Technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and data analytics are helping health and fitness startups design tailormade plans for their finicky customers
For Sanjana, a young business professional in Mumbai, the best part of her fitness app is that it allows her to cancel her gym session at a moment’s notice without any penalties. “The pay per session from Fitternity gives me the facility to book only when I can make it to the studio or even cancel the session when I cannot work out that specific day,” she says.
“I always hated that gyms wanted me to pay for the whole year upfront. I could never decide whether to go to a gym close to home or to office. I love Fitpass because it’s a monthly plan and I can workout close to home and close to office,” says Vivek Khare of Mumbai.
Khare and Sanjana’s agonies and ecstasies over their respective fitness apps reflect the woes of urban, young Indians looking for professional help in their quest for a healthier and fitter version of themselves. The last three to four years has seen the mushrooming of many health and fitness apps, each touting their own route to sustainable good health, taking the help of digital technology to understand the Indian customer better, tailor their services accordingly, and stand out in the clutter.
“Aggregators / classifieds / listing portals inherently compete with the gyms and studios and charge referral fees/commission to gyms and studios,” says Fitpass’s co-founder and director Arushi Verma. Committed to making fitness affordable and accessible through technology, data and intelligence, it flipped the traditional model on the head and created a tech-enabled interconnected ecosystem where instead of charging the gyms, it paid the gyms and fitness studios.
“People are inclined towards new workout trends—something new to breake the monotony of daily life,” says Verma. Only a shared economy based model could deliver that. So the Fitpass membership was designed in such a way that it covered gyms, yoga, Pilates, Zumba, kickboxing, CrossFit, MMA, spinning, aerobics and more.
Healthcare app HealthifyMe has been using technology to design customised diet plans. Its AI-powered virtual nutritionist Ria offers personalised diet plans to users taking into account their health goals, medical history and taste preferences. “She” also has the ability to self-learn and improve as volumes go up. Says Tushar Vashisht, co-founder, HealthifyMe, “We have recently launched smart plans (starting `299 per month) that are powered by Ria. These plans have been built from the learnings obtained from the 3.5 lakh meals designed by HealthifyMe’s coaches taking into account a user’s taste preferences, local cuisine nuances, weight-loss goals and medical conditions.”
Buying expensive memberships and then being unable to utilise them means disgruntled customers. It was to address this that Fitternity came out with its pay-per-session business model. “Our plan enables users to book and pay for single sessions without requiring any membership. Average cost of a session is around `300,” explains Neha Motwani, founder and CEO, Fitternity. “This solves the major consumer challenge of under-utilisation of memberships and high entry barrier due to upfront payments. It also provides for variability for the mature segment of fitness consumers.”
Fitternity aso offers peak and non-peak hour dynamic pricing on gym inventory.
Perhaps the best example of making customised services a hit is Germany-based Freeletics, with more than 30 million users worldwide. Its Artificial Intelligence algorithm collects feedback as the customer uses the app and designs workouts tailored to her goals. India is its sixth largest market.
Closer home, Pune-based Squats has adopted a somewhat similar approach. Starting off as an online community where members would encourage each one on their fitness journey, it has now evolved into assigning a personal trainer via its app Fittr. Says founder Jitendra Chouksey: “AI and analytics are amazing technologies that help us gauge key parameters right from consistency to adherence to motivation levels to a certain degree. These insights are like a goldmine to the coach so he can attune himself to clients needs and provide better services.”
Faacto, founded by Akhilesh Bagaria and Vaibhav Bhandari, takes technology-assisted customisation to its last strand, literally. “We undertake DNA testing for identifying presence of APOE gene which influences the metabolism of fats, Clock gene that affects the circadian rhythms, ACTN3 gene which affects muscle fibre composition, FTO gene that indicates a propensity towards obesity , among others.” says Bagaria. The tests starting at `299 is used by lab experts to study the genetic makeup of a user, and then highly personalised diet plans and workout routines are crafted.