First in Fitness - Nawaz Modi Singhania

First in Fitness

She’s a fitness expert and founder of Body Art; an artist; and a director at Raymond Ltd, her husband Gautam Singhania’s company. Nawaz Modi Singhania – also a loving wife and mom – clearly knows how to juggle a few things. Here’s how she does it.

Coming from a family of lawyers, what prompted you to get into the fitness field?
I had decided by the last year of my college that I wanted to be in the fitness industry. I was a member at an aerobics class here in Mumbai, and felt strongly that being in fitness is what I wanted to do going forward. Since I wanted to have my own centre, right after my T.Y.B.A. exams I went to the US, where I trained, got certified and taught to gain experience.

Tell us all about Body Art.
I came back to India and started Body Art, in 1991, initially with group cardio classes. However, I simultaneously joined Government Law College in Mumbai and completed my L.L.B examination. Though a law graduate, I never practised, and had truly never intended to. I just wanted to keep the door open, should I ever change my mind.

When I started my journey in fitness, it was with a couple of varieties of cardio classes. Over a period of time I built that up. Today my cardio studios run about 25 different varieties of cardio and resistance training classes, with each routine also having a wide variety to offer within itself. In 1998 I started a gym and shortly after I started the first full-fledged equipment-based Pilates studio in India. Thereafter I opened another centre with these and still wider offerings than the first centre had, such as an aqua aerobics pool and an indoor biking studio. Last year I also launched an aerial arts studio which offers TRX training, anti-gravity training, suspension fitness, and aerial yoga.

You’ve been involved in fitness for nearly 30 years; what has the journey been like?
It was a great time to break into the market, as there was virtually no competition around back then. By God’s grace, my challenges were limited to building my centres up block by block, developing and introducing new genres of fitness, setting my systems and processes in place, and getting my team together. I was the proud pioneer of many a firsts in the fitness space in India. In addition to the equipment-based Pilates, I started Gyrotonics, Gyrokinesis, anti-ageing facial fitness workouts, choreographed trampoline workouts, aerial arts, Callanetics, and more.

What changes have you have seen in the industry?
I can proudly say that I have been the change that I wanted to see in the industry. Over the past 25 years, the market has really grown and expanded and awareness has increased. Now everyone wants to be slim, fit, toned, and healthy. A sure sign of a nation progressing is when a luxury becomes a necessity. When I started out, going to a fitness centre to workout was a luxury. It isn’t anymore; it’s a necessity!

Kids fitness is now another big piece. I’m passionate about kids being fit and healthy from the outset. Slim, fit kids tend to become slim, fit adults. Sadly, the converse is also just as true! Senior citizens and their health and fitness has become another big story. As we age, health issues tend to develop. Many of these can be improved via rehab and/or exercise to keep healthy.

What’s your involvement with your husband, Gautam Singhania’s, company?
I first got involved with Gautam’s company about six years ago. I’m a director on the Raymond Ltd. Board, and on some of the subsidiary company boards. I’m on the Sulochanadevi Singhania School Board of Governors, and on the CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) Committee. I totally love everything I do and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Tell us about your interest in art.
My more recent work has been portraits. Faces fascinate me. I appreciate many aspects of various artists. For instance, I love Raja Ravi Varma’s portraits, Bikash Bhattacharya’s play of shadows, Bose Krishnamachari’s sense of colour and fluidity, much about Prosanto Roy, and so on.  

I like to collect what I absolutely love in the moment. It might be soothing, pleasing, a strong message, it might resonate with me…whatever. The point is I have to be strongly drawn to it.

You have two fabulous daughters – Niharika and Nisa. What is it like being a parent, and how do you manage your personal and professional lives?
Niharika is 12 years old and Nisa is 4. I was bowled over when I first became a mom… still am, actually. Having a kid is like having your heart bounce around outside of your body. Kids are the Achilles heel of many a parent. It’s the most beautiful experience and journey.

I’m blessed with fantastic staff that I trust completely with my kids, and so I also have a full life outside of the home. I have a very deep bond with both my kids. Niharika is a superb gymnast and artistic skater and has won a few competitions, too. A doting sister to Nisa, she considers herself to be Nisa’s first mother, so I am actually made to get in line!        --- as told to Niharika