An interview with Mr. Alex Yu, the Founder of THE PURI
Leave stress behind and regain your inner peace at THE PURI. It’s a place where you can immerse yourself in the refreshing fragrance and the tranquil atmosphere, touch again the depth of your heart, and enjoy the pure beauty of life. Located in Qingdao, THE PURI is known as “A true urban oasis, a place of serneity.” It is the brainchild of Mr. Alex Yu, a senior engineer with a bachelor’s degree in engineering, who originally had nothing to do with the spa industry.
Mr. Yu, who has been in a manufacturing management position for over ten years and has extensive experience in business management and team management, loves nothing more than finding an alternative way to do things. In recent years, he has devoted himself to a business that links the century-old Thai SPA concept with the unique aesthetics and health needs of Chinese people. SpaChina interviewed Alex, the Founder of THE PURI.
Why did you cross over into the spa industry?
Spa first originated in Europe, but its essence and service contents are actually very Oriental, with concepts such as: return to the root of human-being and health, actively pursue a healthy life, among others.
In the third wave of the spa movement in the 1990s, modern spa has taken on a strong tone of Oriental culture, and this new trend has quickly prevailed the world. That is why I wanted to create THE PURI. Another reason was because I realized the changes in the mentality and needs of the Chinese spa consumers. For example, the needs of the post-70s and post-80s are different: the former focus heavily on health maintance while the latter have diversified demands; and the post-90s have highly personalized preferences such as essential oil DIY.
Overseas work experience in my early years enables me to know some of the best spas in the world. To pursue a quality life has nothing to do with gender. Spa has changed my perception of what healthy living is, and also aroused a strong interest in me to know more about it. I have been to high-end spas in Paris, Switzerland, Finland, Thailand and other countries and the expeirence gives me a new understanding of how spa services can restore the balance of my body and mind. Then when the proper time arrives, I founded THE PURI.
What are the signature treatments of THE PURI? And what are your main considerations and criteria for product selection?
The PURI is specialized in spiritual treatments for the healing of body and mind. Our interior design, professional lighting, music and sound effects all contribute to a better experience of spiritual treatments.
In the design of the treatments, we take into account their applicability, whether they can give the ultimate healing to our target group or not. After elaborate preparation, we jointly launched the “Seven Chakra Energy Healing” treatment with Mt.Sapola, an aromatherapy product brand from Thailand. In addition, we sent our trainers to study “Chanting Healing” in Nepal and “Ayurvedic Healing” in India. And now they are quite popular treatments in THE PURI.
And the products play a very important role in the treatment. First of all, the safety of the products must be guaranteed. Allergy and other adverse reactions must be avoided. Secondly, the quality of products is of great significance. We use only pure plant products that won’t cause any pollution to the environment. Last but not the least, the experience that the products bring about can do a lot of work. The smell, touch and ductility of the products will all influence therapists’ performance and guests’ experience. After numerous comparisons and inspections, we finally determined to use the products of Mt.Sapola.
When developing every treatment, we focus on how to both inherit the essence of its originality and meanwhile cater to the local characteristics. For example, for the Thai treatment, we will first study the differences between Chinese and Thai cultures, and even the climate differences which may require a different service flow. However, concerning the essential part of the treatment, the originality must be kept. We try to give the guests both the best sense of experience and healing effects.
How do you get guests to try and trust a product or treatment that they have never experienced before?
When we launch every new product, we strictly follow the PLM. From product development, preliminary market research, product design, members’ test experience, to the final launch, each step is done with clear target and criteria. We also do effective marketing in order to attract more new guests to have a try. Meanwhile, we invite the guests to share their experience on the social media or with people around them, so that more people will know us through the Word of Mouth.
Our major guests are aged between 30 and 35. They are also the most willing to try Thai treatments. They have high consumption frequency, are interested to new treatments, and have a high demand for healing experiences.
How do you recruit, train and manage the therapists?
First, we have set strict standards for recruitment because we know recruiting the right person is the first step towards success.
Second, we have established our own training system, so that every green hand can turn into a qualified therapist.
Third, we have established staff promotion mechanism both for management positions and technical positions, so that every employee has a chance for growth.
Fourth, the remuneration system is combined with the promotion mechanism.
Fifth, to respect and take care of the staff is an important part of the construction of corporate culture.
THE PURI has reached the standards of an international hotel SPA, how was this achieved?
The first thing is to establish a standardized process SOP. We have as many as 126 articles of SOP. There are clear requirements for each step, from the reception etiquette to the service details of each treatment, from the welcome tea to how to cover the guests with towels during the treatment, etc., We give the new employees all the training materials on the first day they come, and then carry out the training accordingly. Every day, we first teach the theories and then let the staff practice repeatedly. Everyone will be assessed at the end of the day. We offer the newly employed therapists off-job training with salary. They can begin to serve the guests after passing the assessment.
In addition, we don’t allow therapists to do sales. Their salaries are only linked to their skills. We require them to focus on their own work of delivering the treatment so that the guests can experience the best effects. Also, a level system of therapists is established, with pay differences. All these have proven to be very effective.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of spas in China compared with international quality spas?
The greatest advantage for spas in China is the large population and the big market space here. With the rapid economic growth and the improvement of material civilization, people’s demand for spiritual satisfaction also rises, including an increasing demand for spa experience.
In China, we have traditional Chinese medicine, and every Chinese knows it to some extent. Therefore, the combination of spa and TCM can be easily accepted by guests. As the economy develops, more and more young Chinese have the opportunity to experience high-quality spa treatments abroad, so they will pay more and more attention to the quality.
However, the disadvantages are also clear. Most spa operators in China do not truly know what spa is, or what spa culture is. They translate SPA into a foot massage store or a massage store. This is the biggest problem I see in the industry at present. The existence of many unqualified spas gives guests a wrong impression to the industry. The spa products are also of varying qualities and there is a disordered competition.
Secondly, there is a lack of standardization. When the owners begin to design the spa, there isn’t a standard procedure, and they don’t care how the guests would feel about the space. They never think about how to satisfy the five senses with the design. As a result, the guests don’t benefit from such a design. If we look at the international spa brands, they can give guests a dual joy of both body and mind with an excellent space design.
Many spa operators, in order to maximize profits, do not train their employees concerning their spa concept and culture, but merely on sales skills. The lack of spa culture finally leads to poor services. The general service consciousness of Chinese people is weak, especially in northern cities. It’s clear that the overall quality of the industry practitioners needs to be improved.
What’s your vision for THE PURI?
THE PURI is willing to open-mindedly learn with advanced spa operators around the world to develop more oriental spa products suitable for Chinese people. We are trying to establish industry standards with excellent operators to promote the healthy and orderly development of the spa industry in China. We are also planning to open training schools so that more people can receive professional training in spa culture and techniques. It’s our vision to let Chinese people enjoy real international spa services, and experience health and beauty transformation from inside out.