[Tech30] A focus on fitness is ensuring that things go swimmingly for Fitso
Fitso offers training for runners and triathletes, and is currently concentrating on swimming. It offers coaching and access to all-weather swimming pools in Delhi-NCR through the year.
The seeds of Fitso were sown in 2013 when Saurabh Aggarwal, an adventure enthusiast, decided to train for the Ironman Triathlon. He found it tough to find an instructor and ended up spending hours online researching DIY drills.
A couple of years later, Saurabh, an ex-Flipkart employee and IIT Delhi graduate, teamed up with friends and IIT batchmates Naman Sharma and Rahool Sureka to launch Fitso. Launched in 2015, the fitness-tech startup – chosen as a Tech30 startup this year - aimed to be a “full-stack solution for all recreational sports needs”.
Naman, who is passionate about football, has worked with Zomato previously, while Rahool has worked with Yepme and UrbanClap. The trio is extremely fitness-oriented, and wanted to create a community around fitness. Fitso started as an app to connect users seeking training with coaches.
It has now grown into a community with over 5 lakh clients, and functions under three arms:
Flash: The “running arm” aims to help you run and get fitter with the help of a personal running coach. It currently provides coaching to more than 20,000 runners for different marathons.
Titan: The “triathlon arm” aims to make you a professional triathlete with a personal Ironman coach. More than a 100 triathletes are presently being trained for different competitions.
SEALS: The “swimming arm” aims to transform swimming infrastructure and quality of coaching in India. The SEALS comprise a group of professionals to teach swimming to children and adults as a life skill. Fitso claims to have trained over 10,000 swimmers and operates pools across Delhi-NCR.
Apart from these three main lines, Fitso also provides personal nutrition coaches to maintain fitness levels. The app guides users through their health regime or training programme, motivating them through phone calls and keeping them on track.
Fitso’s services are currently available in Delhi, Gurugram, Faridabad, and Noida.
Though the team started Fitso Flash, Titans, and SEALS together, its focus today is on the swimming arm. Saurabh, from his personal experience, says the region only has a few good coaches and facilities when it comes to swimming. So, in September, Fitso started swimming courses by taking charge of three pools on lease and deploying its coaches. As many as 500 people - both children and adults - signed up for the swimming lessons.
The startup also launched an additional app, Fitso SEALS. The app, which reportedly has over 3,500 active users now, allows people to book services on it.
In October 2017, as swimming enthusiasts were gearing up for more activity, they ran into a roadblock: winter. “That is when we realised that there is no swimming facility across Delhi and NCR that is operational during winter,” Saurabh says.
The team did research, looking for pools they could lease, and now has a total of seven all-weather pools - three indoor and four outdoor - with certified coaches. The four outdoor pools were converted to heated indoor pools using temporary structures during winter; the water temperature is maintained between 25 and 28 degrees Celsius.
Convincing pool owners to lease out their pools was a challenge, but the founders got around it. “Three parties benefit from our service - pool owners from whom we lease pools that were otherwise idle during winters, coaches who can get certified and upgrade their skills, and the users who get a year-round facility,” Saurabh says.
Coaches and trainers were impressed with their business model as they could get a year-long job instead of the six months that swimming is traditionally associated with.
While on-boarding, the team looks at communication skills, technical knowledge, and attitude. Apart from Saurabh being an Ironman-certified coach, Fitso offers coaches certification from UK-based Swimming Teacher Association (STA) and National Institute of Sports (NIS).
With a team strength of 150, Fitso now has a total of 70 coaches for swimming, including around 7-10 coaches for Fitso Flash and Fitso Titan, 20 nutritionists and fitness trainers, and 20 other staff (pool managers and plant operators).
The startup uses a dashboard for Fitso SEALS to analyse every user’s data, track and monitor coaches and swimmers through computer vision, and a mobile interface to track or assess progress. The focus on technology aspect helps Fitso ensure and maintain standards.
The market and challenges
Spending on fitness – once seen as a luxury – has now become a way of life. The Indian fitness industry is undergoing a revolution of sorts, spiked by the increasing incidences of obesity and diabetes.
According to a report by Deloitte India, the fitness industry in India is worth $1.1 billion, and growing at 16-18 percent. The wellness market in India registered a growth rate of 18-20 percent during 2012 to touch a market size of $700 billion.
The Fitso training app competes with HealthifyMe, Cure.fit, and others, but Saurabh claims that there is no other organised player when it comes to swimming.
“What sets Fitso apart is that it has all-weather pools and helps coaches get certification,” Saurabh says.
The founders claim that the Fitso training app today has around 500,000 downloads and 1,000 paid users.
But how does the startup make money? Fitso offers two plans – users can either opt for a fixed membership plan for three months or a flexi pass of 50 sessions in a year. Both are priced at Rs 250 per session.
Fitso has raised a total of Rs 3 crore from angel investors in three different rounds. It claims to have annual revenue of $1.5 million on an average.
What are the plans for the future? Fitso, say the founders, wants to “create an ecosystem for recreational sports”.