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A wellness check-up

In late April, a diplomat walked into a spa at Delhi airport for a massage. Within minutes of the massage beginning, she fainted and later woke up nauseous and disoriented, reports Sai Raje & Vidya Balachander.
Hindustan Times | By Sai Raje & Vidya Balachander, Mumbai
UPDATED ON MAY 08, 2010 01:38 AM IST

In late April, a diplomat walked into a spa at Delhi airport for a massage. Within minutes of the massage beginning, she fainted and later woke up nauseous and disoriented.

Over the past couple of years, spas, wellness centres and gyms have mushroomed across Mumbai and other metros. However, the industry that’s growing at 20 to 30 per cent a year — it is expected to sustain this growth rate till 2010, according to a 2009 FICCI-Ernst & Young report — is by and large unregulated.

There are no standards set by a competent body, there is no way of ensuring that the products used are of good quality and there’s no one you can turn to if you’ve been cheated or your health has been damaged.

Seeking to change this, the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare Providers (NABH) recently sought applications for accreditation but found few takers.

In the coming months, NABH intends to ramp up efforts to establish industry standards. If NABH succeeds, you can soon look for a government certification before going to a spa to ensure you get the best service.

Though accreditation is not mandatory, the procedure for getting it is stringent. “Wellness centres must follow our criteria for at least three months before applying for accreditation,” said Dr Giridhar Gyani, secretary general of the Quality Council of India, an autonomous body created jointly by the Government of India and Indian industry, of which NABH is a part.

NABH has a list of 85 criteria, including hygiene, trained staff, equipment and safety.

However, city gym and spa owners are reluctant to apply for accreditation because there is little awareness about the procedure and how it will benefit them. “There is no clarity,” said Manish Jaswal, national manager of spas for Sohum Spa and Wellness Sanctuary based in Juhu. “You have to have clear parameters. You cannot club every spa under one category.”

“I don’t know about the NABH accreditation yet,” said Althea Shah, general manager (operations), Gold’s Gym India. “I want to know how it will benefit us, and what kind of gyms will be considered for accreditation.”

Another concern for proprietors of high-quality spas and gyms is that in a segmented marketplace, they are forced to compete with those offering similar services at cheaper rates. Nisha Jhaveri, proprietor of Myrah spa in Juhu, said grading spas according to the quality of their offerings is more important than accreditation — much like in the hotel industry, in which it’s clear how a five-star is different from a three-star.

“If a spa has a seven-star rating, you can be assured of cleanliness, high-quality products and trained therapists,” she said. “The consumer will understand that, for quality, you have to pay top dollar.”

Customers not interested in frills can opt for a spa with a lower grade.

“There is space for every kind of spa in Mumbai,” she said. “But there is a need for a lot more structure.”

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