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HEALTHONOMICS: How Wellness is Merging with Other Industries as a Ubiquitous Economic Force

First published in The Economic Times

Welcome to the era of health-brokers! Exercycling our way into new economic cheer! Meditatively meandering into the new wellness culture! The wellness industry has cross-pollinated with almost every other sphere, seeding a burgeoning $4.2 trillion market.

Hospitality has turned into ‘Health-pitality’ and ‘Sports-pitality’, with Wellness Tourism crossing $639 billion revenue in 2017, as per the JWT ‘Wellness Economics’ report. The internet-educated generations, dominated by millennials (who are currently in their prime spending years) making more informed lifestyle choices, are seeking hybrid services that support their health. China and India rank No.1 and No.2 respectively in the world for growth in wellness tourism, adding 22 million and 17 million wellness trips respectively, over the last two years!

Answering this call, health-hospitality is spreading like wildfire, with old and new brands rising to the challenge. Hilton Group has launched it’s ‘Five Feet to Fitness’ in-room wellness concept, with a gym rack and digital kiosk available in each room. ‘Even Hotels’ are a hospitality group with ‘wellness as the core’, where right from bedding (eucalyptus fibre for better sleep) to food, spa and fitness classes, wellness encapsulates every offering! Right from the lobby, one is welcomed with fruit-infused water for better hydration. Even Marriott Hotels launched a $30mn campaign called ‘Lets Rise’ to promote their health-focused design.

Even more interesting is how lifestyle products have forayed into the wellness space. Brands from all nooks of the lifestyle industry are integrating wellness - beauty, food, furniture, retail, textile etc. Like the eucalyptus fibre bedding which promises better sleep, we have new entrants in assorted product categories bequeathing novel healthcare user experiences! The furniture industry is witnessing ergonomic evolution, where luxury is no longer a linear lovebug, but has tangents of spinal health and muscular alignment spun into its fabric. There’s no end to the diversity of products cat-calling our well-being! Off the top of my mind, I can recall air-conditioners vouching to purify air for better lung-health, Kindle e-readers with the e-Ink screen to ease eye strain, dish-washing detergent claiming to be toxin-free and organic, high-end cars like the BMW having massage seats and bespoke aromatherapy perfumes to name a few.

The health food industry is valued at $712bn. The pharmaceutical industry is a spectacle of exuberant wellness products such as vitamin and protein supplements, in addition to the traditional curative products. And how can we leave out the billion dollar coaching industry, covering life coaching, health coaching and counseling!

Sports clothing, organic fair-trade clothing such as Thought, Synergy, Pact and India’s Ethicus, Fusion Clothing, Aura Herbal Wear etc. are reporting 120% growth sales annually. Health is now a style statement! When it comes to IT, the digital health market has almost reached $206bn, driven mainly by the mobile and wireless health market. On-demand health and doctor services, such as Practo and Cure.Fit’s schemes, are going mainstream.

And Real Estate isn’t lagging behind! They’ve thankfully caught the health mania too, and profitably so! As a refuge from polluted city streets, with lush greenery, better water purification systems, gyms, sports facilities, pools, spa centres, salons and clinics – every major Real Estate developer has hopped onto the wellness wagon, including brands like Puravankara, Godrej, Brigade Group, Prestige and Sunteck to name a few builders focusing on holistic townships. GWI (Global Wellness Institute) says the international wellness real estate market is now a $134 billion industry.

What’s more, offices and corporates are paying massive attention to wellness. Spaces are being designed to encourage a more active way of living and working. The Workplace Wellness market is valued at $47.5bn.

The more we discover about health, the more we realize that it pervades every aspect of life, permeating every consumer touchpoint. The expanding definition of ‘health’ paints a holistic picture, with physical, mental and spiritual paradigms. Mental Health holds 47% of the wellness market. The culture of holistic well-being is massively awakening people to preventive care and alternative treatments – with Lifestyle Management’ factoring into every purchasing decision we make. NCBI unveils that only 17% of the global population seeks prescription when ill! 51% choose over-the-counter medication, while 54% seek non-medicinal alternative treatments! Alternative Treatments such as Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Naturopathy, Functional Nutrition, Cognitive Therapy etc. are witnessing a growth rate of 7% per year. This is a turn for the better, considering that 90% of diseases (including cardiac issues, diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, Alzheimer’s etc.) have been touted as ‘Lifestyle Diseases’.

The world is waking up to better knowledge and resources for a strong, energized mind and body. From corporate giants to micro-influencers, we have new champions evangelizing wellness for more vitality in life. Wellness has now raised hundreds of outposts in the landscape of business, economics and even non-profits, reforming a multitude of industry sectors. New pathways are being carved by visionary leaders who wish to innovate their business in ways that holistically serve people. This is the cross-roads where disciplines intersect to transform lives and renew our fractured healthcare facilities. Such powerful collaboration breaks monopoly of players, encourages human-centric innovation and enforces alignment of different nuances of life for deeper healing and happiness.

So, friends, health is quite literally turning into wealth these days! Join the jingbang and get ‘WELLthy’!

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