The fitness industry in India has come a long way, from the days of the local “Akhadas” to gyms and other sorts of workouts which includes Zumba, Aerobics etc. In India, focus on fitness and wellness has been growing rapidly. People’s interest in maintaining their health is not just because of a “stay fit factor” but also to remain un-troubled by diseases and other issues like obesity and diabetes. Today, the fitness industry accounts to over $24 Bn industry.
However, there are certain loopholes when it comes to addressing the customer concerns and providing a smooth service. The industry is not that much organized and only a handful of players are taking advantage of it. The sector is fragmented and there is a need to fit it well. Fitness experts and enthusiasts, Arjun Singh and Sameer Mehra understood the restrictions and issues in this sector and thus came up with the idea of Plank.
Founded in September, 2015, Plank gives customers unlimited access to a curated network of fitness centres. Currently, based out of Gurgaon, Plank aims to make fitness flexible and adaptable to a customer’s time and needs. Arjun said, “We realized that most people hesitate to make a commitment to fitness because either they think it’s too hard to get into, or inconvenient due to distances, they would have to travel to do their workouts. Hence, Plank, with a variety of wonderful workouts and a choice to try something new at your own convenience looked pretty attractive to us.”
How It Works
Once a customer registers as a Plank user, s/he gains unrestricted access to the entire Plank network. There are hundreds of options for users to explore and they can use any of the offers as many times as they want. The startup lets customers book classes on the go.
Arjun mentions, “Today, there is a mix of options our typical customers look for. Largely they’re divided into people who want to do instructor led classes like Spin, Zumba and/or Yoga and then there are those who look for more traditional options such as going to the gym to lift weights.” Keeping their requirements in mind, Plank offers a variety of classes, including CrossFit and Mixed Martial Arts classes, near to customers location.
Flexibility is an area of consideration when it comes to listing out the classes. Customers can visit as many gyms and studios as they want or the same ones as often as they want. Plank is also selective, when it comes to choosing the gyms and the studios while adding to it its network. Each location goes through a screening process and are checked for safety, hygiene and quality of instructors. “We want our user experience to be consistent”, explains Arjun.
A Plank user can access to exclusive content after registration.Plank also carries out classes and bootcamps with its network of trainers for its users during weekends.
Currently, Plank is targeting people who are trying to incorporate health and fitness into their daily routines. This implies that any person who is willing to get fit can be considered as a target audience for the startup.
Business Model, Monetization and Traction
The startup works on a subscription based model. A one month subscription is available for $37 (INR 2.4K), and it gives the user unlimited access to the entire network.
The startup has also raised its initial round of funding from Aman Kumar, a serial entrepreneur and investor which was followed by a seed round led by AdvantEdge Partners, a New Delhi-based venture fund.
Since its inception in September, 2015, the startup has managed to gather a customer base of 500. “We didn’t have a marketing budget. Everything has been via word of mouth. This gives us hope.”
Challenges & Competition
The biggest challenge, as per Arjun is to change people’s mindset about fitness. People find it difficult to ingrain the concept of a workout routine into their daily lives. This is why Plank offers variety and flexibility when it comes to their classes. However, part of the challenge lies in educating the customer on what are the different options and how they can build a customized exercise regime which is not easy to figure out.
With more and more people getting health conscious, several startups have forayed into the fitness sector with little twists in their business models. Recently, GHV backed FitMeIn, which is an online platform that offers monthly multi-studio membership to premium fitness workout destinations in Delhi/NCR. Other startups in this particular domain include Dumbelled.com, Your Fitness Planner, Jeevom, Sports Coach India and Flexipass. These are just a few names who are targeting the same market as Plank.
However, according to Arjun, what sets Plank apart is unlike other companies where the visits to a gym or class are limited to a particular no. of times, there is no such restriction for the Plank users. “Flexibility is one metric which the startup relies upon heavily,” he said.
Apart from fitness and wellness, the 12 member team wants enter the sports industry in the future. According to Arjun, the goal of Plank will always be to partner with the best available gyms and studios and build the best all-round experience for its users. Plank is currently, available on Android and iOS.
Plank’s flexibility in terms of scheduling and location offers its users an opportunity to experience a holistic fitness regime as per the user convenience. However, a lot of players have entered the market recently and the challenge now lies is in differentiating the product from the rest of the crowd. Both from a customer and a partner-centre’s perspective, it is important for Plank to maintain quality so that the experience of a customer doesn’t get hampered. The startup also needs to keep a keen watch on how to effectively optimize organic growth as it is still mostly dependent on word of mouth advertising. It is now remains to be seen how well Plank encounters its challenges and builds a business from ‘fit to profit’.