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News > Alumni Spotlight Series > Gianni Melwani (Class of 2009) - Wellness Entrepreneur & Yogi

Gianni Melwani (Class of 2009) - Wellness Entrepreneur & Yogi

Gianni shares with us how his passion for health and wellness developed, his advice on starting your own business and his most memorable GSIS moment.

Name: Gianni Melwani

Graduation class: 2009

Years at GSIS: 12-14 years (I think)

University and Degree: University Of Virginia, USA / Degree in Psychology

Current residence: Hong Kong

Could you briefly introduce yourself (background & profession)?

I was born and raised in Hong Kong, but I am of Indian descent. I've always been athletic and have participated in all kinds of athletic competitions. After graduating from university, I co-founded a marketing and events agency in Hong Kong responsible for hosting major events such as the Spartan Race and IRIS: Your Escape (Hong Kong's largest health and wellness festival). That was my first real entrepreneurial project. After that, I took some time off and went to India, where I lived in an ashram for several months and practiced yoga and meditation. After that, I came back to Hong Kong and started my newest project: opening a chain of boutique wellness studios called IKIGAI.

You are the co-founder of Ikigai, a boutique fitness center. Where did your interest in health and wellness come from and what made you decide to open your own studio?

I've always been interested in health, wellness and fitness. I was the captain of the GSIS soccer team and have won several in-school athletics competitions. I also traveled to Brazil for several months as a teenager and played football in a professional academy there. Physical fitness has always been good for me and it has stayed with me to this day. During my student days I became fascinated by the human psyche and began to study it in depth. That eventually led me to yoga and meditation, which have now become an integral part of my life.

Could you tell us a little more about IKIGAI?

IKIGAI is a Japanese term and roughly means "that which is worth living for". It's also the name we chose for our studio. We are not claiming that people find their raison d'etre when they participate in health and wellness practices. But we believe that these practices can be a great tool that brings inner strength, peace and clarity to people. That in turn can help them to find their IKIGAI.

Starting your own business is a great achievement. You must have overcome a few challenges along the way. What was your biggest challenge in this regard?

One of the biggest challenges for us as a company was the multiple shutdowns by the government during the peak of COVID in Hong Kong. We had to be very strategic. We cut costs where needed and worked to seize the opportunities when the effects of COVID wore off.

What is your biggest success in your career so far?

The opening of our studio in Central. We planned everything and worked on implementation during COVID. Our intention was to open as soon as COVID subsided as it is now more important than ever to invest in your health and wellbeing. We are very happy with the result!

What do you like most about your job?

To see people begin to realize their potential. Since we are a boutique studio, we like to get to know our guests on a more personal basis. Our trainers and students have become friends with each other. That is the community aspect that we find very important. And one of the most fulfilling aspects of it is to see that our studio really helps people to improve their physical and mental well-being and thereby develop in other areas of their lives.

What is your advice to alumni who want to start their own company?

One should have a vision and a very good plan. Take the time to plan everything in as much detail as possible, both short-term and long-term, e.g. financial forecasts, branding, marketing strategy, etc. Build your network within the industry you want to enter. Connections and collaborations are key. In business you should definitely show yourself as a fair, honest, straightforward and humble personality, but you should not be naive or give in quickly. It is also important to be able to get involved with the game and enjoy it without losing one's good attitude and ethics. Find a great business partner. I recommend a maximum of 2 co-founders / managing directors to make important daily decisions. More could be too much again. Be patient, results take time. Give yourself at least 3-5 years to properly devote yourself to the business so that you can achieve your goals and deliver results accordingly.

What are your plans for the future?

Our plans are to open more boutique studios in Hong Kong and ultimately tap into the APAC region.

Tell us about your time as a student at GSIS. What were your most memorable GSIS moments?

I really enjoyed hanging out with friends in the courtyard during my lunch break. The Christmas bazaar was always very funny. I enjoyed the inter-school sports competitions, the swimming lessons, and some of the biology classes where we looked at human organs like the lungs and heart, etc.

How did your time at GSIS contribute to who you are today?

Some of the best friends I have today are from my time at GSIS. GSIS was a great school that laid the foundation for my solid educational background.

