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Abode of serenity
The just-launched Serena Spa at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Hyderabad encapsulates the best of Indian healing traditions within its very modern walls

The city of pearls and princes has long intrigued me, but I had never had the chance of visiting Hyderabad. With its rich history and delectable cuisine, the city is on every traveler’s wish list. I was more than excited to make my maiden trip when I was invited by Serena Spa to see what their latest project was all about. Situated in one of Hyderabad’s poshest locales, Banjara Hills, the Radisson Blu Hotel houses the Serena Spa.

When I landed on a rainy August morning, Hyderabad was just waking up, unfolding its urban beauty along the roads that took me to the hotel. I was welcomed by the hotel’s cheery staff and ushered to one of their beautiful rooms on the second floor. Given that the Serena Spa Is located on the second floor of the hotel, my accommodation couldn’t have been better placed.

The Serena Story

As a person who had managed airlines before he moved on to the spa sector, Jasper Hougaard(MD, Serena Spas) was used to perfect order within an industry. And a decade ago, the Indian spa industry was anything but orderly. The first Serena spas were launched in the Maldives and it was after great calculation that Hougaard brought Serena to India in 2003. Presently, India has 10 spas in India, seven in the Maldives and one in Seychelles. The Serena Spa at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Hyderabad is their newest property and another one in Pune will be opened in the next couple of months.

Ten spas in 10 years isn’t exactly a rapid rate of growth, but taking it slow is part of Hougaard’s plan. Unlike many other spa operators and brands, which have aggressively expanded over the last decade, Serena Spa has been deliberate in its slowness. “You see,” said Hougaard, “when you expand too fast, you lose control of the details. I want to be able to achieve perfection in every Serena Spa, where nothing is compromised.”

Serena Spa Pvt. Ltd. is Hougaard’s brainchild, based upon a concept of spas that would be Indian in essence yet contemporary in approach. About the spa concept, the MD wittily said, “We wanted to bring all the beautiful elements of India into Serena, not the ‘smelly’ ones.” His obvious reference was to Ayurvedic oils that often have very strong odours and are therefore not preferred by many. I was about to discover what he meant by this at the Serena Spa at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Hyderabad.

Deep Blu

The Radisson Blu chain of business hotels is a young one, but they sure know what it takes to make it tick. Wellness facilities are always given priority at all their properties and the hotel at Banjara Hills, Hyderabad is no exception. Like all Radisson Blus, this too has a pool, a well-equipped gym and a spa. However, the spa operators are different for all their properties and feasibility seems to be the only reason for this modus operandi. Serena Spa was approached for this property and the spa was launched a year after the hotel’s opening in August 2012.

A spa was always part of the plan and spaces had been allocated, but when Serena came in, come modifications in design were made to fit Serena’s standards. Serena Spa handles its own architectural layout and interior design elements, but they have to work in tandem with the hotel’s design team too. “Working with hotels is always a challenge, because one has to incorporate one’s concept within the hotel’s framework. One cannot deviate too much from the hotel’s colour themes or make any major structural modifications,” explained Hougaard. As an example, attached steam and shower chambers could not be built within all treatment rooms at this spa because of plumbing restrictions.

The spa

Spread over 2500 sq. ft., the Serena Spa has four treatment rooms, including one couples’ room. Additionally, there is one pedicure room, one ladies’ salon area, one beauty treatments’ room, one gents’ salon area, and two wet areas for ladies and gents respectively with steam, sauna and shower facilities.The salon concept has been recently introduced into Serena Spas for added luxury, “…although it doesn’t make too much money,” admits Hougaard. Basic services like hair wash, hair colouring and blow drying are offered at the salon with products like Moroccanoil and L’Oreal. One notable service at the gents’ salon area is a luxury shave that lasts for 20 minutes!

The swimming pool and the gymnasium are also on the second level of the hotel, making for a complete well-being zone.

