In Conversation with Darshan Rawal of Zazen Spa

A chat with the founder of Zazen, The Boutique Spa…

Give me a brief overview/history of Zazen…
Zazen was founded on Sepetember 2011. Being a hotelier is in my blood because my family has been in the business for the last 80 years. I received my Hotel Management degree from the Institute of Hotel Management, Mumbai and passed out in 2002. I worked with the Marriott Group for a few months and went on to manage the family hotel business for a couple of years. I felt I wanted to do go ahead and do something on my own. We frequently travelled to Thailand and I simply loved the foot and Thai massages there. I decided we need something like this back home. An unforgettable relaxation experience that’s easy on the pocket. That’s how the idea sprung up and I spent a year researching around.
We opened our first two outlets on the same day; one on FC road and another in Aundh. At the time, both the outlets accommodated only a foot spa and dry Thai massages. Six months down the line, we started introducing full body massages, pedicures, facials and other beauty services.
The next outlets opened up in Wanowari, Pune and Worli, Mumbai. By December 2012, we opened our fifth outlet in Juhu, Mumbai; the largest one at 3000 sq. ft.
Once we got a good grip on management, we started operating spas at hotels. The first such venture was at Fort Jadhavgarh in July 2013. All in all, we have 12 outlets now.
What’s the story behind the name Zazen? 
I had been reading up on Buddhism and Zen quotes and masters and I always had the word ‘Zen’ in mind. The word is quite common in the business so I was searching for something related to it and one that has a different ring to it. When I found ‘Zazen’, its meaning struck me most; to meditate in a sitting posture. The philosophy behind it is that there’s a white wall and a black circle and the latter has no beginning and no end. It means that one simply has to be in the moment. There’s no past, no future and no other tense, one just has to be. Be thoughtless. And, that was the motive; when you come to the spa, be thoughtless. Leave your worries and stress behind, enjoy your time and go back feeling fresh.
When it comes to Pune, going forward, what are your plans?
So we currently have four outlets in Pune, which are company-owned and operated. We’re planning to get into a couple of five-star hotels to operate their spas. The other plan is to expand taking a franchise option. We’re already in talks with hotels and let’s hope things will finalise in a few months.
Tell me about the products you use…
Earlier we used to use only imported products, brought in from Thailand, Japan and the USA. With the imports laws, taxes and duties getting difficult, we started sourcing products domestically. Each product we use is customised for our company; none of them are commercially available. Also, all our products are 100 per cent natural. Some of them are organic as well, but then again, that’s a very deep-rooted term and Indian products still aren’t completely organic and so, we prefer to use the term natural and that’s what we thrive on.
How is Zazen different from the spas we have in the city today?
Zazen is different in a couple of way. Firstly, we take pride in saying that we are a genuine family spa. Spas have always had a dubious reputation. Till date, the good and the bad coexist. We are strict about whom we allow in and our staff as well. Our treatments are carried out in an extremely ethical and professional manner. Although we have cross-gender therapies, they’re done very professionally. We call it a family spa because our clients range from 17-75 years of age. Secondly, our pricing, promotions and deals are all focused towards bringing in a family together to enjoy a relaxing experience.
For you personally, what’s the most rewarding thing about the business?
When somebody writes an email to me saying how much he or she enjoyed his or her time at Zazen. When people tell me that they’ve been to a number of spas here and abroad and are delighted to have underwent an international spa experience in Pune. That too at a price which is one third of what one pays abroad.
After being in the wellness industry for a few years now, what’s the one tip you’d give our readers that would help one relax after a hectic day?
Switch off all your gadgets and digital devices. Spend an hour with yourself and time with your family. And of course, come for a massage to Zazen Spa.