The Asian Entrepreneur
A trip to Bali in 2003 prompted Ina Bajaj to buy land, build a home and later build a successful spa business. Spring Spa is now one of the largest spa operators on the island.
What’s your story?
As a successful restaurateur for a decade, whilst traveling in search of chefs, I stumbled upon the global appetite for spa treatments. New Zealand in 2002, spas were in their infancy and I placed my financial resources, energy, passion, and know-how in creating the East Day Spa Wellington. We opened with 3 staff and a first day turnover of $35.00.The Spring brand, designed by global powerhouse, Saatchi & Saatchi was added in 2012. Taking the notion of a simple suburban salon we massaged this into a multi-million dollar business with nine properties over Bali and New Zealand.
What excites you most about your industry?
The spa and wellness industry is constantly changing. The pursuit of good health, well being and youth is reaching levels beyond obsession. With this in mind businesses like ours need to constantly keep evolving with the latest beauty treatments and skincare products. On the other hand, massages, the mainstay of our business, are traditional, pure and consistent. A juxtaposition like this never makes for a dull day.
What’s your connection to Asia?
Born in Kenya of Indian heritage, brought up in New Zealand with Bali now my current home, there is a strong sense of belonging for me in Asia. Whether it be religious or cultural, I feel a deep sense of happiness when I’m in Bali. The connection with Asia began in 2003 when I first visited the island, it was an instant love affair which prompted me to buy land, build a home and later businesses. Spring Spa is now one of the largest spa operators on the island with branches in Seminyak, Petitenget and Canggu and 2020 seeing the arrival of Springs in Nusa Lembongan and Uluwatu in 2021.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
My favourite city is Bangkok (BKK). It’s Bali on steroids, a food-lovers dream with frenzied energy that I’ve never witnessed anywhere else. BKK also maintains a strong culture, has crazy good shopping malls and excellent foot massages. I get my city and retail fix there when island life gets too much. Setting up a business is not as onerous as Indonesia and when the right location comes along, I’ll be bringing our Spring brand to Thailand.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“In business and life authenticity prevails.”
Although we spend a lot on our cutting design providing beautiful surroundings, our treatments are never compromised. Their authenticity is maintained by our highly trained educators and rigid audit systems. In life, I am still the same person who started in 2002 as the one and only receptionist. My value of being kind to people is deeply ingrained from my mother, this will stay for me forever.
Who inspires you?
I’m inspired by my parents. They arrived in NZ from Kenya in 1970 leaving family and an exceedingly comfortable lifestyle. Our life was one of privilege and my parents gave this up for a better education system in a safer environment. I know to this day, they have never been as happy as they were in Kenya, but they always say it was worth every second when they view the achievements of my brother and me.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
This year I had a suspected eye tumor. I was treated by modern medicine, including radiotherapy only to be told it had been unsuccessful and perhaps we should give a shot to chemotherapy. On my way to seek a second opinion in Singapore, I was referred to a healer in Bali, I was at the point of giving up and broken. Over the next three months, under her care, I regained my eyesight and am now 90% cured. The power of faith and spiritual healing will never cease to amaze me. Needless to say, I never made it to Singapore!
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have made time to have children. My focus was always working and I always advise aspiring female entrepreneurs to make time for children. It’s our birthright.
How do you unwind?
Mornings are my unwind time. In Bali, I wake up at 0530 and swim to the Gayatri mantra. My two rescue dogs and I then head to Canggu beach for a leisurely sunrise walk followed by a coffee. Auckland is more or less a get up and get to work morning ritual.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Indonesia. There is so much to discover in the Archipelago. Borobudur for spirituality, Lombok and the Gillies for the beaches, Jakarta for shopping, rooftop bars, and great food. I have not even touched the surface with Indonesia. As Bali is my home, I love Lembongan, home to our next Spring Spa, with its crystal blue waters and relaxed island vibe.
Everyone in business should read this book:
Leaders eat Last by Simon Sinek
Labour, the biggest cost in our industry, needs to be treated with kid gloves. A good massage comes from the heart and for this reason, our staff is the company’s greatest asset. Sinek’s book with its lessons on creating a safety net and making the primary focus people rather than numbers hit a strong chord with me. I re-read this book every year.
Shameless plug for your business:
An effortless fusion of east meets west, Spring offers a modern take on traditional spa formalities with its unique, sleek environment. Created to relax and pamper from head to toe, Spring offers an extensive menu combining cutting edge technology with traditional treatments; from massages to facials, to your weekly manicure appointment. Spring has three postcard-perfect locations in Bali; the two-level spa located opposite the prestigious W Hotel in Seminyak, the rooftop terrace of the new iconic shopping mall in Seminyak (which was recently named Asia’s Best Day Spa at the World Spa Awards for the second year running), and its newest addition in Canggu’s hottest ‘hood’ of Batu Bolong.
By Callum Laing