A Facebook group called ‘Fittr’ is full of ‘transformation’ tales, of people narrating their stories of becoming fit, losing weight, gaining muscle, etc. “Never knew I could become so fit eating the everyday rice, dal, chicken, paneer,” one member writes. What started as a Facebook group in 2013 of people taking fitness advice from a techie, has now become a large online fitness company with nearly a million members, that is set to do business of Rs 100 crore by the end of this financial year.
The founder, Jitendra Choksey, calls himself an accidental entrepreneur. Back in 2013, when he worked for an IT company in Pune, he never imagined himself founding and running an online fitness company.
“When I moved to Pune, I used to work out regularly. People in my office began approaching me, asking how I did it. So, I started guiding those guys. Then when the word spread and more people kept asking, I created a group where I’d share fitness and nutrition information. And as people saw results, they thought I was giving people some magical recipe and soon, I started being chased by hundreds of people,” laughs Jitendra as he recollects.
Jitendra then started writing down everything he was being asked and created a document called get shredded. He then uploaded that on the Facebook group, so he didn’t have to keep repeating the same tips.
Jitendra says that in no time, that document was downloaded by over 25,000 people, who then started asking him more questions on the group that he’d answer, and the community kept growing.
“We ran the community for free for 1-2 years. By the end of December 2015, we had 50,000 people,” he adds.
But through these two years, Jitendra noticed one recurring theme. People would read the guide he made, but still come back to ask him if he could train them personally.
“That’s when I realised that it’s the human touch, mentorship and the accountability that people needed. I started researching more and realised that while there are many online training programs, they’re not systematic,” says Jitendra.
In 2016, Jitendra launched a website called SQUATS. It was modelled like an e-commerce platform for fitness, except, instead of products, there are fitness coaches.
SQUATS, which has now been rebranded to Fittr, is a community-driven online platform that helps people attain their fitness goals, be it gaining or losing weight or generally keeping fit.
The ‘Get Shredded’ document is available on the website for everyone to download for free, read, understand their BMI, fitness goals and create a fitness plan of their own. The Facebook group then helps you review diets and clarify queries related to diet and exercise.
While all these services are for free, Fittr also offers fitness coaches, who, based on your BMI and requirements, create a personalised diet and exercise regime at a fee.
It has packages starting from Rs 6,000 for three months, and the fee depends on the trainer and time period of the package. And this is where Fittr earns its revenues from.
Four years since launch, Jitendra claims that Fittr has helped transform over 1,00,000 people across the globe. Fittr clocked a revenue of Rs 3.9 crore in the month of January and is targeting to close the financial year of 2019-2020 at Rs 42 crore and a total revenue of Rs 100 croe since inception.
The magical recipe
Fittr follows the concept of quantified nutrition and resistance training.
“It’s no magic pill. It’s the basic primitive concept of calories in, versus calories out. You eat less than you expend, you walk more, you lift weights,” Jitendra says.
The diets designed by coaches usually include your daily foods such as rice, wheat, lentils, vegetables, chicken, paneer, etc, to ensure the body receives carbohydrates, protein, and fats in the right quantities. The exercises too, are designed to target all parts of your body, to ensure wholesome fitness.
Fittr also has people sharing recipes of dishes made as per the food usually included in diets.
Fittr currently has over 8,00,000 members and around 200 coaches, who are certified and trained fitness trainers. In many cases, coaches are former members who went through their own ‘transformation’ journey.
Fittr also launched an app in September 2018, which it claims has seen over four lakh downloads.
While there has been no systematic return rate, Jitendra says that Fittr has seen 45% of people come back to the app once their package gets over. “If there are 3,000 customers this month, 45% will come back next month,” he adds.
Fittr also offers a complete refund to those who feel like they didn’t see worthy results after enrolling under a fitness coach. “You can opt out at any point. But we have seen less than 4% refunds so far,” he claims.
According to Jitendra, what worked for Fittr is its community-based model.
“We have never put money in marketing. Fittr is a community and we intend to continue building this community of fitness professionals,” he adds.
But fitness as a market has been growing exponentially in India. From players like Cult, Healthifyme, to aggregators like Fitternity, the space has grown massively.
According to some industry studies, nearly six million people in India spend an average of $350 to $400 every year towards fitness, making it a $2.6 billion market.
As per a YourStory report, the market size is estimated to hit $6 billion by 2023.
But Jitendra says that he doesn’t see his startup competing with anyone. As per him, Fittr is a business that compliments other businesses. “Our users utilise services of other businesses such as gyms,” he says.
Jitendra is now looking to build the Fittr app into a social media platform for fitness. “Fitness, physical and mental wellbeing will be part of the app, which will be community driven and based on positivity,” he adds.