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The future of Ayurveda is bright because of torchbearers like Dr. Talvane Krishna

Auyrveda is one of the reasons behind the current boom of the spa business. A popular choice with Indians and foreigners alike, Auyrvedic therapies are among the most sought-after treatments for their healing properties. Growing at an estimated $10.7 billion a year, with a 20 percent annual growth rate that is expected to continue through 2014, it is an exciting time for Ayurveda in the wellness market. And it is due to some flag bearers like Dr. Talvane Krishna, that Ayurveda will continue to thrive.

Dr. Talvane Krishna has completed his medical degree from Mysore University in 1972 and has spent over three decades in the West, US, Canada and UK. He has travelled extensively in many countries and is well informed about the changing face of medicine in the global scenario. For the past 20 years, he has been promoting the cause of Ayurveda and Vedic Sciences by speaking in various national and international seminars. He has also set up a world class Ayurveda facility, the Indus Valley Ayurveda Centre in Mysore, which has now gained international repute. He is also a writer, teacher, trainer, management professional, has an interest in eco friendly building designs, constructions, carpentry and cooking. In an exclusive tête-à-tête with Spa Mantra he speaks about his views on how Ayurveda can change the face of spas.

What got you interested in Ayurveda?

I grew up in a the remote part of the Sahyadri Mountain range in Southern India in Karnataka, where traditional healing was and still is a way of life. I met my spiritual master at the age of 14 and was highly influenced by him. I was inspired by his teachings and depth of logical approach towards understanding our Vedic wisdom. Ayurveda is part of the Vedas and it was my desire to become a physician from the age of seven. In fact, my Master advised me that I study modern medicine first. He told me that the knowledge of Ayurveda will come to me later when it is needed and I would have a mission in life to promote Ayurveda and bring it to the forefront of modern medicine. After many years of practicing modern medicine in the USA, my interest in Ayurveda started growing and in 1992 I decided to pursue my interest and returned to India in 1994.

Why did you choose to open a spa with Ayurveda as the premise?

Ayurvedic treatments are very genuine, deeply-rooted in nature and therapeutic, unlike most other spa treatments. These treatments target the root of diseases. It is a complete body-mind medicine when put together with Yoga and meditation. I noticed that these treatments also can be delivered as regular spa treatments for feel-good, therapeutic, and rejuvenating effects. Ayurveda also has plenty of information on beauty treatments and I feel it is a perfect fit for a new age Indian spa. We should be very proud of our Vedic heritage with such a wonderful healing art.

Being an allopathic pediatric anesthesiologist, have you done any work on documentation of Ayurveda benefits?

We maintain a complete medical record of all our guests. A retrospective study could be conducted once we have enough number of cases. Currently, hundreds of research papers are being published from various institutions both in India and overseas to validate the benefits of Ayurvedic treatments. Although we have records to claim the many benefits for various diseases, we need more number of cases studied in multicenter clinical trials. As we move forward, such kinds of research will be possible.

What is your vision for Ayurvedic spas in India?

To create an Indian brand of spas based on Ayurvedic treatments. I would like to establish them all across India and later overseas.

Tell us something about your books “Vaastushastra” and “Naadivigyan”.

Vaastu Work Book is a basic book on Vaastu, published by Inner Traditions, USA. This book is very basic and can be easily understood by any one. It is correlated to Ayurveda and various Vedic rituals and also explains how all Vedic sciences are interrelated and Vaastu is the knowledge of the divine dance of the universe and various cosmic forces. Naadivigyan is the knowledge of the flow of life and its interaction with the universe. There are 72000 Nadis in our body that are like sensors that transmit messages from various parts of our gross and subtle bodies. They flow like tributaries to the three main rivers or Nadis called Vata, Pitta and Kapha. This can be examined by an expert Vaidya (Physician) and he can find out more about the person at the physical, mental and astral and spiritual levels. This knowledge is more intuitive than physical in nature and can be learnt by a Master. A lot of dedication and commitment is required to learn this science. I was fortunate to learn this from such masters but still feel I am a humble student. The knowledge of Nadivijnyan (Pulse reading) is indispensable to any good Vaidya. Nadi can be read on humans, animals, plants. There is also such a thing as distant Nadi reading without physically touching a person. These skills require extraordinary dedication to learn and one needs to have exceptional dedication and have a true master to teach and bestow his grace.

