x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

A chamber of commerce

The Life: Steve Cronin looks for products that stand out. But the description almost seems like an understatement for one of his latest additions.

Steve Cronin plans to add mild hyperbaric oxygen chambers to the list of the unique products sold by his company, Om Life. Pawan Singh / The National
Steve Cronin plans to add mild hyperbaric oxygen chambers to the list of the unique products sold by his company, Om Life. Pawan Singh / The National

Steve Cronin, 34, prides himself on selling items that stand out, so when he came across a mild hyperbaric oxygen chamber he knew it would perfect among his list of products.

He persuaded the manufacturer to loan him the demo model for his Dubai flat, which he admits made for some interesting conversations with visitors. But after trying out the product, he was sold on it.

The level of oxygen inside a mild oxygen chamber - although less powerful than in the chambers used by divers to realign their physiologies after deep dives - is higher than in normal air, which means it dissolves directly into the blood plasma, not just the red blood cells. "If you have circulatory problems or if you are pushing yourself really hard as an athlete, then you can use it - or if you just had surgery and you want to recover faster," says the British national, who started Om Life in 2010.

He is going through all the regulatory approvals to distribute the chambers in the UAE. They cost between US$15,000 (Dh55,098) and $25,000 and although he declines to provide sales figures, Mr Cronin says the chambers are popular.

"We sell quite a few around the world. They're massively popular in Australia. I don't just focus on the Middle East. We have had lots of clients in India, Europe and we have had lots of interest in Dubai," he says.

If the chambers catch on, he will add them to Om Life's product list, which also includes flotation rooms that cost between $35,000 and $60,000.

"If you imagine the Dead Sea, the water you are floating in is about six times saltier than the normal sea. These rooms contains about 25 centimetres of very salty water, and it is Epsom salts as well so it is really good for skin," he says.

Clients can customise the design of the room to include details such as stars on the ceiling.

"We can make them in any shape or size to really fit into your spa or home," Mr Cronin says. "We are working with one private client at the moment where he is going to put one in his bathroom."

Oxygen chambers and float rooms are a far cry from his old job.

Until a couple of years ago, Mr Cronin was a strategy consultant in financial services. "I used to tell bankers what to do," he says.

He began to tire of the extensive travelling around the Middle East from his base in Dubai, where he had moved in 2008.

"And also, I studied biology and psychology and that's always been my first love. I was kind of missing that. I didn't get the same emotional kick from financial services and I had always wanted to set up my own company," he says.

A friend was setting up a health-care company with a business plan that looked good on PowerPoint but did not do well in reality.

And when his friend decided to give up on it, Mr Cronin saw his chance and took the company on.

"I guess what I took on is almost the shell of the company," he says.

Om Life has since morphed into a company that distributes fitness, wellness and physio equipment, including neckties that can be used to keep people cool.

"What I have tried to do is to find differentiators, things that stand out. For me they have to be effective and with good science evidence, otherwise what am I doing selling them? I need to be able to sleep at night," Mr Cronin says.

gduncan@thenational.ae