Ten years ago, Fitbit pioneered the wearables category with the introduction of its first health and fitness tracker. Since then, this San Francisco-based firm has become a globally popular wearables brand that produces health and fitness wearables, allowing people to track and measure their daily activities. “We address the market from a holistic ecosystem point of view as far as health and wellness is concerned. We have our hardware, software and our platform to help our customers stay healthier,” says Alok Shankar, country general manager – India, Fitbit. Recently, Fitbit introduced its new smartwatch, Fitbit Ionic, along with other products here. Sudhir Chowdhary caught up with the Fitbit India head to get his views on the wearables market opportunity in India. Excerpts:
What are the key priorities for Fitbit in India? How does the company look at the growing opportunity here?
Overall, the wearables market in India is still quite nascent. It is something which is still in the formative stage. We have been in the country for the last two and a half years and our focus has been to really educate the market in terms of the benefits that our products and services deliver. As far as our priority is concerned—on a global scale, it is to make people healthier. We want to help our customers become healthier. So all the activities that we do are centred around this core philosophy. We have devices to first track that information from a person, then we have the app to interact with the users and now what we are also doing is to give active feedback to help users in their journey towards better health. So we are addressing the market from a holistic ecosystem point of view as far as health and wellness is concerned. We have our hardware, software and our platform to help our customers stay healthier.
Globally what is the outlook for wearables? How is the Indian market growing compared to other countries in Asia?
We are seeing a good double-digit healthy growth here. A fairly even spread growth that we see in the APAC region. As far as global outlook is concerned, in the next four years, the size of the wearables market should double. Overall this would translate to a market of about $10 billion.
Do Indians show a growing interest in fitness devices? How important is the Indian market for the company?
Yes, Indians do have a growing interest towards fitness devices. As far as the Indian market is concerned, it is extremely strategic in nature. As I said, earlier, we have been in this market for two and a half years and we have spent a lot of time educating consumers, and we had a healthy growth in the market.
What are some of the big innovations that Fitbit is bringing to the market?
Recently, we introduced three new devices in the Indian market. The first one is Fitbit Ionic, it is the first full-featured smartwatch that we are introducing. This is a true smartwatch —it has a separate OS, you can have third party applications, there is a SDK—so that the developer community can build applications for this smartwatch. It is made from space-grade aluminum and comes with Gorilla Glass which is scratch resistant. It gives you five days of battery life, a very handy feature for a smartwatch. This watch is phone-free – so it has space for music, the device also has its own GPS. Then, there is Fitbit’s first wireless headphone called the Flyer; it has six hours of battery life and comes with dual microphones. It delivers a good high-end performance. The third product is Fitbit Aria 2 Wi-Fi Smart Scale, reengineered for great accuracy and easy setup via your smartphone’s Bluetooth connection, helping you track and understand your body composition including weight, body fat percentage, lean mass and BMI.By syncing your data from Aria 2 with the Fitbit app, you can see all of your stats in one place, making it easier to track your progress.
Can you share some of the innovations that Fitbit is working on?
Our latest product—the Ionic comes with five days of battery life. This is a big innovation. In addition to this, we have also incorporated a new sensor—the SPO2 sensor. It is the blood oxygen level sensor. With this capability, users can measure blood oxygen levels. We are also constantly working on improving our algorithms. We introduced sleep stages last year and it is becoming more accurate now. We also have a program called Coach which is getting integrated with our core Fitbit App. Coach gives the user active guidance. This app gets highly customised so a lot of work goes at the back-end to be able to deliver customised and personalised information.
The wearables segment started some years back with just a few sensors and today there is so much that one can do with such devices. In such a scenario, what does the future hold for such devices?
We strongly feel there is a lot of potential in the space and direction where we are headed. I am referring to the space of health and wellness and moving forward, this is where a lot of innovation will happen.
How is Fitbit expanding its business operations here in India? What is your go-to-market strategy here?
Fitbit has been in the Indian market for quite some time now and during this time we have made a lot of positive impact with the help of strategic high-performance partnerships around availability and brand positioning. We have an exclusive partner in the online space in the form of Amazon.in, and Ingram Micro and Rashi Peripherals are our national distribution partners. And on top of this, we continue to utilise the digital medium to educate more customers.