Lifestyle-based diseases are on the rise in India, largely because of unhealthy eating habits and sedentary lifestyles. According to estimates of various global and domestic organisations, one out of four Indians is at risk of dying from non-communicable diseases like diabetes, cardio-vascular ailments or cancer before the age of 70.
To keep a tab on such diseases, Indians are now laying greater emphasis on fitness. Studies find that regular work outs, yoga and meditation help people mitigate the chance of getting a lifestyle disease. Akshay Verma (30), Co-founder and CEO, Fitpass, says:
With profound changes in the lifestyle and income levels of people, the fitness and wellness industry in India has become a sector to reckon with.
Fitpass lets users workout across 1,100 gyms and fitness studios in Delhi (NCR) just at Rs 999 per month.
Unlike the West, India doesn’t have many outdoor/alternative options to gyms, like cycling tracks and sports facilities. Thus, gyms and studios are essential for the Indian ecosystem.
The brainchild of Akshay and his sister, Arushi Verma (26), Fitpass started with 65 partners in January last year. Arushi reveals,
We started with a Rs 2,499 monthly plan but soon realised that it’s an expensive price point. Later, in September, we cut the subscription cost by 60 percent and this gave impetus to adoption as well as retention rate.
Having studied at St.Stephen's (Delhi University), Oxford and Columbia University, and having worked as an investment banker in London for four years, Akshay chose to deep dive into entrepreneurial adventures three years ago. In 2012, he launched a skill-centred marketplace - Skillhippo.com, which connects skilled professionals with students.
Arushi is an alumnus of Delhi University and London University and previously worked with World Bank and Planning Commission of India.
The sibling duo started Fitpass to solve the two-way pain of gyms and users. Gyms usually struggle with dead inventory and lack of footfall, while customers sign up for expensive annual memberships and fail to remain committed. The platform helps gyms acquire customers without any cost. “This gives us power to negotiate on subscription cost with gym owners. We simply transfer that benefit to customers,” says Akshay.
The company pays a contractually agreed rate for every workout a fitpass user takes at their (gym/fitness studios) location. It provides gyms and fitness studios additional revenue at zero cost. Fitpass has on-boarded leading chains, including Gold’s Gym and Talwalkars.
“So far, we have amassed 13,000 app downloads. Users have enjoyed three lakh minutes of workouts through us in the last 90 days,” says Arushi. The company claims 90 percent of its users to be in the 18-35 age group.
The one and half year old venture says to have 100 percent business growth on a monthly basis. At present, the company claims to have Rs 15,00,000 monthly revenue run rate.
“Initially, convincing gyms to come onboard was tough, but our value proposition gradually enticed them,” says Akshay. According to experts - the bigger challenge for startups in organizing fitness market comes from the consumer side. Meanwhile, people perceive a challenge today because accessing fitness is difficult. Apart from maintaining the routine despite work/personal time commitments, most gyms require customers to make upfront commitments of thousands of rupees - that's not the kind of disposable income the mass market commands yet.
However, Akshay observes a paradigm shift in the mindset. He adds:
People felt that Indians don't want to get fit or sweat it out at gyms. But this mindset has changed. The whole ecosystem has evolved. Three years ago, celebrities and cricketers opened restaurants, now they're launching gyms and fitness apps. We are a part of this change.
Globally, Classpass and KFit have been evangelising the fitness market for quite some time and have grown massively in the last three years. NewYork-based Classpass claims to have processed over three million workout requests so far and has gobbled $84 million in investments across several rounds.
Sequoia-seeded KFit offers unlimited access to gym and fitness classes in Malaysia. It secured $12-million Series-A round early this year.
Fitpass currently competes with Playnlive, Fitternity, GymPik, among a few others. While aforementioned companies have raised capital on seed and pre-Series A stages, none of them attracted a decent round from any marquee venture capital firms.
The opportunity in organising a highly-fragmented fitness market is undoubtedly lucrative. According to a study by Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and global consulting firm Pricewater house Coopers (PwC), the Indian fitness and slimming market was estimated at Rs 60,000 crore in 2012. The fitness and wellness industry seems to be standing at the inflection point, and new models for aggregation will disrupt this sector in the coming years.