This woman entrepreneur’s online fitness training startup has grown by 4x in four years

Jyoti Dabas started the Institute of Nutrition and Fitness Sciences (INFS) in 2016 with an initial investment of Rs 3,000 and clocked revenues worth Rs 3 lakh in the first month. Four years later, it has grown by 4x, accelerated by the need for fitness during the pandemic.
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In 2014, Jyoti Dabas was working in a consulting company in Gurugram but could not see herself being in the same space for the next 10 years. To venture a different path,  she took a sabbatical to explore a place in the fitness industry. 

She also used the time to study alternative medicine and get certified as a personal trainer and dabbled in corporate wellness as well. 

“I wasn't entirely sure of what I wanted to do in the fitness industry and so started a personal blog, answering common questions on fitness and weight loss. And I made sure to provide science-backed solutions from research papers,” she told HerStory.

On a friend’s recommendation, she connected with Jitendra Chouksey and the team behind the Facebook group. SQUATS, now known as Fittr, a fitness startup backed by Sequoia and actor Suniel Shetty.

In 2016, Jyoti founded Institute of Nutrition and Fitness Sciences, an online fitness training platform. Started with a mere Rs 3,000 fee to set up the learning management system, INFS clocked sales worth Rs 10 lakh in the first month.

The INFS journey

Jyoti emphasises that she has designed the courses by combining her knowledge of both diet and exercise. Over the years, the modules have been improvised by researchers and scientists from across the world. 

Today, it offers courses in two categories - foundations of fitness for self and on becoming a professional trainer, priced at Rs 14,500 and Rs 8,500, respectively. It also holds workshops, webinars, and short skill-based training sessions in the price range of Rs 900 and Rs 2,500.

Jyoti says it was a conscious choice to set nearly half the price offered for similar courses in the market.

She adds that students will be able to recover their fee amount in a month by working on a freelance basis. She further claims that online trainers at INFS earn Rs 30,000 at the entry level and attain the potential to earn Rs 3 lakh per month, depending upon their talent and years of experience.

More than 90 percent of trainers at Fittr, its sister-concern, have INFS certification.

The founder seizes every opportunity to interact with the students, be it on group chat sessions and social media “to understand where they are in the journey, the roadblocks, and how we can improve them.” 

“The team is expanding in size phenomenally. We are adding more courses and I have to look and make sure we are addressing the right needs in the market,” Jyoti adds. 

The COVID-19 outbreak initially caused a slight dip in students enrolling for courses in March and April but it has skyrocketed in the last few months. 

“It is because people thought the coronavirus will go away in a few months and now when they realise it is here to stay has led to a surge in our business.” Jyoti says increased consciousness about health and immunity and the need for skill development has worked in their favour. 

It helped that the platform had always been digital first, delivering lessons online. The startup learned that although the Indian population has largely been a textbook learner, people are open to online learning as long as the content is easily understood, and to this end, it is now developing mobile application to make it more accessible. 

The roadblocks 

The entrepreneur acknowledges that challenges are a part and parcel of entrepreneurship.

“I am a very cautious person when it comes to spending and it has taken me some learning to understand how and when to spend on the right things,” she says.

Getting the right team and building credibility as a brand has also been a major challenge.

As a company, it has been selective about associating with the right trainers who go on to become face of the startup for students. 

Having grown organically so far, the startup plans on ramping up on its community expansion plans and social media activities to create brand awareness. As of now, Jyoti says it has funds to support the increased spend for at least a year.

Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan

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