Dr. Chandana Mannedi
Merrithew™ Certified Instructor Trainer
Master of Orthopedics, Manual and Sport Physiotherapy
Founder, Flex Pilates, Merrithew Host Training Center
When Dr. Chandana Mannedi found out that she had to attend a Pilates class as part of the curriculum for her degree in orthopedics at an Australian university, she was less than thrilled. But the class blew her mind, and changed the course of her professional life.
This is her story.
Chandana Mannedi was stymied. She was attending a Pilates class as part of her Master’s degree in Orthopedics at a university in Australia, a degree she had chosen because of the rigorous program and high reputation of the curriculum. What on earth was she doing in a Pilates class? “Why is this prestigious course offering this?” she wondered to herself as she waited for the class to begin. “What would Pilates know about orthopedics?”
But then the class began. “She just blew me away,” Chandana says of the instructor. “I realized that Pilates can actually treat and approach clients better than a physio. It’s biomechanically and structurally sound.”
That class was a watershed moment for Chandana. A new Pilates convert, Chandana researched Pilates trainings in Australia, but they were too expensive for her to take on top of her degree. So she pulled up YouTube Pilates videos, studying from what she could find online, and kept practicing on her own. “It was always in the back of my mind,” she says. After graduating, she returned to India and got married. She searched for work as a physio, eventually moving with her new husband to Bangalore. It was there that she found Anjali Sareen, a Merrithew™ Instructor Trainer who was teaching classes in the city. “I was so excited,” she says.
Chandana immediately signed up for classes with Anjali, training in Mat and Reformer. After eight months, she moved on to teaching her own classes. Things were looking up. Chandana gave birth to her daughter, and was teaching a method she loved. But when her baby was just six months old, her husband unexpectedly passed away. “I didn’t know what to do,” she says. So she packed up her things and moved back to her parents’ home in Hyderabad.
Hyderabad is a smaller, less cosmopolitan city than Bangalore, and when Chandana returned, there wasn’t a single Pilates studio to be found. She was determined to build one, however, but was worried whether or not Pilates would appeal to the local population. She realized she had her work cut out for her, both in setting up her studio, and in educating the market on exactly what it was.
Chandana dreamed big. She drummed up some capital to start, rented a 2,000 square foot space, and installed 1 Reformer, 2 physio cubicles and prepared an open space for Mat classes. It was the first Pilates studio in Hyderabad. Her family and friends were skeptical of her ambitions. “Everyone was laughing at me,” she says. “They said, ‘You’re a physiotherapist, you’re not supposed to do Pilates. Your studio is too big, it should be smaller.’ “But I said, ‘What if I grow big?’”
Chandana’s first few months at Flex Pilates were disheartening. “I had no clients,” she says. But she listened to the advice of her father, an athletic coach, and her mother, a fashion designer, who both ran businesses of their own. “They told me that I wouldn’t see much of anything for the first three months, would likely not see a profit for the first three years, and would begin to turn a profit around 7 years in,” she says. “They also told me you have to work hard for your first 100 clients, after that it gets better.”
When two people finally showed up for her 7am and 9am Mat classes, Chandana was excited. But they didn’t come back. “They thought it was too slow,” she says. She realized she needed to work on her message, and to adjust to people’s expectations. “I changed from telling people to come and try Pilates, to telling them, ‘if you are injured, try Pilates. It’s not a workout—it’s exercise for life.’”
Chandana kept at it, running everything from reception to cleaning to teaching classes herself. Slowly, her clientele grew. “What worked for me was word of mouth,” she says. “Do your best with one person who comes to you, and you get ten more.”
Four years later, Chandana helms a successful Pilates and physiotherapy practice. She brought in five more Reformers, a Cadillac, Stability Chair™ and Ladder Barrel. She now runs 7 group Reformer classes with six participants each week, and refers her physio clients to appropriate Pilates classes, and vice versa. She employs 2 Certified Instructors, 2 physiotherapists and one receptionist. “Now everybody knows what Pilates is,” she says. “It’s been a long process, but I’m really happy.” Chandana remarried two years ago, and is now planning to open a new branch of Flex Pilates in an upscale area of Hyderabad.
Her advice to those considering opening their own studio? “Have patience. Nothing will come in 1 or 2 days. For some it will take three months. For others, three years.” And don’t be afraid to mess up – it’s an integral part of the process. “Make mistakes,” she says, “and make it right after that.”