SALINA HANDA – FOUNDER & MANAGING DIRECTOR, SENSASIA URBAN SPAS tells us why she left a ‘safe’ job to chart a new journey creating urban wellness escapes via Sensasia.
From Tetrapack to Sensasia, how was the journey?
I was actually working on the concept for SensAsia while still working at Tetrapak. I was toying with the idea for a long time, but it all got serious in 2004 when I went to Chiva-Som in Thailand and trained under Samantha Foster, who is now the Founding Chair of the Asia-Pacific Spa & Wellness Coalition. To pass the course I had to present a business plan, and I was actually the only one among 12 candidates to present a feasible business plan and pass. When I got back to Dubai, I found a site at The Village in Jumeirah. So that was when the clock started ticking and I knew it was time to resign from my ‘safe’ job!
Wellness was the by-product. It was the concept of SensAsia that I fell in love with. At the time, there was such a huge gap in the UAE spa market, and I knew I could fill it. I was in my 20s, didn’t have children yet, and was travelling a lot with my husband for work. We stayed in some amazing places – like the Four Seasons George V in Paris, which just blew me away – and I was absorbing all the attention to detail. By profession I was a concept designer, so it was the finer details that really excited me.
What does wellness mean to you?
Contentment. It is satisfaction in what you are doing and a happy place in your mind. You can do so much for your body, but it is the mind that needs to be content.
What is the USP of Sensasia?
The journey. Most UAE spas offer salon services, which we refuse to do. So, there are no machines, no nails and no waxing at SensAsia. That is why we have one of the most extensive treatment menus in town. The design of SensAsia is also very unique. I design the spas like bars or restaurants, and I know how much of a risk that was to take!
How do you reinvent the therapies?
I have created each of the treatments since day one – and I am still doing it 13 years later! – and we have two full time, in house trainers to continually maintain standards. SensAsia treatments have always been so unique because they are largely created for women, by women. And it shows. Our new treatment Digital Detox, for example, came about because I was feeling so ‘locked’ in my upper body from being tied to my phone or laptop. Our SensMama prenatal treatment menu grew and grew when I was pregnant, and our product lines, like Dr Dennis Gross and Elemis have been selected due to the changes I’ve experienced and tried to combat in my skin and their brand philosophies.
What is your own fitness routine like?
I am at the DEFINE Body & Mind studio around five times a week, where I take the Rev and Body classes. I love Pilates and Reformer Pilates, and I actually have a STOTT Pilates qualification myself after taking a course last year. Although I still have a trainer, because Pilates is something your body is always learning.
Your favourite de-stress therapy?
The Warm Cocoa Butter Hot Stone massage at SensAsia. It is two hours long, and then I add on more time. We actually give clients the option of asking for ‘More Time Please’ during their treatments, because we know how it feels to be pleading with your therapist not to stop!
How do you deal with negativity?
Negativity breeds negativity, and we all face it daily. You can either let yourself be consumed by negativity, or choose to rise above it. I make a distinct effort to do the latter, but I am still learning to be better at it every day.
What finds its place on your plate?
My diet is dairy and gluten free, and I try to be as sugar free as practically possible. So on my plate you’ll find loads of greens, fish and poultry. I love cooking and eating out, so nothing ever gets boring as I have to stay creative. As an example, today’s lunch was a roasted kale salad with quinoa and salmon cakes for lunch.
What is happiness for you?
Looking forward to life. And I do.
What is your most notable achievement?
It sounds so cliché, but my girls (twins Soroya and Sienna, age 9). I am watching them grow every day, into lovely, respectable and most importantly happy little people. Nothing comes close to that feeling.
Your tips for recharging and relaxing?
Spending a day at home, with absolutely no agenda. Couple that with early bedtimes and quick meditations, and I am ready to take on the world!
SALINA HANDA – FOUNDER & MANAGING DIRECTOR, SENSASIA URBAN SPAS