Rajat Jain’s annual membership at a gym in Hyderabad had just lapsed. He decided to look for something new as he was not very happy with the idea of renewing the same membership for the upcoming year.
“I did not like the experience as I only used the gym for a collective period of two months in a yearly membership. Also, I realised the trainers were nice only for the first few weeks, when they were pitching for me to choose them as personal trainers. After that I noticed they just ignore you, and you lose interest in working out as well,” Rajat says.
Rajat was looking for something affordable that would keep him motivated. He filled up a query form for gyms around Kondapur Area on JustDial, and, a few hours later, he got a call. It was Jatin Bansal, founder of Hobbyix, briefing him about a monthly fitness pass that would give him access to over 120 fitness centres in the city. Within minutes, he was convinced.
“I was getting access to so many things for less than Rs 2,000. I was really happy as I could use the pass to try out things that were new to me, like zumba and swimming,” adds Rajat.
A couple of years ago, Jatin was in a predicament similar to Rajat’s, in that he did not want to spend a lot of money on an annual gym membership, because he knew that he wouldn’t do justice to the deal.
“I had heard about ClassPass in the US, but they have restrictions such as a cap on the number of times a member can visit the same fitness studio. I don’t think that kind of model will help to address fitness issues in India, which is why I decided to take this up as a project,” says Jatin.
Birth of the startup
Until November 2014, Jatin, a graduate from IIT-Delhi, and his friend, Abhishek Bhatia, from NIT Kurukshetra, worked on Hobbyix part time. Soon they realised that they had to come onboard full time if they wanted to tap the opportunity.
As they researched gym dynamics, they kept hitting on one statistic that gave them more confidence – only 25 to 30 per cent of members turn up for regular classes when they have signed up for an annual gym membership. This may be why when a gym has floor space only for 1,000 people, it still targets selling 4,000 memberships.
“A user who signs up for a fitness membership finds doing the same activity monotonous and boring and this results in low retention. This is where it all started, and we thought of making this experience fun, engaging and exciting by giving an option of a new activity every day,” says Jatin.
Over the next few months, they left their respective jobs, and launched Hobbyix on June 19.
What’s special about Hobbyix
Hobbyix is a monthly, credits-based fitness membership pass that gives users access to a variety of fitness studios and activities. When users purchase the pass, which costs Rs 1,999, they get 30 credits that can be used to redeem over 300 activities, across 120 centers in Hyderabad.
“Most normal gym activities consume only one credit, but some exclusive fitness studios, like the ones that Tollywood actors frequent, charge three credits. Basically, you can use the credits however you wish. That is the kind of flexibility we wanted to offer with our venture,” says Jatin.
Once the users receive their credits, they can go online and book any class they want. When the booking is confirmed, the instructor of the class receives a text message, with the details of the person attending the class. Bookings can made up to five minutes before the commencement of classes. Members can opt for anything, from yoga and gym, to swimming, dance or even boxing with the pass.
“People find doing the same type of exercise every day boring and eventually give up on their fitness journey. This gives them an opportunity to do exciting new exercises every day,” says Jatin, who added that they also sold single-day passes.
Market and competition
The Indian fitness market is estimated to be about Rs 100 billion in 2015 and is growing at a CAGR of 20-25 per cent year-on-year. The major chunk of the market is unorganised and faces problems such as low turnout rates, low customer retention etc.
While there are quite a few startups that have ventured into this space, including the likes of FitnessPapa, Gymer, Gympik, they all have a ceiling limit of three or four visits per fitness studio per month.
Glimpse into the present and the future
In just one month, over 700 classes were booked in Hyderabad via Hobbyix. “The future looks great because we plan to expand into a bigger and better network in Hyderabad, and over the next quarter in all the other metros too. The product will be a lifestyle membership pass, acting as a portal to book classes for music, photography, cooking and dance,” adds Jatin.