper yourself and benefit your over-stressed body, then Sanghvi recommends staying here for a week. Though understanding that seven days is usually not possible for many people, L’Occitane has created 3 nights, 5 nights and 7 nights packages. Another unique offering from the Devi Spa is the Safar package. It is a 12 hour, sunrise to sunset plan, which starts with yoga and includes spa food as well.
More to come
Sanghvi and L’Occitane want to have eight more spas across the country in the next few years. But the most immediate ones coming up are Devi Spa by L’Occitane at Devi Ratn and the L’Occitane Spa at Rasa Resort.
The 20,000 sq ft Devi Spa by L’Occitane at Devi Ratn, Jaipur, is set to be one of the largest in India. The entrance to the spa is inspired by the architecture of an Indian step-well. The interiors remind you of lotus as you see the flower decorating the ceiling. The walls are lined with silver and white cloth panels and traditional blue pottery adds a local character. The high ceilings give a sense of space and redefine relaxation and rejuvenation in a bright, contemporary environment. This spa is set to be unveiled in February 2011.
Rasa Resort, located outside Jaipur, features 40 luxurious tents set against a sculpted landscape with a background of rocky hills. Each of the forty tents will have its own private Spa Pavilion with the 400 year old Amer fort wall for a neighbour. It surely sounds as a perfect association between nature, history and authentic therapies. Rasa Resort will open in March 2011.
Sanghvi said, “At Devi Garh, the past meets the present. At Devi Ratn, the present meets the future. So the spa experience at Devi Garh and Devi Ratn will be very different.” Sanghvi has some wonderful plans around these three resorts. They are going to create a seven nights journey where guests can experience all the three L’Occitane spas - starting with Devi Garh, going to the modern Devi Ratn in Jaipur, and finally culminating at Rasa Resort outside Jaipur.
The Indian Spa Market
“Oh, it’s absolutely nascent,” pat comes the answer from Sanghvi when I asked for his views on the Indian spa market. “And nascent in many ways – industry-wise and consumer-wise,” he continues. “Industry-wise, because the sector is not organized. There are very few true spas. Everywhere you turn, you see a spa & salon – but, it definitely makes the consumer aware. There is no proper place to hire good or experienced therapists.”
The rise in consumer awareness, however, peps up Sanghvi. Consumer awareness has changed a lot in the past three years. But he specifies two main problems here as well – “Even today there are people who think that spa is just massage. They don’t realize it’s a complete wellness solution including scrubs, wraps and more. Secondly, spa still considered an indulgence. It’s not seen as a way of life. But it’s improving. That’s why all the international spa brands are coming to India now. A lot of home-grown spa brands are also coming up. Spas are mushrooming everywhere. People will start going to them, and they will slowly start setting standards and keep graduating to better spas.”
Sanghvi cites the example of a comparatively smaller 3,000-4,000 sq feet L’Occitane Spa in Hong Kong which does about 1200 treatments a month! The L’Occitane Spa in Devi Garh, in comparison, did about 300 treatments in November. But he quickly explains, “That’s also because we are completely dependent on the hotel occupancy. Very few outside guests come because it’s so out of the way. And Devi Garh is a small, exclusive hotel.”
But Sanghvi is set to change the scenario. “We are going to make Devi Spa by L’Occitane a stop for every person that comes to Udaipur. But of course, we are not going to allow anybody to just walk in. We will have strategic partners – hotels, travel agents – who can send their guests to the spa. Since our first priority is the Devi Garh guest, we can’t accommodate everyone. Since we are located in a hotel, we have to work according to some hotel policies. We are exclusive, but not snobbish. Our prices also maintain that though exclusive, we are not out-of-reach,” explains Sanghvi.
The next step
Sanghvi says that the next 12-18 months is a very crucial time for the spa brand. “This time period is the window to sign all the good locations. We might develop them in the next 2-3 years, but we need to sign them now. After that they won’t be available because all the international spa brands are coming here. Real estate is probably the biggest challenge in the Indian spa industry. So this time window is very crucial and will define our spa brand for the next 5-10 years.”
We surely want to see more L’Occitane spas around us. You don’t experience such visual grandeur and sensory indulgence in just any spa. L’Occitane is certainly doing a good job of selling true wellness in the land of Ayurveda.
Now I am off to book my tickets to Udaipur…