Having worked abroad for so many years, have you also been able to convince foreigners on the benefits of Ayurveda?

Interestingly, there are more foreigners than Indians, who are convinced of Ayurveda. There is a lot of interest about Ayurveda worldwide and it is growing. However, there is a great need for documented evidence to show the benefits of Ayurvedic treatments through modern methods of clinical trials and research.

What inspired you to change from Allopathy to Ayurveda?

My passionate belief in the deep philosophy of healing described in Ayurveda was inspired by my Guru. Ayurveda believes the seeds of various diseases stay as imprints (Karmas) in our mind. The body has a shorter shelf life. Mind carries on manufacturing new bodies (reincarnation) and manifests these imprints in the form of various diseases. To cure and pacify these diseases, Ayurveda believes one may need to take medicines, give alms to charities, chant disease specific Mantras (Japa) and worship various deities. This is a most phenomenal holistic approach to healing, very rarely found in other healing arts.

Tell us about your other interests as far as holistic health is concerned.

I believe in living in harmony with nature. When you love, nurture and respect nature, it bestows everything you need. Ayurveda has a separate subject called Swasta Vritta, which explains in detail the lifestyle one should lead, which is in total harmony with nature.

Is franchising the way forward for spa businesses?

It might be one way of looking for the rapid expansion of the Ayurvedic Spa-Clinics. However, it has special challenges in terms of human resource training. Just like various products supplied to the outlets, the franchisor needs to have a central pool of well-trained therapists to replace the attrition in the outlets. Most franchises have short (2-10 weeks) term training programs compared to Ayurveda therapists, where it takes a minimum six months to train. Ideally, it will take one year and the continual quality maintenance is a challenge. Despite the large number of younger population in India, it is harder to recruit them. Finding candidates with 12th grade itself is a very hard thing. To conduct a recognized training program, the university requires minimum 12th grade education.  Currently, the spa industry in India is growing at the rate of 32% per annum and at present there is a shortage of over 30,000 therapists in the spa industry (as per data from FICCI).

Where is the spa industry headed in India?

At this time there is no clear road map. Mostly, the high end spas are in five star hotels. Free standing spas are rare and are not properly regulated and do not have quality standards. NABH is working on bringing standards. There is a unique need to develop an Indian brand of spa with pure, authentic and traditional Ayurveda. Unless there is a coordinated support and effort from AYUSH and private funding, special benefits and incentives, Ayurveda as an Indian spa brand will be a distant dream.

Do you envisage any kind of consolidation in the industry?

Not in the near future.

What are the kind of people challenges faced in the industry?

Doctors, therapists and spa managers are short in supply. There is an urgent need for standardized, quality training programs. The AYUSH should establish a board and certification process with minimum standards. Proper licensing is absolutely necessary to maintain credibility. In general, we lack quality standards at all levels of this industry.

What will be the growth drivers going forward?

Demand is an important growth driver. There is a rapidly growing interest about Ayurveda, Yoga and Spirituality across the globe.  Our country is singularly fortunate to have such a great asset as our Vedic heritage. It is up to all of us to take charge, nourish and protect it.

What are your future plans? Do you have other spas opening soon?

I would like to expand first within the country and then overseas. We have pioneered the best training programs for the therapists. It needs to be elevated into a large training institute to fulfill the growing needs in the industry. Special training of doctors to manage an Ayurveda Spa is required. There is an urgent need to revise the syllabus and set new standards for the Ayurveda education. Currently, the image of Ayurveda education in our country standard is very low. There is rampant corruption at the regulatory board. With the availability of needed funding, the Indian brand of Ayurvedic Spa could be a multibillion dollar industry. Hopefully, investors will take interest and come forward. The AYUSH department could play a major role in facilitating the growth of “Indian Brand of Ayurveda Spa”. Since it is therapeutic, VAT and service taxes should be exempted for spas. An all-out coordinated effort from many corners is required to make it a success. At present we have four spas. We are opening our fifth one in Goa in January 2013. We hope to have about 200 Spas within the next ten years.

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