Health and Fitness industry in India – A unique perspective

Since the time I remember, I have always been passionate about fitness, probably even when I dint even know that a word called fitness exists…

 

Having traveled to a lot of cities in India. I have visited close to 100 gyms across our country. Starting from Delhi in north to Andaman & Nicobar Islands in south. I am sure you would have heard the term called “gym rat”. Well if you want to see one please check out my picture

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As of now the health and fitness industry in our country is in its nascent stages. The industry is fairly fragmented since the majority of the market appears to be dominated by a large number of mom-and-pop gyms (yes sounds similar to mom and pop stores right). Organized fitness services accounts for less than 25% of the overall fitness industry in India.

The current trends in the health and fitness industry can be summarized in the following bullets:

  • Franchising
  • Beyond Tier I
  • Burgeoning Investments
  • Innovative formats (Shift towards Online medium)
  • Training Trends

The bigger trend here as I see it is the general shift in the mentality of people. Now more and more people are realizing the importance of staying fit and understanding the actual meaning of Prevention is better than cure. Now a person with even a modest income in India spends or is ready to spend some amount on gym, fitness equipments and diet as the awareness regarding the merits of staying fit is spreading thick and fast. But have we reached the awareness level close to US and Europe, No ways we are still behind by quite some distance. Lets look at some numbers. Indian fitness industry currently is valued at US $ 0.78 billion and is stated to grow at a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 25%. As per estimates it is expected to reach US $ 2.4 Billion by 2015. Globally the health and fitness industry is valued close to $ 20 billion of which a huge chunk comes from US and Europe.

Every day everywhere around me I hear people moaning about how many things are wrong with the fitness industry:

1. The barrier to entry in this industry is too low and most personal trainers are not fit for their jobs.

2. Lifestyle diseases like Diabetes, High blood pressure and other heart diseases are on the rise.

3. People who are working out in gym use too many machines and not enough free weights.

4. The funniest one: The functional training revolution has turned many personal training sessions into a circus act.

But is whining of any use. No so I have made this a no whining zone…

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“Small hinges swing big doors” so if we are frustrated with where the industry is headed, we need to start with ourselves and see what changes can make things better.  For me, that starts with optimism.  I look at the quotes above and interpret:

1. (“The barrier to entry in this industry is too low and most personal trainers are not fit for their jobs.”)That low barrier to entry has also opened doors to some outstanding personal trainers who are changing many lives every single day.  And, having more number of terrible personal trainers means more opportunities for others to show just how good they are, speaking comparatively.

2. (“Lifestyle diseases like Diabetes, High blood pressure and other heart diseases are on the rise”) this clearly means more cardiac rehabilitation jobs are opening up.  Plus, all the research on cardiovascular disease has taught us a ton on how to modify training, nutrition, and supplementation approaches for our otherwise healthy clients.  There’s no way that we know as much about low carb diets nowadays if cardiovascular disease and diabetes research hadn’t received so much attention and funding over the past. Also it presents opportunities for e-commerce websites to increase their business of selling training and measuring equipments.

3. (“People who are working out in gym use too many machines and not enough free weights”). I have an inclination towards free weight training rather than machines because this is proved from time to time that the amount of stability, power and results that are achievable using free weights can never be matched by machines. So we need to educate people to win them

4. (“The functional training revolution has turned many personal training sessions into a circus act “) the functional training revolution has also produced some outstanding coaches who effectively bridge the gap between corrective exercise and high performance training.  It has also helped everyone to understand that exercise should enhance quality of life and improve the way you move, not just make you stronger, more muscular, and less fat while you suffer through pain.

Also now with the advent of online portals it is much easier to get proteins as well as other supplements, fitness equipments and all accessories online. There is an online wave that is the beginning of a new trend in India. Now we can order everything starting from a whey protein to a power cage sitting on the sofa of our home. I don’t think the day is far where we can customize our protein composition online and order it. The online medium has definitely opened floodgates of knowledge and now every one has access to most of the modern training techniques this requires less dependency on the trainer.

The marriage of eCommerce and fitness industry is an alliance that is going to last for quite some time and this will pave a way for the future as well.

