Ikigai, the boutique fitness centre with branches in Tsim Sha Tsui and Central, is the brainchild of Hong Kong born and bred wellness expert, Gianni Melwani. The half-Persian, half-Indian Psychology major did not originally set out to work in wellness, but the universe had other plans. In 2015, he co-founded the Hybrid Group to organise live concerts around the city, though Melwani says it was never his true calling.
A sports injury serendipitously catapulted him into the practice of yoga and he’s never looked back since. Through the Hybrid Group, he transitioned from concert promotion to developing Hong Kong’s largest wellness festival. Iris: Your Escape is a two-day event that gathers more than 4,000 participants under the banner of promoting health in Hong Kong. He talks to Tatler about mental health and his proudest career moment so far.
What does Hong Kong mean to you?
Hong Kong has been my home throughout for most of my life. I have met some of the best people I know here. It’s a place full of opportunities, and I have made lifelong memories here for which I am truly grateful.
Were you always in the wellness space?
No, but I always found the human mind particularly fascinating. I grew up with an athletic background, winning athletic school competitions at the German Swiss International School and captaining our football team throughout high school. I then went on to live and play football, first in Brazil then the US, where I simultaneously completed my studies.
I was around 16 years old when I went to Porto Alegre in the south of Brazil [to play football]. It was a professional academy called Gremio FC where many great Brazilian professionals came from, including the likes of Ronaldinho, Emerson, Douglas Costa and Lucas Leiva. I played for the under-18 age group category for the club. It was a special time in my life that I will never forget. I came back to Hong Kong and taught at a Brazilian soccer academy here, training young children between the ages eight and 16. But then I suffered a hip and ankle injury and it wasn’t a very pleasant time. Back then, I neither had the knowledge nor the expertise to complete my rehab correctly, nor did I understand my body. I read online that yoga had helped many professional athletes have longer careers and remain injury-free. That was enough motivation for me to attend my first yoga class. From that moment on, I knew there was something special about the practice. Over the years, yoga transitioned from a physical activity to a spiritual journey for me.
Describe your business ventures in one sentence.
To put it simply: bringing people together.