How Yoska is encouraging fitness enthusiasts to develop a passion for triathlon events
co-founder Deepak Raj found his passion for entrepreneurship while pursuing his other passion — staying fit. As an obese IT professional who didn’t find much time to hit the gym, Deepak saw running as an optimal way to lose weight. As he progressed in his journey, he developed an interest in triathlon — a sports event that combines running, cycling and swimming — as it helped him beat the monotony of a regular workout while gaining body strength.
As he searched for more triathlon events in India, he noticed the lack of quality and recognised training programmes that could help people like him hone their skills. It wasn't long before Deepak saw the observation as a business opportunity that could fuel not just more awareness about triathlon events, but also bridge the gap in training for such competitions.
Quitting his job of 14 years, Deepak took the entrepreneurial plunge in 2013 and launched Yoska. “I quit my job after working in the IT industry for 14 years to develop my interest in triathlons. I started by conducting online classes to train people in the sport and organising events to spread awareness. My aim was to set up a successful business by encouraging others to develop a passion for the sport,” says Deepak, who has participated in 22 IRONMAN triathlon events till now. He also represented India at the Ironman World Championships in 2017.
The Bengaluru-based company offers training programmes for triathlon events, while helping people reach their fitness goals through endurance sports and walking. Its programmes also include introductory courses for people who're taking baby steps towards staying healthy, nutrition programmes and corporate wellness courses. The company has a team that is based in various cities of the country.
Countering lack of awareness with a digital platform
Apart from giving up the security that came with a well-paid job, there were several challenges that riddled Deepak's entrepreneurial journey. "The lack of awareness about the sport made things difficult initially. I often had to explain to people what a triathlon is," recalls Deepak.
What added to his woes was getting the required finances, especially as there weren't many triathlon events being organised in the country. "It took me some time to understand the market and build a subscriber base.”
In 2016, the Yoska team realised that it needed a platform that would help it ramp up the brand's reach not only in India, but internationally as well. "We opted for a .in domain name as we wanted to establish our identity as an Indian brand not only in India but also in global markets. Given the lack of awareness about the sport, it was important that we were accessible online. Hence, we opted for a .in extension rather than a .com domain name to establish the necessary image and character," says Deepak.
Just like Yoska, the National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI) is helping hundreds of businesses in the country to establish themselves as a brand with its .in or .Bharat domain — which is India’s Country Code Top Level Domain (ccTLD). It’s among the few internet exchanges in the world to offer a ccTLD in multiple languages.
Over the years, the extension has helped Yoska widen its subscriber base and boosted the website's SEO presence. Not to forget, create an impression on international clients too, he states.
Yoska is also credited with bringing the famous Ironman Triathlon event to India. “It was a challenge to convince a global brand that India was ready for the event and partner with Yoska for the initiative. We finally managed the feat in 2019," says Deepak.
How a .in extension helped Yoska stand out
Deepak feels that a .in extension helps Indian companies like Yoska stand out amidst the clout of international brands and is cost-effective too. "When we organised our first Ironman Triathlon in India years ago, a .in extension helped us generate a lot of buzz around it and encourage maximum participation."
When asked why budding ventures should opt for a .in domain name, Deepak says that the extension helps an enterprise in creating a unique brand identity with minimal investment. "At the same time, it also creates a level-playing field for smaller businesses like Yoska. It helps create an informational platform where people can easily access information about our programmes and then sign up for them," he adds.
The COVID-19 pandemic prevented the Yoska team from hosting the Ironman Triathlon in 2020, which had a sizable impact on their business operations. "At the same time, there has been a growing acceptance of online training among people and our online programmes have helped us lessen some of the damage. We quickly recalibrated and redesigned our portfolio. In addition, the company has also ventured into corporate wellness, where digital training sessions are a lot more acceptable," Deepak explains.
Whatever be the new normal, Deepak feels that Yoska would be able to leverage it to its advantage by diversifying. "As far as future plans go, Yoska is looking to explore new subscriber bases to create more buzz about triathlon events and boost participation," he adds.
The Shaping India Inc's Online Growth series chronicles the journeys of startups and SMEs in India and how creating an online presence on the .in or .Bharat domain powered their success stories.