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9 thoughts on “Health and Fitness industry in India – A unique perspective

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  1. would love to hear more about how you navigated the protein market. cuz my perspective is that it requires a high entry barrier as in the knowledge needed to derive maximum benefit from supplements is not gained easily and most people follow their trainer’s advice in a blind-folded fashion! I am personally on a muscle gaining diet and am slowly gyrating towards the free weights. However, my protein intake is more from natural sources rather than supplements! because I find the industry tough to navigate!

    1. Hi Asad thanks for reading my blog… Choosing a protein in today’s market is actually a difficult proposition due to availability of a lot of choices to choose from. One more issue in this respect is the authenticity of writeup/labels on some of them. Broadly the supplement market today in India can be categorized into two halves. First one being the proteins and supplements imported from abroad mostly US and UK which are insanely priced due to high percentage of customs and import duties levied on them. Second is our indigenous produce here we get lower prices and lower quality but here lies a catch as the market is lucrative and demand is high. Many new players have entered the market whose authenticity is not testified by any food and health regulatory organization. So some cases of fake labels have caused a degradation of image of Indian supplement firms. We still have some trusted Indian brands like Venkys. But personally I prefer the higher end foreign supplements like Optimum Nutrition and Muscletech because although it is heavy on your pocket it gives you desired result, while the fact remains that many of my friends do use our Indian brands with good results to show. My advice here is focus more on the natural food options than supplements, supplements as the name suggests should be factored in for supplementing the nutrients which we are not able to get from our diet. I will be coming up with a detailed writeup focusing only on diet.. Stay tuned 🙂

  2. First of all I think it is extremely commendable that somebody finally took the initiative to research this lucrative industry and present some perspective. But I still believe the article is still at a nascent stage in terms of its analysis. First of all it would be great if some statistics are produced in terms of the demand and supply within the health industry. This would actually show where the demand is from the consumers side and where the fitness companies can create their niche to fill their void. Before creating health awareness I think we have to understand the mindset of 2014 Indian consumers from what they need from the health industry. If we have to promote companies like bodybuilding.com, GNC within our country we need to first cater to present needs of the Indian consumer from a healthy lifestyle perspective, create some form of niche/ core competency and then expand beyond by targeted marketing and health awareness. Let me know what you think Abhineet.

    THANKS,

    Abhishek

    1. Thank you Abhishek for reading my blog… Yes I completely agree with your point of view. We certainly have to focus on the needs of Indian consumer and evaluate the demand and supply gap analytically before proposing a model which can be used by a firm for any purpose. I had gathered some data in this regard but as this is my first blog so wanted to keep it light as far as data dosage is concerned so I presented only the broad numbers. And yes understanding the mindset of consumers in 2014 is of paramount importance because any move without any prior market research can lead to disasters. In future I will be coming up with some more articles in which I will try to create a statistical inferential model on basis of available market data which can be put to some use by firms operating in our country… stay tuned 🙂

  3. Hai Abhi,
    Great article. You always bring about an optimistic view of everything.
    Though I do not promote aping the western culture completely, promoting fitness must begin at an early stage. Making gym and sports as part of the mandatory course curriculum would go a long way in creating awareness.
    Also, companies like IBM have begun to promote fitness for employee well being by creating infrastructure and providing rewards. Other IT cos must also follow this model. A healthy employee is a productive one.
    All the best for your endeavours. Cheers.

    1. Hello Jk sir

      Thank you for taking your precious time out and reading my blog.Yes I completely agree with you on promoting sports and fitness at school level itself. Also programs by IT companies are commendable.However the concern for India is spreading awareness among masses about the merits of a healthy lifestyle, yes we should not ape western culture but at the same time we need to agree that the western society is light years ahead of us in this sector. Most of people in India debate that if majority of people in our population are not getting basic amenities then where does the question of fitness arise? I strongly counter this because increase in fitness levels will contribute not only to the person but to the society as a whole and we will reach a level some years down the line when most of people in our country will be having access to all basic amenities.Lets hope for a brighter future 🙂

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