The spa has been done in creams and greens, exuding serenity. What struck me most about the spa interiors was how clean, almost Spartan, it was in appearance. It was striking in its lack of pretentiousness and the forced ‘spa elements’ most places clutter themselves up with. With a bare minimum of furniture and embellishments, the spa décor was refreshingly different and unlike any other property I have seen before. It gave me a lot of mind space, and that, to me, was luxurious.

Treatments and products

However, it is the spa that patrons can’t get enough of. It is easy to see why, once I experienced a couple of pampering sessions at the hands of experienced Serena therapists. Perpetually gym sore, I picked my favourite Deep Tissue Massage (also my gauge of how skilled a therapist is) and was surprised at how the therapy was started with a foot ritual and ended with a head massage. One normally associates these rituals with Ayurveda therapies, but Hougaard informed me that the incorporation of these ‘protocols’ was one of those ‘beautiful Indian elements’ that is essentially a Serenaconcept. I also found the therapy sequence a little different from the usual, as the therapist started with the back instead of the usual legs. It has apparently been altered to differentiate it from their Serenity Massage and also to first address the common complaints of back pain.

The next day, spa manager, Mary Fatima, helped me pick the Marma Massage, or what is known as the Rope Massage from their list of Ayurveda therapies. It was my debut with this therapy and I thoroughly enjoyed the pressure of the therapist’s feet on my body, which is very unlike massages given by hand. The Marma massage ends with a scrub and a wrap, and of course, the delightful head massage.

All products used for body treatments at the spa are Serena Spa formulations, manufactured with FDA-approved processes. The skin products’ range,made with natural active ingredients, comes from their plants in Rajasthan and Maharashtra, whereas the herbal soaps and shampoos come from Kerala.

These indulgent products and therapist skills come together to make for a luxurious spa experience. But I was keen to know how and where the Serena therapists’ expertise comes from.

Staff and training

Education is of prime importance for Serena Spas, and they recruit their therapists mostly from their institute. Run by their sister company, Serena Vocational Training Institute, they have an academy in Mangalore. Perhaps they are the only ones who run GOI-approved courses for spa training. The Serena Vocational Training Institute is handled by Sabrina Britto, who is the Director of Spa Operations and MD of the Institute. She also happens to be Hougaard’s better half.

The Serena Vocational Training Institute offers different course durations; 6 months for newbies, 3 months refresher courses for experienced therapists, and 1 month courses for experienced therapists who want to work in a Serena Spa and need to understand the SOPs, etc. The one-month course is also preferred by many ex-employees who want to rejoin the establishment. It is after these intensive courses that therapists are inducted into one or the other Serena spa.

The Serena Spa at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Hyderabad has five therapists, of which one is male and four, female. In addition, there are two hairdressers, one spa manager and one assistant manager, who run the show.

Serenity found

While the treatments I experienced at Serena Spa were at par with the best spas across India, I applauded the place the most for its simplicity. In a bid for luxury, most spa spaces tend to overdo their interiors. They try to force Zen upon you, which is immensely ironical. It was in Serena’s simplicity that I found my serenity.


Fact file

Name of Spa: Serena Spa

Name of company: Serena Spa Pvt. Ltd.


Contact details:

Managing Director: Jasper Hougaard

Spa Manager: Mary Fatima

Spa operations manager: RoshanPandey

Area of spa: 2500 sq. ft.

No. of treatment rooms: 5

No. of therapists: 5

Other areas: Salons, pedicure area, beauty treatment room, wet areas, gym, pool

Products used: Serena for body, Moroccanoil and L’Oreal for hair

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Welcome to (the “Site”), a website owned and controlled by C&E Pvt. Ltd (“C&E”, “we”, “us”, or “our”). We operate the Site, and C&E products and services made available through the Site (collectively the “Services”), which make link creation in copied and pasted content effortless to readers and, in certain cases, enables easier searches from copied content. We provide this privacy policy to let you know what information we collect, and how we use it, share it and protect it.

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