Reza Alavi got the feel of Pilates while he was employed at Nissan's office in Dubai as a management consultant. The 37-year-old Franco-Iranian says he took to heart Nissan's motto of "inspiring change" and left his job in 2008 to start his Real Pilates studio in Dubai.
How did you become interested in Pilates?
I was introduced to both Pilates and yoga in 2005-2006. I am not overweight, and lead a balanced life. But with Pilates I saw I had higher energy levels and reconnected with myself. I did that for a whole year, four to five times a week. But I could not find a real quality teacher or no right place location wise or machine wise. And so thought why not start one myself.
You started in Palm Strip Mall, Jumeirah. Why did you choose the place?
I knew the location and the demography of the clients well. I knew there was a demand. It is a residential, well-established area and less prone to economic fluctuations. I also needed a 3,000-square-foot space where people can park easily.
You opened your second Pilates studio in Jumeirah Lakes Towers in December 2011. What are your plans for expansion?
I am sure we will expand. Most of my strategy is based on customer and client demand. We opened the studio in Jumeirah Lakes Towers because so many of our customers used to drive down from there.
How has your customer base grown over the past three years?
We started [in 2009] with zero customers. The first few days we used to expectantly look at the door and then one person walked in, and then two and three. Now we have more than several thousand clients across the two studios.
We are for end-users and we also are an international training centre for those who want to become a Pilates instructor. We have trained more than 400 instructors. A large portion of the instructors are based in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The rest come from Iran, Lebanon, Egypt and even India.
How competitive is this business in the UAE?
We have noticed a significant increase in the number of facilities offering Pilates in Dubai; so I would say the market is now indeed highly competitive. We still expect in the near future a few more facilities - existing or new ones - to start offering Pilates, but soon after we foresee a stabilisation of this trend with the different players hopefully starting to focus more on quality rather than quantity.
How expensive is it to set up a Pilates studio?
A Pilates studio can be mat-based, too, without any equipment. Then that is not cash demanding. It also depends on location. We had invested several thousand dirhams.
What should be a break-even target?
Two to three years as a target is fine. As for us, we do not share that figure.