Having dedicated herself to following a healthy lifestyle from a really young age, Ms Aishath Afra, Managing Director of Resort Fitness, found her passion right out of high school and set out to achieve her dream of building a healthy and fit community. She trained hard to become a licensed fitness instructor/personal trainer and is now a powerful voice in the fitness community. Overcoming many obstacles and breaking gender barriers, Ana (as she’s more popularly known) has proven time and time again that confidence, the ability to take on risks coupled with a relentless desire to win is the key to success. Corporate Maldives got the chance to chat with her about her numerous contributions to the fitness industry.
How did you get interested in pursuing a career in fitness?
I got into fitness training right after finishing school and eventually ended up as a personal trainer. But that wasn’t enough; it was just the foundation step for what I wanted to achieve. I went abroad for further studies in Singapore and became a FISAF-licensed personal instructor. I was among one of the first women in the country to become a licensed PT at the time. I suppose I started my professional career at Sheri but then later moved to HEAT. There was no gym there at the time and slowly we developed and improved facilities, bringing in new equipment and growing bigger year by year. Six years ago I got into a more active role in the development of HEAT and transitioned into the managerial side.
Having worked in a leading role in the fitness industry for the past 15 years made me realize that there was a great market here for high quality gym equipment, exercise machines and other gym-related accessories. There were no suppliers here who could provide such a complete gym setup easily. So we got into contact with F1 Recreation (Singapore distributor) to establish such a setup in Maldives. And that is how Resort Fitness Maldives came into being.
Along with my partner in the company we provide a complete service, starting from the planning stage itself to executing the structure and layout of gyms. We provide full support in obtaining all required equipment and after-sale service of the equipment as well. With the know-how I obtained over the years I do consultancies and provide 3D and 2D visual diagrams for resort gyms. Since we are based in Male’, it is easy to provide spare parts and send technicians to the resorts to deal with the technical problems. We also provide training for the staff at resorts.
What were the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
Honestly, it took some time for us to really get started. Educating and making clients aware of the need and importance of doing regular maintenance and up-keep of the equipment and facilities was a tough job. Also, the fact that we were offering products at higher prices since they were of higher quality than what you’d usually be able to get in Maldives was a key obstacle we had to tackle. However, it gave us the chance to build a more trusting relationship with the clients in our target market as there are a lot of other brands already competing for attention. Needless to say our product is superior with its over 40 years of service in the fitness industry worldwide and clients eventually understood the importance of investing in high quality equipment.
What do you consider your most significant achievement?
We have won some major projects, including some 5-star resort properties, entirely because of the quality of our products and our competitive pricing combined with the reliable aftersales service. For example, we are doing full-fledged setups in some of the most sought-after resorts openings this year in the country. However, we are not limited to supplying just gym equipment, we also offer installation, floor planning, and even consultancy on how to run holistic fitness centers. We provide 2D & 3D drawing layout with the suggested equipment for guest and staff gyms as well. I believe it’s a huge achievement that we are trusted by the top-grossing brands for our services and it gives me such a great privilege to be a partner to some of the best international hotel brands operating in the Maldives.
What sort of positive change do you think your company has brought to the industry?
Over the last 30 years or so of tourism in the Maldives the focus on providing a gym equipped with high quality equipment, facilities and services has really taken off and evolved. Many resorts had gym facilities even at the very beginning. However, when it comes to maintenance, it’s always the technicians from Singapore or Sri Lanka who will come over to the resorts and fix the problems. Sometimes resorts might have to wait for three to six months for technicians to visit. One of the best things about our company is that we have certified technicians based in Male’ who are available within a few hours. It is so convenient and hotels don’t need to worry about delayed services anymore since we can schedule our technicians to do regular onsite visits and also visits as individual cases arise. Furthermore, we carry spare part for all our equipment and they all come with warranties.
Where do you see yourself and your company in ten years?
In ten years I see Resort Fitness catering to a large majority of resorts in Maldives along with the guesthouse market as well. We will have our very own showroom and develop fitness oriented businesses throughout the country and be the hub for life fitness products in SEA region and provide some warehousing and assembling of spares. It is possible we might want to branch out into the rest of the world as well.
Any advice for those looking to follow you in your footsteps?
For anyone trying to make it in the business world, I would advise them to really be confident. Don’t be afraid to take risks and always be invested in your work and dedicate your time and efforts into building and developing it. Consider your failures as stepping stones and use what you’ve learned from your mistakes to further your growth professionally and personally as well.