Kuwait is currently experiencing a booming trend in exercise, health and fitness but it was way back in 2014 when Khaled Jafar spotted the real potential in this market. After gaining his MBA from Harvard Business School (HBS), his keen senses discovered Orangetheory Fitness. Khaled sought and won ownership of the license for the entire GCC, with the ladies only studio in Salmiya’s Symphony Mall being the first to open recently. Local interest and membership is growing daily and Khaled is rightly considering a second location opening soon. No wonder it is popular, as Orange60 has been voted as the number 1 workout by Men’s Journal, The New York Times and Shape magazine. Bazaar spent some time with the intrepid entrepreneur to find out more about the man behind the brand.
How does a young man in Kuwait set his sights on Harvard and who encouraged you to apply and supported you throughout the application process?
Honestly, the decision to get an MBA and apply to HBS came during a point in my professional life where I felt lost. I was working as a consultant for the first three years of my professional career and I realized that this wasn’t what I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing. The problem was, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. So I decided to apply to business school and use my time there to figure out the next step in my life. I knew I wanted to do something entrepreneurial, but I didn’t know what.
You come from a diversely entrepreneurial family. Where did that desire to pursue business come from?
I count myself blessed and fortunate to have great role models in my mother who started her own construction company and my father who spent his life working at KOC and rose through the ranks to be CEO. They instilled in me the belief that through a strong family foundation, hard, honest work, and a bit of luck you can accomplish things in life.
As far as why a life in business, I guess this just happens to be a field I’ve always been interested in. All businesses interest me as I find it fascinating how there are so many different ways to build sustainable and impactful businesses.
My curiosity and wide interest in business is what led me to pursue this opportunity.
What was your very first business idea, and what did you learn from that time?
This is actually my first foray into business, and I hope through delivering a highly level of service to our clients and committing ourselves completely to delivering on their goals, that we can be successful, but only time will tell.
Why did you decide to open a single sex studio, and why for women and not men first?
I believe the Orangetheory Fitness workout is a great and effective workout for both sexes and we do plan on opening a men-only studio at a later point in the future. As far as opening a single sex studio, the decision was made for us as it is difficult to get a mixed studio license (you have to be affiliated with a hotel). We decided to open a women’s only location first as we felt there was a gap in quality fitness offerings for women in Kuwait.
What is it about Orangetheory Fitness that captured your attention to bring it to Kuwait?
I could see that exercise and clean living is a phenomenon that is taking hold globally and I was very interested not only in the business of Orangetheory, but also the fact that this exercise and program which works, is something that is changing people’s lives. It’s been 3 years of hard work and commitment to bring it here to Kuwait and I wanted to start here because it’s a market that I know very well.
Why do you think Orangetheory Fitness is so successful?
The number one reason Orangetheory Fitness is so successful is because it’s the most effective workout at delivering results, especially if your goals are to be toned and to lose weight, which is why we have the highest Net Promoter Score (percentage of people who would recommend our services highly) in the fitness industry by far with an average of 83% (Fitness industry averages are below 40%). Our workout and methodology is backed by science and each workout is designed for you to spend 12-20 minutes in what we call the Orange Zone (where you’re working out at 84-91% of your maximum heart rate). By achieving that threshold you continue to burn calories post workout due to EPOC (Excess Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption).
Our workouts are suitable for all fitness levels and allow you to control exactly the kind of burn you desire. With just one glance at the screen the instructors can also see how you are performing, and encourage you to keep on pushing yourself that little bit harder, or relax a little to burn differently. You can enter our class and see athletes working out next to total beginners and women of a variety of ages as well. It’s a very supportive environment.
Lastly, the brand has been very successful because they’ve continued to innovate to make sure their workout remains ahead of the curve. Since I’ve started our negotiations they’ve already upgraded the heart rate monitors twice, and continue to make changes to make sure we deliver a more effective workout and maintain a high level of service to all our clientele.
Have there been any other benefits to opening the studio that were unexpected?
We’ve had amazing stories of ladies who have already had their lives transformed through this workout. We’ve had one lady lose 16 kg in the first two months working out with us, and many others make significant progress towards their fitness goals. We’re seeing women join who have never exercised to those who are used to working out daily. Our members are a diverse cut of Kuwaiti society, from conservative to liberal, and a wide variety of nationalities. It’s led to women who may not have sought each other out previously, actually talking to one another, working together in the gym, and creating friendships where there may not have been friendships before. Orangetheory builds communities, we know this, but across cultural differences too is an unexpected bonus.
What is the next chapter for Orangetheory in Kuwait?
We are currently developing our second location in Kuwait in Egaila. Opening date TBD but hopefully before fall!
Which country is next?
Along with my partners in the UAE, we are close to signing our first lease in Dubai. The plan is to have our first studio in Dubai open by end of 2017 or beginning of 2018.
To register for a free session, go to Orangetheory Fitness, Mezzanine Floor, Symphony Mall, Salmiya or call 9412 2294/5. For more information, please follow Orangetheory Fitness on Instagram @orangetheoryfitnesskw.