India’s nascent rejuvenation market only makes up a tiny sliver of the rapidly-growing physical wellness market. An industry body estimates that, as of next year, it will make up 2% of the overall market. Not much, admittedly. However, when you consider that the overall market is expected to be as big as Rs 1,50,000 crore ($20.8 billion) in 2020, that still leaves a cool Rs 3,000 crore ($415.3 million) on the table for India’s spa chains to slug it out over. And the first to truly lay claim to these spoils was India’s first, and currently the largest, spa chain—O2 Spa Salon.

In 2009, Ritesh Reddy Mastipuram,  founder and managing director of O2 spa, started by acquiring the Shahnaz Husain Group’s Signature Salon and Spa in Novotel Hotel in Hyderabad. The same year, O2, then known as Masti Health and Beauty, became the first spa to get a space in the newly-privatised Hyderabad airport. By focusing on premium spa services, mostly for weary travellers in luxury hotels such as Hilton, Marriott, Radisson and Novotel along with airports, it grew to around 78 spas in seven years. It had everything going for it. Scale, as the largest spa chain in Asia, as well as a pan-India presence.

It boasted a unique standalone spa concept, nestled between popular luxury spa chains like Bangkok-headquartered Six Senses and the fragmented neighbourhood spa market. At this point, Mastipuram had the ambition to grow beyond airports and hotels to high streets, malls, railway stations, trains, tier-2 cities, and enter corporate wellness programmes. He even wanted to enter countries in Western Asia. The vision was to eventually become the largest wellness provider in the world, one that would have it all—hair and skin clinics, products, Ayurveda and yoga. Even a destination spa resort.

Destination spas

In 2003, IHHR Hospitality spent Rs 55 crore to set up Ananda. Nestled in the Himalayas, it was India’s first destination spa and was spread over 100 acres.

Enter BanyanTree Capital. A Mauritius-based Private Equity firm that invested $11 million in O2 in 2016, making it the first spa chain to get private equity. This was a milestone in the nascent Indian wellness sector and was just the push that O2 needed. But what goes up, must come down.

O2 did grow to over 120 spas in early 2018. It became the envy of every other Indian spa chain, like Mumbai-based Four Fountain and Gurugram-based Tattva Spa and Blue Terra Spa, who have struggled to get to even half the scale of O2.

And then in autumn this year, the bubble burst.

O2 began shuttering spas as it struggled to stay profitable, couldn’t pay salaries on time, saw an exodus of senior management, and talent began drying up.


Ruhi Kandhari

Ruhi writes on the impact of healthcare policies, trends in the healthcare sector and developments on the implementation of Electronic Health Records in India. She has an M. Sc. in Development Studies from the London School of Economics.

View Full Profile

Available exclusively to subscribers of The Ken India

This story is a part of The Ken India edition. Subscribe. Questions?


Annual Subscription

12-month access to 200+ stories, archive of 800+ stories from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 2,750


Quarterly Subscription

3-month access to 60+ new stories with 3-months worth of archives from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 1,750


Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

Rs. 500


Annual Subscription

12-month access to 150+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 120


Quarterly Subscription

3-month access to 35+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 50


Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

$ 20



What is The Ken?

The Ken is a subscription-only business journalism website and app that provides coverage across two editions - India and Southeast Asia.

What kind of stories do you write?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics.

We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

What do I get if I subscribe?

For subscribers of the India edition, we publish a new story every weekday, a premium daily newsletter, Beyond The First Order and a weekly newsletter - The Nutgraf.

For subscribers of the Southeast Asia edition, we publish a new story three days a week and a weekly newsletter, Strait Up.

The annual subscription will get you complete, exclusive access to our archive of previously published stories for your edition, along with access to our subscriber-only mobile apps, our premium comment sections, our newsletter archives and several other gifts and benefits.

Do I need to pay separately for your premium newsletters?

Nope. Paid, premium subscribers of The Ken get our newsletters delivered for free.

Does a subscription to the India edition grant me access to Southeast Asia stories? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

Do you offer an all-access joint subscription for both editions?

Not yet. If you’d like to access both editions, you’ll have to purchase two subscriptions separately - one for India and the other for Southeast Asia.

Do you offer any discounts?

No. We have a zero discounts policy.

Is there a free trial I can opt for?

We don’t offer any trials, but you can sign up for a free account which will give you access to the weekly free story, our archive of free stories and summaries of the paid stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

Do you offer refunds?

We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Please write to us at [email protected] detailing the error or queries.