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Oryza rising
The Nungambakkam branch of Oryza in Chennai is redefining the limits of a day spa

As a journalist associated with the spa and salon industry, I’ve seen a fair share of spas by now. And there seems to be a distinct dividing line between destination/hotel spas and day spas. Despite the quality of services offered and the investment in staff or décor, few day spas can match the scale of a destination/hotel spa. And I’m not talking about space here. There is something to do with grandeur, a sublime sense of luxury that has always seemed missing in day spas… until I went to the Nungambakkam branch of the Oryza Day Spa in Chennai.

The Oryza story
With the success stories of Kanya and Bounce salons under her belt, Latha Mohan started a chapter in spas in 2005 with the first Oryza Day Spa in Chennai. The word Oryza is a botanical name for a wild and exotic variety of rice, which was used in ancient Oriental medicine. It was often used in combination with other herbs to create recipes for beauty and healing. Like its name, Oryza soon became synonymous with all round spa and beauty services in the city of Chennai. Word spread, loyal customers increased, and a chain was soon formed. Under the franchise model, several Oryza Day Spas cropped up in Chennai, and then Bangalore, creating one of the most successful spa business stories.

Oryza @Nungambakkam
I had heard a lot about the chain of Oryza Day Spas, and was excited to see the brick and mortar aspect of the story. I arrived a little after 11 in the morning at the newly-opened Nungambakkam branch of Oryza to be greeted by a busy scene of therapists and clients milling about in the reception area. It was testimony to the ample business all Oryza Day Spas witness on a typical day. However, that did not take away from the beauty of the space.

Design and spaces
The meticulously-designed spa has a huge area of 7,280 sq. ft and is built over three spacious floors. The spa entrance is elegant with motifs on the door, purple lighting and small Buddha statues lining the walkway. Similar statues can be seen near the main door and the reception area too. Oryza has a predominantly Zen-Buddhism theme, and a monochrome colour scheme, but it varies for some treatment rooms. The reception area also has a Kérastase retail zone, adjoining which are a consultation zone, a Kérastase beauty room and a KéraSkin treatment room.
Apart from the Kérastase facilities, the ground level also has a nail bar, a ladies and a gents’ salon. There are three stations in the gents’ salon, while the ladies salon has eight. The nail bar is has a pretty coloured wall detail, while the gents’ mani-pedi section has a striking mosaic of a man’s face. As I looked around the place, I marveled over and over again at the attention to detail all over the spa. Another such example is the red and gold motif in the bridal room on the ground level, which gives the space a very traditional feel.
Franchisee Kavita Vishwanathan told me they spent months on deciding what the look and the feel of the spa would be like, as she led me toward the first level. This level houses the body and face treatment rooms along with the hand and foot spa areas. There are five body/facial treatment rooms, one foot spa room and one Thai massage room.
I was amazed at the scope of the place as Kavita opened door after door showing me facility after facility. It was especially surprising for me, who comes from space-starved Mumbai. Even as I marveled at the number of rooms I had already seen, Kavita took me to level two and I was like, ‘There’s more!?’
Level two houses the foot reflexology area with nine chairs, a dry back massage room and the VIP treatment room. The VIP treatment is often booked by Oryza’s celebrity clients, who want complete privacy. This room is fully equipped for all beauty and spa services like a spa bed, a hair wash and cutting station, a manicure-pedicure facility, a steam and shower room complete with a bath tub. It was in this room that I was treated to Oryza’s fantastic 60-minute Dreamcream Massage.
The Dreamcream Massage involves a therapist using a combination of Vitamin E lotion, Aloe vera plant extracts and essential oils for the massage. Oryza does not recommend a shower after treatment, but to leave this wonderful mixture on, so that the skin soaks up the nutrients and keeps the lingering scents.

The number of rooms at Oryza reflects their vast selection of services. There is plenty to choose from for both men and women. The salon section offers the regular host of beauty services including facials, waxing, threading, manicure & pedicure, bleach, bridal & mehendi, hair services with L’Oréal, Kérastase Rituals, and the newly-introduced hair and eyelash extensions. The small nail bar offers nail art, extension and Gelish services. Bio Wax and other organic products are among the preferred products at the salon, while the brightening treatment by Ilcsi is in much demand by brides.
The spa offers body and face treatments by many brands such as KéraSkin, Ilcsi, and Sothys, besides Oryza’s Signature treatments, Body Beautfiers in the form of scrubs and wraps, Massage Therapies, Hand & Foot Spa and hair Spa treatments.
The popular therapies include the Total Detox package, the Javanese Lulur and Balinese massages. The anti-ageing packages by KéraSkin and Sothys are also preferred by the older clientele. The pre and post natal treatments are also immensely popular at Oryza, as they offer complete relaxation to the client and are rendered by experts.

Staff and training
The large establishment that is Oryza Nungambakkam, is run by an equally large staff. Presently there are 10 stylists at the salon; six female and three male. For the nail bar, there is one nail entrepreneur. The spa has 10 therapists in all; six female and four male. Of these 10, eight are Indonesian. The Indonesian origin of the therapists ensures authenticity in techniques in Thai, Balinese, Javanese Lulur, etc.
Clad in smart linen uniforms, the therapists at Oryza inspire confidence. They are all trained from reputed institutions and are given some in house training too. For special therapies like the Pre and Post Natal Massage, an expert was flown in from Thailand to train the therapists.

Amazing Oryza
Latha Mohan’s vision for the brand, Oryza Day Spa is inspiring, to put it mildly. In a few years, the spa chain has grown exponentially, and has become a renowned name in the South of India. With this new Nungambakkam branch in Chennai and another one in Koramanagala in Bangalore, Oryza’s count now stands at five, and there are several more in the pipeline.
What helps Latha execute this ambition is the shared ideals with her franchisees. Kavita Vishwanathan is as passionate about ‘her’ branch as Mohan is about her brand. This has made possible the creation of this beautiful and enormous day spa that breaks a lot of limitations of the day spa concept.

Going Forward
With her newest Oryza at Koramangala in Bangalore, Latha Mohan has implemented a unique business model for her ventures. She has opened both – a Bounce salon and an Oryza – at the same centre.
She plans to do the same for all new centres going forward. Either they will have a Bounce Salon and an Oryza Day Spa in the same property or in close proximity to each other, so that clients from one establishment can benefit the other.
This concept will give the clients the best of both brands and make for a complete beauty and wellness experience.
I was awed by the grandeur, variety and efficacy of the organization and understood why the Oryza Day Spa brand has captured people’s imaginations and hearts!

Writer | Urmi Chanda-Vaz

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