Founder and President of Technogym, Nerio Alessandri talks about his dream that turned into a reality.
Nerio Alessandri was born in Cesena, Italy on April 8th, 1961. As a six year old boy he would build monuments from lego. He was no ordinary boy though; he turned his lego of dreams into a reality by building great fitness machines found in hospitals, universities, clubs, homes, hotels, offices and gyms around the world. This helped shaped the formation of an innovative fitness village in Italy (the first of its kind), which focuses on wellness as an overall theme, and soon many will be replicated across the globe.
Alessandri studied as an industrial designer. In 1983, at just 22 years old, he founded Technogym, which started in his home garage. His life could have easily taken a turn if he had continued his interest as a fashion designer. Alessandri had planned to work for Giorgio Armani at 21 years old, but instead of fashion he chose a life of health and wellness.
Today he has a world leading company offering products and services for wellness and rehabilitation. His company has equipped 65,000 wellness centres and over 100,000 homes around the world. It is estimated that approximately 35 million people use Technogym products every day. He’s employed 2,200 people in 14 branches across Europe, US, Asia, the Middle East, Australia and South America. To add to this, his credentials include: the Knight of the Order of Merit for Labour, Vice President of the Leonardo Committee – an entity which sustains and promotes Italian products throughout the world, “World Heart Champion” by the World Heart Federation and the Guido Carli Award in the category for “Corporate Social Responsibility.” But with all of these achievements under his belt, his sole purpose is to make the world a better, healthier and happier place.
Even in the early ‘90s, Alessandri defined the wellness concept as a lifestyle which aims at improving the quality of life thanks to regular physical activity, a healthy diet and a positive mental attitude. It was easy for me to recognise a pioneer and an innovator who is empathetic, passionate and compassionate. He cares about people and society. His dedication to his work is driven by the people and for the people. He said: “I was a young boy with a dream; the dream was to realise something, to build something and to leave a mark. The most important thing is to leave a legacy and to create something for the next generation. For me, it’s important to design not just an object but a culture. I want to help people, people with illnesses like depression, muscular pains and cancer. Exercise is medicine.”
How did this all begin?
I started over 30 years ago in a small garage. The first equipment I produced was a pectoral machine and my wife (then girlfriend) was the first model for the company. She helped advertise Technogym in the small garage, in 1984.
I am the industrial designer; I am the wellness designer. My vision was always to design not only the product, in terms of technology or functionality, but to design an environment and create a lifestyle – wellness is a lifestyle and the evolution of the physical. The physical is about looking good and wellness is about feeling good. I wrote a book ‘Born to Move,’ it is a book about having a gym in the garage to developing a wellness economy – in terms of evolution from a green economy to a wellness economy. The green economy is put in the centre of the environment and the wellness economy is put in the centre of a person. Thanks to this vision and thanks to my obsession and passion I continue to design and innovate.
What exactly is the Technogym Village?
In September 2012, we created the first wellness ecosystem in the world – The Technogym Village. We wanted to transform a bad lifestyle into a wellness lifestyle. I’m convinced that the New Frontier is about wellness. There is a wellness centre, wellness restaurant, wellness university, wellness work place and wellness doctors – among many other things. Everything is based around wellness because our mission is to improve peoples lives. Our vision is to deliver a wellness solution; our strategy is to provide a wellness experience on the go – everyday and everywhere.
Antonio Citterio, Patricia Viel and Partners, one of Italy’s most internationally renowned architecture studios, designed 60,000 m2 of covered space to spread across the 150,000 m2 site. This represents the first wellness campus in the world: a cultural centre, a laboratory for innovation and a production centre where staff, customers, suppliers and guests from across the globe can experience and enjoy a wellness experience. The project is fully integrated into the “Romagna-Wellness Valley,” an initiative which aims to create Europe’s first wellness district in Romagna. The design is inspired by the concepts of eco-sustainability and bio-architecture.
Tell us about your campaign ‘Let’s Move Towards A Better World.”
At the launch of the village we invited 2000 people. The theme was ‘Born to Move’. We wanted to focus not only on the movement of the body but also the movement of the mind. Technogym is a solution to societies problems. Health is wealth! Good health benefits everyone: the government to reduce the health cost, people’s improvement of everyday life and companies to increase productivity and creativity. And wellness is the balance between the body, mind and spirit.
In 2016 there were great improvements: visits increased by an average 29 per cent, new memberships increased by 16 per cent, and over three quarters of participants saw an increase in the engagement and motivation of existing members. In 2017 we are promoting a global ‘Let’s Move for A Better World’ campaign. The campaign will take place for the fourth year running, with the social goal is reducing obesity and sedentariness. Thanks to Technogym’s ecosystem platform, from the 13th to the 31st March 2017, gym members in fitness clubs all over the world will join forces to promote wellness and healthy living in their local community, and beyond. The more active the club members are, the bigger the donation will be to the communities.
What has brought you to Dubai today?
I’m visiting from Italy for the World Economic Forum. I’m a member of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. We’ll talk about improving health, wellness and the community.
How do you see health and wellness in the Middle East?
Diabetes is a big problem here, there is such a high level in the region. In Qatar, 23 per cent of people suffer from it. In Abu Dhabi and Dubai there are many locals who have type 2 diabetes. Thanks to wellness and good nutrition it is possible to improve this situation. This is the evolution of wellness.
Do you think the concept of wellness will evolve in the future from what it is today?
I am very convinced that the future of the patient is wellness. The first priority is the quality of life. I think that is the starting point for family life, work, relationships, friends and a good lifestyle. For this reason, we have invested a lot of money on research, development and education. We plan to spread wellness around the world by making sure people have good food, experience regular physical activities and have a positive mental approach to living.
What does the future hold for Technogym?
We have a vision that we want to spread throughout the world. In the next World Economic Forum in Davos-Klosters (Switzerland) we will discuss the launch of wellness cities, in terms of universities, hotels, residential gyms and corporate offices. It’s about spreading wellness cities around the world. We have created a company dedicated to consulting. It’s called ‘Wellness Partner’ and its aim is to help the government and developers to support investors to create a wellness environment.
Do you have any role models?
I have many. Adriano Olivetti was an Italian engineer, politician and industrialist whose entrepreneurial activity thrived on the idea that profit should be reinvested for the benefits of the whole society. He was a pioneer in the world of corporate social responsibility. Then there is Steve Jobs who was instrumental when it comes to connectivity. Also, Giorgio Armani is my role model in fashion design.By Hershey Pascual