While many have moved to online classes, there is uncertainty about how long they will be able to sustain financially in this manner.

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Coronavirus Coronavirus Thursday, March 26, 2020 - 18:19

Anil Tippa, a freelance fitness trainer, was working in three gyms in Bengaluru, and also training clients independently just a few weeks ago. But now, he is back in his home town in Karnataka. The 21-day countrywide lockdown and the order for spaces like gyms from two weeks prior to that meant that Anil found himself out of work.

“None of the gyms I was working at are paying me anything now since I am a freelancer. I have some money to manage for a while, but my family is dependent on me to an extent. I may have to take a loan if things remain like this for longer,” he tells TNM.

Anil, who is part of the fitness industry, is one among many who are now trying to figure out how they will manage now that gyms and public spaces will effectively remain closed for around five weeks, and probably longer if the lockdown is extended beyond April 14.

Pay cuts

Vinay Menon, who runs CrossFit Agni in Bengaluru, says that they shut their centre from March 15. And while their support staff so far is still on the payroll, revenues have taken a hit as they work on a subscription model. They have not billed anyone from March 14.

“We will definitely pay the salaries for March and April. However, if the lockdown extends beyond that, we will take a call as per the situation,” Vinay says. However, he and his partners have not taken paychecks for March due to the situation.

Similarly, Raj Ganpath and Arvind Ashok, co-founders of Chennai-based The Quad, have not taken their paychecks either. So far, all of the 25 coaches in their employ are on the payroll, as are the operations, marketing and maintenance staff. “We are training our coaches now to conduct live online sessions. We have helped them set up a space in their home for the same,” Raj says.

An employee of Cult Fit also told TNM that the management had been considerate enough to credit everyone’s salaries before the usual date, in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, and also assured them that things will go back to status quo if the situation passes in around two-three months.

Cult Fit declined to comment for the story. 

No source of income

However, not everyone has the guarantee of a paid leave at this time. Seema*, who works as a fitness consultant in Bengaluru at a well-known gym chain, reveals that they have not received any communication from the management about whether their salaries will be credited for the month of March.

“We will have to wait till April 6 to see if we even get salary,” says Seema, who gets around Rs 14,000 in hand. “They have also been holding back our incentives. In the last month, we were not able to get many people to enroll for membership because of the pandemic, so we will not be getting incentive.”

Seema and her sister are the earning members of the family. However, even her sister is unable to work now due to the lockdown, leaving the family in a difficult position financially.

Some gyms meanwhile, have had to let go of their maintenance staff. Parvesh Gaur, owner of Fast Fit, a chain of gyms in Delhi and Faridabad, told PTI that while some of his staff is already on unpaid leave, cleaning staff and receptionists have been laid off. “We are looking at a loss of 20 to 30% of annual sales in March. So we are providing lots of online offers for customers to generate revenue,” he told PTI.

For freelancers, this is an especially difficult position. Sriram*, a freelance yoga instructor told TNM that he had moved back to his hometown. “I have enough saved up for around two months. Beyond that, I am not sure what I will do because there aren’t many jobs right now due to the lockdown as well,” he says.

Going digital

The internet has been a savior for many gym chains. Many, such as Cult Fit, have moved their workouts completely online for the time being. Both Cult Fit and The Quad have live sessions – while Cult Fit has prerecorded ones, The Quad’s sessions will be live.

Divya Rolla, who works at Cult Fit, says that it has been heartening to note that the number of people opting for home workouts has increased exponentially. “Earlier on average, we used to have between 1500 and 2000 people log in for live sessions per day. As of March 24, we had around 70,000 people logging in for live sessions in a day. So, I think this culture of working out, staying fit even at home and as a means of social engagement with the family at home is here to stay.”

Vinay, of CrossFit Agni, says that they have leveraged their existing WhatsApp group to retain their clientele and send them workouts. “The previous day, we send them the next day’s workouts. We send demo videos, and also encourage people to share their posts and videos of them doing the workouts,” he shares.  

Jyotsna John, who works at the head coach in Chennai-based personal training studio, The Unit, told TNM that they have also begun online sessions on Zoom, a digital platform. “For now, we have found a stream of income for the coaches – they can continue to coach their clients online, and charge what they usually do for their sessions. But we don’t know how long this will sustain, we can only hope that the situation resolves itself soon,” she tells TNM. 

*Names changed