The Bengaluru-based fitness startup, which lays emphasis on strength and flexibility in its training regimen, counts cricketers, film stars and national level athletes among its clients.
There is something odd about this gym on the second floor of a two-storey building in the Second Block of Bengaluru’s HRBR Layout. Here, regular gym equipment like the treadmill, cables and pulleys, bench press or the calf machine are conspicuous by their absence. Instead, what you see are bright orange iron poles and cubes, with tyres, ropes and barbells strewn all over the place.
Welcome to the world of functional training, where fitness is equated with strength and conditioning rather than rippling muscles and six-packs. Instead of pumping iron, here functional movement and activities like pushing, pulling, hinging, squatting, rotating, carrying, walking and running are used to train.
A brainchild of Devrath Vijay (28), Huzefa Talib (28) and Kristian Ebenezer (32), this functional training gym was started with the aim of ‘making India functionally fit’ and addressing a key gap in the lifestyle and fitness market.
Being fitness enthusiasts themselves, the trio is purveying their vision through The OutFit, a startup they launched in December 2014.
The OutFit also provides strength and conditioning facilities for sports and athletics enthusiasts.
The OutFit presently has three centres in Bengaluru and has imparted training to nearly 1,200 people so far. Besides the founders, there are 12 other coaches who train people at these gyms.
Devrath says, “Ninety percent of our clients are fitness enthusiasts from all walks of life and the remaining 10 percent are full-time athletes and sportsmen.”
Cricketer Varun Aaron, actors like Kanan Gill and Samyukta Hegde as well as national and state level swimmers train at The OutFit gym frequently.
The training is given on a subscription basis with a monthly package starting at Rs 6,000. A yearly subscription costs Rs 34,000.
A software engineer, Devrath dreamt of being a fitness trainer while sitting at his desk in IBM’s office in Bengaluru. Being a part-time dancer and kick boxer, he constantly looked for ways in which he could grow and educate himself to be a trainer.
Kristian worked as a marketing professional at the Sports Council in Singapore and was aware of the gaps in the Industry. A natural athlete, he wanted to introduce the concept of fitness to the masses and make it affordable in his own country.
Huzefa’s obsession with fitness stemmed from the injuries he frequently suffered while playing different sports. A banker by profession, he was on a constant lookout for a good trainer who could help him stay fit.
Devrath and Huzefa worked out at the same gym and would often exchange ideas on fitness. They enrolled for the Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialists course. The two met Kristian when they were doing their internship. Soon they were a team.
“In India, people have this notion that being fit equals having good muscles or abs. We are in the primitive stage of fitness where it is all about bodybuilding. They do not understand the need for being fit in the day-to-day functions of life,” says Devrath.
So whether it is pushing the car when it breaks down, lifting something and placing it overhead, carrying a grocery bag, or lifting a suitcase, all these activities require one to be fit, and it is here that functional training comes into play.
The training helps provide one with the strength, stability, and mobility needed in life and sports.
He says, “These things come easily to people in rural areas because they have an active lifestyle. However, in our urban culture, staying fit becomes difficult.”
He adds, “We aim to bring back the functionality in the people and get them to a position where they are able to climb three flights of stairs without huffing and puffing.”
While Kristian coaches people in power lifting and Olympic weights, Huzefa trains athletes and sportsmen, and Devrath takes care of the calisthenic side and coaches people in body weight training.
They conduct group sessions and also organise an outbound activity every month. “Being a centre for functional training, we have outbound training programmes for our customers. Activities like cycling or trekking are conducted to get rid of the monotony since not all functions can be achieved in a 2,000 sq ft gym,” says Devrath.
The founders also spend a considerable amount of time in motivating themselves and others around. They leverage social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook for marketing their venture and motivating others.
Devrath says, “Usually, while we are working out, we ask the people around us to take a video and put out it for the audiences to get an experience of our training.”
The fitness industry is on a growth path the world over. Globally, Classpass and KFit are the leading fitness aggregators. New York-based Classpass claims to have processed more than three million workout requests so far and garnered $84 million in investments across several rounds. Most Indian aggregators like Gympik and Fitpass follow the Classpass model.
Sequoia-seeded KFit offers unlimited access to gym and fitness classes in Malaysia. It secured $12 million in a Series A round early this year. Playnlive, Fitternity (raised $1 million in 2015) and Fitpass (raised $1 million in late 2016) are some of the Indian startups in the fitness vertical.
Health and wellness startup CureFit, owned by Mukesh Bansal, acquired healthcare startups Cult and The Tribe. They raised $15 million in a series A round led by Kalaari Capital, Accel and IDG ventures. The Cult.fit model combines functional training, with mixed martial arts, yoga and other formats of training.
So far bootstrapped, the founders plan to take the idea across the country. However, they would like to go slow on the expansion front to maintain the standard and quality of gyms.
“Over the years we have had opportunities to take the franchise route and grow, but that will happen only when we meet the right people whose ideologies are same as ours.”
Currently, the founders are focusing on building The OutFit Academy, where they train the trainers. They plan to take The OutFit to Mumbai in the near future and may look for fundings during the expansion phase.
The founders believe that their USP lies in the coaching and methodologies of training.
Devrath says, “India lacks when it comes to finding a right coach and that is where we would like to fill the gap. It is only with the right form and technique, can one grow and help others. Most customers are with us only because they know what we are delivering is right for them,” Devrath signs off.