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Deccan Herald, Jun 13, 2016
It’s not everyday that you get motivated to wake up early and hit the gym or go for that mandatory 15 minutes brisk walk. Sometimes, even after getting a gym membership, people tend to postpone workouts for a fine day that hardly comes. But, what if you have online coaches, who offer you the much-needed motivation, and groups that can challenge you for either weight loss or just to burn that abdominal fat, in a more healthy way?

Anticipating serious money in the fitness and wellness space, and also realising that there are more unorganised players in the market (gyms at every nook and corner), a number of startups have entered the online fitness space, and they bring a behavioural change among people by providing various services, right from finding fitness or yoga centres in your locality to online guidance and coaches to monitor your diet.

“Consciousness towards fitness and wellness is increasing in India and at the same time, currently, the fitness industry in India is very unorganised. Only through technology, we can organise this industry,” says Amaresh Ojha, founder and CEO of Gympik, an online fitness discovery platform with a network of 9,000 fitness centres and 6,000 personal trainers. It has features like ‘book a trial’ and ‘book a demo session’, thus making it easier to select centres and trainers, respectively.

“There is more demand for personal trainers but finding the right trainer is a challenge. We are bridging this gap through technology by providing a platform so that users find it easy to get experienced, certified and verified trainers at one place and trainers can find clients in a convenient way,” he said.

Currently, Gympik has one lakh visitors per month on the site. It recently launched an android app and is touching almost 1,000 downloads. “We are planning to touch almost one lakh users on our app by August. We want to expand to five more cities by the end of this year. At present, our major focus is on technology development and expanding our business in the cities that we are present in,” he said.

Another startup, which is into search and discovery of fitness centres is Medikoe. The startup recently raised angel funding of $100k, and connects consumers with hospitals, diagnostic centres, pharmacy and wellness.

Sreevalsan Menon, founder and CEO of Medikoe, said, “What if you get everything — healthcare, fitness, and pharmacy details, among others — on one platform, which also gives you discounts? We are just a seven month old startup, but have over 400 deals across dental, homecare and physio, and have done around 1.5 lakh transactions on our platform.” He added that online brings convenience.

Medikoe plans to come up with a new platform, where one can challenge others on weight loss. “You can create a group and create rules of the game,” he says.

Technology for tracking fitness

While technology, today, helps people monitor everything, there is growing obsession among people with self-data.“This trend gives rise to a heightened awareness of one’s own health but can also give rise to misinformation because information without context is dangerous. The ability to track and measure should always be accompanied by the ability to understand the meaning/context of the information,” said Ritu Soni Srivastava, founder of Obino. A virtual weight loss and health coaching solution on mobile, Obino has been used by over 2.5 lakh Indians. “Our core differentiation is our focus on coaching at scale - our extensive use of artificially intelligent technology and algorithms to super-personalise the health coaching experience and also scale productivity of our coaches with human-assisted intelligence,” Srivastava said.

Talking about competition, she says, “With a Rs 9,500crore wellness market (FICCI 2012 study), the market is 80% weight loss and we compete with offline branded players like VLCC, Anjali Mukherjee’s Health Total, as well as online players like HealthifyMe and GoQii.”

Obino’s health coaching solution is completely virtual with no face-to-face contact between coaches and their customers. “We think that this is the direction in which the future will unfold as lifestyles become hectic and people prefer to engage with their healthcare experts at their own pace and convenience, via their mobiles,” she says.

‘Offline centres are here to stay’

Though there are a number of startups working in the online space, there are well-known offline centres, which have carved a niche for themselves. What will happen to these offline centres in the long run? “The way they operate or offer their services is going to change. Offline centres have lot of user data with them but such data is not captured. A technology analytics and predictive platform that consumes this data can be a game changer for fitness centres,” says Ojha of Gympik.

Tushar Vashisht, co-founder and CEO of HealthifyMe says that offline wellness centres that work with traditional models of delivering fitness are giving room to digital technologies. “Gyms/fitness centres have a drop-off rate of almost 80% in the second month, while mobile technologies have the edge of delivering services anytime, anywhere. Offline centres will have to re-think their engagement as the whole world is moving online,” he adds.

What differentiates HealthifyMe from other apps? Vashisht says at the heart of HealthifyMe’s platform is the world’s first and largest Indian calorie tracker, which allows users to track their food, exercise and weight, easily on their smartphones or computers, while continuously analysing the user’s data and provide powerful insights ensuring users stay within their calorie/ nutrition budgets.

The startup has grown 10 times in the last 12 months, and hopes to hit 20 lakh users in the next 12 months. It boasts of having over 100 nutritionists and trainers available in-app that act as personal coaches for its clients. “We plan to increase it to 1,000 in the next six months,” he adds.

Roshini Gilbert, director of services and fitness in HealthifyMe, says, even if there is any personal trainer, he/she can’t handle more than 10 clients, but online, coaches can handle more number of clients. “I have 80 premium members on my dashboard and they can connect with me anytime. Even if members are not active, we call and encourage them to get back to their fitness routine,” she says, adding, according to experience, coaches can earn anywhere between Rs 20,000 and Rs 1.5 lakh a month.

A developing market

Rutvik Doshi, director at Inventus Capital Partners, says, “Startups should focus on one or two core areas, instead of focussing on so many areas.” He adds that fitness is a developing market and that there are 6-8 crore people in India, who are potential consumers, whether online or otherwise.
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