Read more about Gianni and his company here:

https://hk.asiatatler.com/society/gianni-melwani-ikigai-interview

________________________________________________________________

Name: Gianni Melwani

Graduating Year: 2009

Years at GSIS: 12-14 years (I think)

University College & Degree: University Of Virginia, USA / Psychology Degree

Current city of residence: Hong Kong

Could you introduce yourself a bit (background & profession)?

I was born and raised in Hong Kong, but I am of Indian ethnicity. I grew up with an athletic background partaking in all kinds of athletic competitions. After university I co-founded a marketing and events agency in Hong Kong that was responsible for hosting large scale events such as Spartan Race and IRIS: Your Escape (Hong Kong's Largest Health & Wellness Festival). That was my first real entrepreneurial venture. After that, I took some time off and traveled to India and lived in an ashram practicing yoga and meditation for several months. I then returned to Hong Kong where I started my latest venture, opening a chain of boutique wellness studios called IKIGAI.

You are the co-founder of Ikigai, a boutique fitness center. Tell us how your interest started in health and wellness and what led you to open your own business?

I've always been interested in health, wellness and fitness growing up. I was captain of the GSIS soccer team and won multiple inter-school athletic competitions. I also traveled to and lived in Brazil for several months playing football at a professional academy there when I was a teenager. Looking after my body made me feel good and that always stayed with me. It was during my time in university where I became fascinated with the human mind and began learning about it in depth. This eventually led me towards the path of yoga and meditation which has now become an integral part of my life.

Can you tell us a bit more about IKIGAI?

IKIGAI is a Japanese concept meaning “a reason for being”. It is also the name we decided to call our studio. We are not claiming that people will find their reason for being by partaking in health and wellness practices. But we do feel that these practices can be a great tool that brings inner strength, peace and clarity to people. Which in turn can help give them the ability to find their IKIGAI.

Starting your own business is a great achievement. You must have faced a few challenges along the way. Can you share with us what has been the biggest challenge you've encountered?

Going through the multiple government implemented closures during the height of COVID in Hong Kong was one of the most challenging periods for us as a business. We had to adopt a strategic mentality. We cut costs where needed and worked on taking advantage of opportunities when the effects of COVID lessened.

What is your biggest achievement in your career so far?

Opening our Central studio. We planned everything and worked on it behind the scenes throughout the COVID period. Our intention was to open when COVID settled because now more than ever it is extremely important to invest in one's health and well-being. We are very happy with the result!

What do you like most about your work?

Seeing people start to tap into their potential. Because we are a boutique studio we like to get to know our guests on a more personal basis. Our teachers and students have become friends with one another. This is the community aspect that we feel is quite important. And one of the most fulfilling aspects of that is seeing that our studio is really helping people improve their physical and mental well-being, and in turn truly bettering themselves in other areas of their lives as well.

What is your advice for any alumni looking to start their own business?

Have your vision and also have a very good plan. Take your time to plan everything out in detail as best as you can both in the short term and long term. This means your financial projections, branding, marketing strategy etc. Also build your network within the industry you want to enter in to. Connections and collaborations are key. Be a fair, honest, straightforward humble person when doing business, but also do not be naive and a pushover. Play and enjoy the game of business without losing your good morals and ethics. Find an amazing business partner. I suggest 2 co-founders / directors maximum to make key daily decisions. Any more can be troublesome. Be patient, results take time. Give yourself 3-5 years minimum properly devoted to the venture you start to hit your targets and deliver actionable results.

What are your plans for the future?

Our plans are to open a chain of our boutique studios around Hong Kong and eventually the APAC region.

Tell us about your time as a student at GSIS. What were your most memorable GSIS moments?

I thoroughly enjoyed hanging out with friends during lunchtimes in the courtyard. The Christmas Bazaar was also always very fun. I enjoyed the inter school athletic competitions, swimming lessons as well as some of the biology classes where we learned using live human organs such as lungs and hearts etc.

How did your GSIS experience contribute to who you are today?

Some of the best friends I have today come from my GSIS experience. It was a great school that set the foundation for me to have a solid educational background.

Read more about Gianni and his business here: https://hk.asiatatler.com/society/gianni-melwani-ikigai-interview

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