Ayurvedic centres do their part to heal traditionally.
In recent times, Ayurvedic spas and clinics have become a popular choice among people.
The alternative traditional medicine from India, run by vaidyas or physicians, goes back to the Vedic period, said to be around 1700 to 1100BC. While the spas aim at providing relaxation and rejuvenation, the clinics are about treating its patients.
One of the more established Ayurvedic centres in the Klang Valley is Ayur Centre in Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
The centre, which started in 2000, was the brainchild of Tan Sri Gnanalingam, who wanted to make Ayurvedic treatment available in Malaysia.
Chief Ayurvedic physician vaidya C.D. Siby said opening such a centre was not easy because of the scepticism in Malaysia at the time.
Being an almost unknown alternative medicine, which was only understood by the Indian community, getting all the requirements right was a long but fruitful journey.
Ayur Centre presently sees many patients with arthritis, musculoskeletal disorders, digestive, respiratory and gynaecological problems.
There are seven technical staff, including one doctor at the centre.
“The key to success is the authenticity of the treatment. What you get here is what you would get in India in terms of quality and products,” said Siby.
“It was tough in the beginning because it wasn’t easy to make people understand the products as we needed scientific authentication, so a lot of documentation was needed.
“Our doctor has qualifications from a medical university in India and we are scrutinised by the Ministry of Health. In terms of licensing from the local council, they had never come across anything like this before but now they understand.”
According to Siby, awareness is the key.
“We had a lot of discussions, distributing information and slowly it grew popular through word of mouth. When we first started, we had 80% Indian patients but now almost 50% of our patients are of other races,” he said.
He added that, over the past 12 years, the expansion of the business had been steady and promising, with about 10% to 20% growth every year.
“We had 500 patients in the beginning, but at present we have about 13,000 people coming to our centre in Petaling Jaya and another 5,000 to our centre in Seremban.
“The increase in patients seeking Ayurvedic treatments is a reflection of our growth potential. We even have people coming from Japan, Switzerland and Australia,” he said, adding they rarely refer their patients to India, as the treatments can be done locally.
When asked about more spas and beauty related Ayurvedic treatments coming into the picture, Siby said this is an extension or evolution catering to the rejuvenating process.
“I believe that spas have a role to play too because their focus could be on hair, face and skin. Among our patients only a tiny number ask for facial or hair care.
“Spas should ultimately provide Ayurveda treatments as it is a niche industry, thus competition among them should be healthy. The potential of the Ayurvedic business to grow is very good,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ayur-V managing director Kalavathy Rasalingam, who runs three spas in Gombak and Seremban said Ayurveda is the solution for a healthy life.
The Ayurvedic hair and beauty care centre has been around for five years offering traditional Ayurvedic relaxation (Shirodara), hot pouch, oil relaxation, ayur sauna, sandal scrub, hair loss, pedicure and facial treatments.
According to Kalavathy, herbal-based products are something people seek out as the last solution. However with awareness, more people are opting to seek alternative treatments from the beginning.
She said the industry has been very well received among non-Indians who grasp the concept of Ayurveda.
Kalavathy, who studied in Chennai and Enarkulam, India, began her journey out of passion before turning it into a business.
“About 70% of our clients are Malays while only 20% are Indians. This is perhaps because they see it as unique and attractive.
“It is a niche market, which you don’t get everywhere, so, gradually, the number of customers increased for us. You learn every year and with different people coming in wanting different needs. The idea is not to make it a high-end service but rather a moderately priced one because we cater to a spectrum of people.
“We advertise, give out vouchers, discounts and provide packages as well as distribute flyers. We have seen a 100% growth with plans to open more centres within the Klang Valley,” she said, adding there has even been an offer to open shop in a prominent hotel.
Kalavathy explained that it is not easy to sustain any business, adding that determination was the core ingredient of her success.
“When you open a niche business, location is important because you want people who wouldn’t mind paying the money for their treatments. It has been an uphill task for us to build the brand but because Ayurveda is the essence of our business, we can see more people coming to such spas.
“We have beauticians and we train our staff for at least six months before they are considered proficient. There is a drawback, however, due to the lack of beauticians in Malaysia. If we get one that is good, we are lucky. The government does not allow us to bring beauticians from India.
“Almost 80% of the products we use are from India but some leaves are available locally. Our mask and scrubs are homemade using herbal products,” she said.
Ayur Centre is located at No.10 Jalan Dato Abu Bakar, Petaling Jaya, Tel:03-7954 2899 or log on to www.ayurcentre.com.
Ayur-V is located at No 1-29, Jalan Sg 1, Prima Sri Gombak, Batu Caves, Selayang, Tel: 03-6187 6969/ 010- 4244 299 or log on to www.ayurvherbal.com. – By FAZLEENA AZIZ, Photos by NORAFIFI EHSAN and AZLINA ABDULLAH