1. Staying fit with fitness bands

Staying fit with fitness bands

Fitness trackers of all kinds have become extremely popular in urban India, helping people to manage their physical activity and calorie intake and stay in shape. Device makers see significant opportunity due to growing interest in the connected health and fitness market

By: | Updated: September 7, 2015 11:47 AM
fitness band

Fitness trackers of all kinds have become extremely popular in urban India, helping people to manage their physical activity and calorie intake and stay in shape.

Wearable fitness devices seem to be becoming the new fashion accessory these days. Whether you are looking to count your daily steps, keep track of your sleep habits or see how many calories you burn in a workout, a slew of new gadgets aim to offer people more insight into the details of their lives. These gadgets, called fitness trackers, have increased in popularity in recent months, and are showing no signs of slowing down. The devices often work together with smartphone apps and websites to help you view your activity, set health goals, share your achievements with friends and sometimes provide extra motivation to get off the couch.

“We have seen that people in India have a growing interest in connected health and fitness devices that can help them lead healthier, more active lives,” says Woody Scal, chief revenue officer, Fitbit, the San Francisco-based fitness-tracking device maker, which recently launched its fitness wristbands in India across 300 towns as part of a strategy to grow beyond its home market. “India offers great potential for Fitbit given the growing focus on personal health and fitness and we believe the time is right to launch the brand here. We expect that our expansion to India will help us to continue to drive the growth, scale and reach we have experienced across the company during the last year.” In 2011, Fitbit sold products worth $14 million and in 2014, sales touched $745 million.

Wearable technology is developing swiftly in the west, and over the past year the excitement has been replicated in high-growth markets such as India as well. Fitbit, GOQii, Xiaomi, Garmin, Samsung, YU, Intex, among others have forayed into the lucrative India market with their offerings. Even conventional watch makers such as Timex are not behind. In its first appearance in the wearables market, Apple finds itself within striking distance of the
established market leader, Fitbit. According to IDC, Apple shipped a total of 3.6 million units Q2 of 2015, just 0.8 million units behind Fitbit’s 4.4 million units.

Research firm Gartner predicts that by 2016 smart watches will constitute about 40% of wearable devices for the wrist. “Wearables has created a good market share and is being widely accepted by consumers all over. Today, we also have a variety of slick and trendy designs which are more appealing than a bulky tech device which was earlier circulating the wearable market,” says Vishal Gondal, founder & CEO, GOQii, a fitness device maker (see interview).

A quick snapshot of the fast-growing wearable gadgets market. An IDC report says that the wearables market will maintain its momentum and witness a strong growth of over 173% during this fiscal year. Almost 72.1 million wearable devices will be shipped in 2015, up a strong 173.3% from the 26.4 million units shipped in 2014. The report also predicts that shipment volumes are expected to experience a CAGR  of 42.6% over the five-year forecast period, reaching 155.7 million units shipped in 2019.

Another recent report by IDTechEx suggests that global spending on wearable technology will rise to $70 billion in 2024 from $14 billion in 2014 and the sectors that will remain the most dominant among others are going to be healthcare which merges medical, fitness and wellness. In India, the market currently is at a nascent stage, however, it is likely to become a big market for wearable technologies. According to Accenture’s Digital Consumer Tech Survey 2014, of more than 6,000 people in six countries, consumers in

India ranked highest in their keen interest in buying wearable technologies. 80% of Indians were most interested in buying fitness monitors for tracking physical activity and managing their personal health followed by smartwatches (76%) and Internet-enabled eyeglasses (74%).

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Fitness in focus

According to Fitbit’s Woody Scal, studies have shown that India tops the list of diabetic people. “As people become more aware of health risks, demand for such devices will go up. We see significant opportunity on the horizon, due to growing interest in the connected health and fitness market. We estimate that consumers spent more than $200 billion in 2014 on health and fitness services. At Fitbit, we are continuing to focus on introducing new features and services to increase user engagement and revenue.” He adds: “Our unique selling point is innovation and our products provide holistic health information—tracking one’s activity round the clock. Fitbit devices are widely accessible on most platforms, including more than 200 iOS, Android and Windows Phone products, as well as Mac and PC computers.”

Amarinder Dhaliwal, COO, YU says, “Though nascent in India, the wearable technology space has immense potential for growth. The IDC report holds testimony to the same where it is indicated how the wearable health devices market in India is pegged at R25 crore in 2014, and expected to touch one million units in 2015 in India compared with the US, which stands at $1 billion touching eight million units in 2014. Devices like YU Fit will be pivotal in democratising technology for the masses, with a disruptive price point of Rs 999.”

Explaining his device, Dhaliwal says, “YU Fit is not just a fitness band but a smart integration of accessories and app for a wholesome smartphone experience for those who seek more. It’s a wristband that works in tandem with a dedicated app to dynamically monitor fitness levels, set alarms and reminders and integrates wearable technology and expert-led personalised coaching to encourage users to make a sustainable shift toward a healthier and more
fulfilling lifestyle.”

Riding the wave

According to Anupam Mathur, head—sales and marketing, Timex Group India, the Indian watch market has come a long way from catering to the mass audience with classic timepieces to catering to the small but expanding luxury segment customers. But what has currently taken the Indian market by storm is the introduction of the wearable technology. “With the changing mindsets, we have always focused on molding the technology to better fit our consumer’s expectations worldwide,” he says.

In recent months, Timex has expanded its Ironman portfolio with the introduction of Timex Ironman Move x20 and Timex Ironman Run x20 GPS. Timex Ironman Move x20 is an all-day activity tracker that captures all-day activities including steps, distance, calories burned. Timex Ironman Run x20 is a GPS watch which is as comfortable and easy-to-use as a sports watch. It is a personal trainer for runners that entails the advantage of a GPS technology and provides real-time distance, pace, speed and calories burned while running.

“Given the continuously expanding Indian watch market industry, we aim to expand our presence over Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities apart from strengthening our foothold in the major Tier 1cities. The focus is to dwell more into the wearable segment by offering technologically advanced products that serve our customers well along with maintaining our legacy as the pioneer in timekeeping,” Mathur says.

Needless to say, wearable technology is progressively growing all over the world and is moving towards becoming a huge hit in India as well.

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