founder of the Chennai-based yoga studio Zorba,
is a bundle of energy,
and yet he seems to have found peace within. All thanks to yoga, he says. The 23-year-old who took up yoga full time at the age of 17, began his first studio on Mount Road when he was only 21 years old. And today, he has franchised his brand to two other outlets in Chennai, which he claims is still “company run”.
His studio that offers 14 yoga forms — some traditional, and some rather unusual — was designed specifically for people to come and find happiness. “If you come to Zorba, and do nothing but laugh along with your batch mates, and that makes you happy, I am fine,” says Shashi.
The big idea
Yoga the world over is becoming almost like a style statement — and while that’s good news for India in a commercial way, is it also diluting what the true essence of yoga really stands for, we ask. “I won’t refute the point. There is definitely been a dilution. Personally, I think the Patanjali form of yoga is true yoga. But then again, the modernisation hasn’t affected yoga in any way. And it has definitely become cooler, and sexier. Old wine in a new bottle will taste good because you can’t do away with the essence of wine. So while the surya namaskar will always remain important, you could do it differently,” he explains.
A personalised touch
From hatha, vinayasa, pragya, aakar, ashtanga, to something as experimental as the aerial, hot, and power yoga — Shashi has no qualms in admitting that the modernised forms of yoga has definitely been a star attraction. “In my studio, people come with different physical and mental capabilities, and we do the classes accordingly. Some come to lose weight and have gone back after losing eight to 10 kg in two months. Some have come with diabetes, and have been able to reverse it. So there are all kinds of people, and we cater to their needs,” he adds.
The studio also offers zumba, and posture correction classes.
In fact, Zorba’s biggest USP is client relationship — to be able to customise lessons, according to one’s requirements. “All my trainers are from Haridwar, and have masters in yoga, and a diploma in alternative therapy. Once they join us, we train them in the newer versions of yoga, and how to handle the clients,” Shashi explains.
Zorba’s growth has been quite phenomenal, and therefore it comes as no surprise when Talwalkar’s, one of the largest fitness chains in India, chose to buy a 50 per cent stake in the company. “It all began with my dad reading about Flipkart’s company valuation. He turned around and asked me if he will ever read something similar about Zorba. And that struck me. I decided to get my company valued and that’s when Vignesh from Dandekar Capital Consulting happened. He was also doing some work for Talwalkar’s, and he set up a five minute meeting with one of its directors. That meeting went on for three hours, and at the end of it we had come to an agreement. By the second meeting, the funding was decided on,” he says. Launching in Bengaluru today, Zorba is going to be part of all four Talwalkar’s studios in the city, plus, “in the next two years, we will be in at least 150 centres across the country,” adds Shashi.
— Priyadarshini Nandy