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Published on: Nov. 18, 2020, 4:19 p.m.
Fitness industry gets ready for the future
  • The fitness industry is gearing up to reboot itself

By Arbind Gupta. Assistant Editor, Business India

The novel corona virus outbreak has impacted the fitness and wellness sector in a big way. Even as gym owners and fitness centres are gearing up to resume operations, implementing better on-premise sanitisation and other SOPs, consumers are still adopting a cautious approach. After having grown at a rapid pace in the last decade or so, the entire fitness sector has suffered a major setback during the last few months. And, now, experts feel that the industry may go through a churn before it gets into a consolidation phase, where a sizeable number of standalone small centres in the unorganised sector may shut their shops or change hands with bigger players.

According to estimates, there are over 200,000 gyms in India, of which only about 30,000 are somehow operating in an organised manner. Currently, there are no regulatory or other frameworks to regulate this industry, though the need for having some checks has been felt lately. 

“No doubt, the industry is passing through one of its worst phases in this Corona-afflicted market scenario,” says Praveshh Gaur, owner of Srauta Wellness, a Faridabad-based, new-age, wellness brand. “But this trying period may also go a long way in consolidating the market in favour of a more organised set-up. We have seen a mushrooming of gyms and other fitness and wellness-related businesses. Most of these players lack basic expertise and trained manpower and, thus, there is a lot of compromise on quality of services and deliverables. It is high time that the authorities take note of this and come up with some system. After all, this industry deals with human health and well-being,” Gaur adds. 

The brand has a 17,000-sq ft, modern wellness centre, providing a wide repertoire of services in the fitness and well-being segment. In fact, this centre is the second biggest wellness centre in Delhi-NCR, with a complete health and wellness package under one roof. Despite headwinds in the short term, Srauta Wellness is coming up with one more centre – in Gurgaon – by June 2021 and has a vision to open branches across all metro cities by 2024.  

Gaur also has four new-age wellness centres by the name of ‘Fast Fit Gyms’ in different sectors of Faridabad. Equipped with the latest equipment and machines, each of these gyms, backed by experienced trainers, is spread over an area of 7,000-8,000 sq ft.

Most importantly, to support his business as also the overall industry, Gaur has set up a fitness academy in Faridabad, under the brand ‘Fast Fit Academy’, which equips fitness trainers. It offers a five-month-long training course, which is affiliated to the American College of Sports Medicine, American Council of Exercise and American Heart Association. The academy prepares professionals for the wellness and fitness industry – yoga instructors, personal fitness trainers, master trainers, group activity instructors, massage therapists and nutrition & dietetics specialists. “We are trying to help build the entire ecosystem in a progressive manner,” affirms Gaur. “Along with the infrastructure, the most crucial link in this entire business is the trainer. Currently, there is huge shortage of good trainers and, we at Fast Fit Academy, are trying to bridge this gap through our own way.”

While the fitness industry is gearing up to reboot itself, experts believe that, going forward, the industry will have to work differently to not only surmount the challenges in the post-Covid scenario but also to explore the opportunities in this rapidly-growing and fast-evolving marketplace. 

  • According to estimates, there are over 200,000 gyms in India, of which only about 30,000 are somehow operating in an organised manner

Digital fitness solutions

A recent survey, entitled ‘Covid-19 Fitness Behaviour Survey’ by Bengaluru-based Gympik, a health and fitness service provider aggregator, reveals several interesting trends related to holistic fitness, as well as novel challenges the Indian fitness industry is facing in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak. One of the most comprehensive studies of its kind, the survey draws insights from the responses of over 50,000 fitness enthusiasts from multiple regions. It maps the changes brought by the pandemic on the fitness behaviour of the Indian consumer.

A significant finding of the survey details the future shape of a post-pandemic reality. The survey highlights how consumers have adopted digital fitness solutions to counter the physical restrictions posed by the pandemic. The extended lockdown drove a massive surge in the demand for virtual classes for yoga (87 per cent) and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) cardio workouts such as Zumba (72 per cent), aerobics (67 per cent), and Pilates (22 per cent). 

Moreover, an overwhelming 84 per cent of fitness enthusiasts tried live-streaming fitness classes at least thrice during the lockdown – marking a significant increase over the corresponding numbers in 2019, which stood at 29 per cent. During the lockdown, 77 per cent of Indians also tried to stay fit by combining household chores with virtual classes and DIY home workout routines.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, it was the younger audiences who led this charge in the demand for virtual fitness. Consumers between 25 and 34 years of age were the most willing to adopt digital fitness solutions, with female users (60 per cent) being more open to virtual classes than male users (40 per cent). Major urban centres such as Bengaluru, Mumbai, and Delhi/NCR dominated the country’s virtual fitness landscape, with 58 per cent, 46 per cent, and 42 per cent of their surveyed residents working out at least three to four times a week, respectively.

The survey also analysed the consumers’ enthusiasm towards resuming gym workouts – with strong sanitisation, social distancing, and spot temperature checks emerging as the key areas of concern. And, while 20 per cent of the respondents were eager to return to gyms, only 8 per cent felt it was safe enough to do so in the current situation. About 93 per cent of the surveyed fitness enthusiasts also expressed their doubts about sanitisation measures taken at physical fitness centres after the lockdown. Almost two-thirds (63 per cent) of members said they would be more comfortable at the gym with additional sanitiser dispensers in the workout area, while 87 per cent felt regular temperature check-ins along with contactless payments and attendance systems would make them feel safer.

As gym owners gear up to resume operations, implementing better on-premise sanitisation can help them allay such concerns and get their business back to pre-pandemic levels. With customers also open to continue paying for digital fitness post-lockdown, they can also look at implementing hybrid physical/digital memberships to make their business more viable, sustainable, and future-ready.

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