Perceptible economic slowdown and a declining dollar are making Technogym, noted Italian gym equipment manufacturer, turn its attention to Asia and also Russia.
Technogym is the world's second-largest maker of exercise equipment. and is an exclusive supplier of 1,000 exercise machines on the grounds of the 2008 Olympics.
"Technogym is haute couture," experts say, "In terms of design, comfort and ergonomics, it's the best."
Technogym places its workout machines the way Armani does its clothing, at the top of the market. Its newest offerings include a running machine with an integrated iPod that it developed with Apple; and a fitness machine for the elderly, complete with a red and green lights to tell users when to take a break.
Technogym is also working with hotel chains and corporate customers like Deutsche Bank, Nike and Google, to provide them with top-of-the-line fitness centers for employees. A Kinesis model workout machine covered in hammered gold, for markets in Russia and Dubai, sells for $15,000, writes John Tagliabue in New York Times.
Technogym posted revenue of 485 million euros last year ($761 million), averaging growth in the last three years of 20 percent annually, selling machines and services.
But partly because of the weak dollar, the company is losing contracts in America to competitors like Life Fitness. In response, Technogym has become a case study in globalization, tapping countries with newly rich residents eager to work out on sophisticated fitness machines.
Nerio Alessandri, the 46-year-old owner of Technogym has expanded the company's reach in recent years to Dubai, Russia and China, countries where few people join health clubs and fewer still have home equipment.
Alessandri said that while fitness, including facilities like clubs and workout equipment, is a $17.6 billion industry in the United States, and $29.2 billion in Europe, it is virtually unknown in Asian countries like China and India. While 14 percent of Americans are health club members, the figure in Asia is about 4 percent, mostly in countries like Singapore and Japan. Technogym has had remarkable success in the United States, which now accounts for about 15 percent of revenue.
But Alessandri sees the greater potential in Asia, including Australia.
"America is now in Asia," he said, "not in America."