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fitness industry 26 Sep 2017

We understand that our growth will be driven by our commitment to our users: Arushi and Akshay Verma

In conversation with Arushi and Akshay Verma, co-founders, FITPASS, who spoke more about their unique concept.

By Zarafshan Shiraz Feature writer

Priced at only Rs.999 per month, FITPASS, an app based pass gives you the flexibility to workout whenever you want, however you want and wherever you want. In conversation with the brother-sister duo, Arushi and Akshay Verma, co-founders of FITPASS on the inception of their start-up and the places it is taking their bond and business.

How and by whom was the idea behind this start-up conceived? What makes you stand apart from the competitors?
Akshay: FITPASS came to being as a result of both, Arushi’s and mine personal journeys to access fitness. Arushi moved back to India from London and I from New York and faced several difficulties in our quest to stay fit – the biggest challenge was that gyms demanded an upfront payment in form of annual fees! Added on to that was the fact that gyms offered very limited workout options and working out outdoors isn’t feasible due to weather, pollution and lack of running/cycling tracks. We get a haircut every month, go for movies, etc. but we don’t pay for the whole year in one-go! So why do the gyms want us to do that? It’s fundamentally wrong.

Arushi: 97% of the gym goers are unable to derive their expected utility from an annual membership and feel cheated. Consequently, gyms in India are 70% unutilised and find it very tough to attract new customers and renewals.

The siblings quickly understood that the large but severely unutilised asset base, deeply fragmented market with no big player and extensive demand-supply mismatch presented an unparalleled opportunity! They understood that a technology driven solution could quickly disrupt the traditional fitness industry. Over the last 2 years, FITPASS has emerged as India's largest mobile app-based fitness services player and provides users with everything they need to get fit and stay fit –universal pass to all gyms and fitness studios, personal nutritionist assistance, Artificial Intelligence led Coaching Plans, Fitness Products and more. All on your fingertips!

What does one do when the other messes up a game changing order?
Arushi: This hasn’t happened yet, but that’s because we have a very transparent information sharing structure. All large decisions are collectively evaluated. Also, we are careful about calmly working through any problem. That’s our job as entrepreneurs to solve problems.

How do you keep professional tensions away from family time together and vice versa?
When we decided to quit our jobs to build FITPASS together, we consciously agreed to keep our professional and personal lives separate. As entrepreneurs, we are creating something that has never been created before. We are paving our own path and sometimes it can be stressful. Our family time is time for rejuvenation and for us to enjoy ourselves.

Share with us your journey of highs and lows of working together.
The biggest high of working together is that we know that the other person is giving his/her best each day, every day. This inspires us to be innovative and adventurous with how we tackle issues. It also makes our victories that much sweeter.

Who is your go-to person for third person opinion?
Mostly our parents – both have different outlooks on various situations. One understands business and the other understands users, so it helps to get an opinion from both of them.

What brought you guys together and what potential do you see in each other?
Our passion for making this easy! Fitness is top of mind now. But was so difficult to access and afford. Indian’s are getting richer but they’re also getting unhealthier. According to World Health Organisation, one in three Indian is medically unfit. Everyone wants to get fit but working out just does not work out for everybody. We’re helping Indians become fit and stay fit!

Both of us have worked in different fields, each learnt various skills – Akshay is a strategic thinker, great with numbers and a perfectionist and I’m meticulous, creative and innovative, and a people person.

How do you intend to power your business growth? Will you pass it down your generations?
Users love FITPASS. The core value proposition of making fitness affordable and accessible is simply irresistible. We understand that our growth will be driven by our commitment to our users! The secret sauce is our team and our passion to change how India consumes fitness forever. That's what all of us want to build as our legacy - no more upfront annual gym fees. No more being tied to one location or one type of workout. India will workout whenever they want, wherever they want and however they want.

What is your secret to success?
Departmentalize and Decentralize. We both manage different aspects of the business, Arushi – handles operations, including business development, partner management and engagement, and sales and marketing, whereas I look after technology, corporate relations and finances.

What advice do you have for other sibling duo/trio in business?
Leave your personal relationship at home when at work and your professional relationship at work when at home. This has really helped us to grow and trust each other. We are not in the business together just because we are related, but because we trust each other’s work ethics.

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