Bulking Up
    Category: Companies & People By : Siti Aisyah Rachmawati Read : 2856 Date : Wednesday, December 03, 2014 - 23:13:11

    Ahmad Zamroni / Forbes Indonesia

    It took two visits to Jakarta to convince John Franklin, 48, that he is going to shape the fitness industry here. John, the founding partner and chairman of Celebrity Fitness, has been in the fitness business since he was 19, starting his career in the U.S. John then moved to Asia to open the fitness chain California Fitness in countries such as Hong Kong and Singapore. From that experience, John gained a strong sense of market opportunity.  “When I went to Hong Kong, and people said it’s not going to work. They say the Chinese don’t want to work out, they want their body super slim,“ he says. John proved them wrong.

    When California Fitness refused to expand to Indonesia, John and two friends from the same company, Mike Anderson and J.J. Sweeney, decided to open their own fitness chain, Celebrity Fitness, in Jakarta. “There is money and there is the right attitude here,” he says.

    The first club opened in 2004. Now, ten years later Celebrity Fitness has spread to four countries: Malaysia, Singapore and India, with total membership of about 170,000 from 50 self-managed clubs. It is also the market leader in Indonesia and Malaysia. In Indonesia, it currently has 31 clubs in nine cities under the arm of PT Exertainment Indonesia.

    In 2007, U.S. private equity firm, Navis Capital Partners, acquired majority share of Celebrity Fitness. It installed Martin Darby as the chief executive (who was not available for comment). “We got to a certain point where we expanded very aggressively and we need big funding. So Navis really filled that gap,“ he says. Since then, John says the company’s revenue has grown around fourfold but he declined to disclose specific figures. Other than that, John adds that their partnership has helped Celebrity Fitness maintain its shape during the expansion through their management expertise.

    Like exercise, Celebrity Fitness’s success comes from hitting many aspects of the businesses right. “Celebrity Fitness is an aggressive name. If you call yourself Celebrity Fitness, you better be awesome,” he says. John is confident that Celebrity Fitness’ success comes from its consistency, it invests heavily in its clubs. At around $3 million investment per club, they pour money into the design of the club and latest equipment. “Many times the U.S. leads in fitness and personal training. The trend is usually coming here afterwards, like three years later. Now with Celebrity Fitness, there is no gap. What’s happening in Beverly Hills, New York or London is happening right now at Celebrity Fitness,” he says, “Not only that, Celebrity Fitness imports best aerobics teachers from around the world.”

    Celebrity Fitness is also investing into details such as air filter systems that assure no odor. “When they walk in, the member may not be a celebrity, but when they walk out, they will feel like a celebrity from the experience that they had in our fitness center,” says John. Celebrity Fitness wants to assure their celebrators, as they call their members, get the ultimate fitness experience. The investment has paid off as Celebrity Fitness is now one of the fastest growing fitness chains in Asia. “We are expanding not only because we want to expand. We are expanding because we are doing well,” he says.