We Are Gearing Up To Become India’s Virtual Heart Fitness Companion: Vikas Singh, Founder & CEO, fitpage
We intend to enable users to learn the impact of cardiovascular fitness and its significant effect on your body compared to just working out at the gym without having the right purpose.
Can you please tell us the idea behind fitpage and launching a fitness technology platform in 2021?
In India, people rush to a hospital for almost every fitness-related issue. Fitness has been looked at as a health problem and that is not how it should be positioned. We have seen that changing in the recent past and that has also been evident from the rise of participative events in the country, specifically running, walking and cycling. We are learning that preventing a condition is rather beneficial than treating it. We see the industry at a deflection point and we are at the right place at the right time. The prevalence of obesity and the overweight index going up is a huge worry. Still, the upside is that all of these are addressable— by doing things rightly and consistently. We look forward to being a companion of these 150M people in the country as their virtual fitness companion today and every day.
The fitpage app focuses on an integrated approach to cardiovascular fitness. Unlike other apps, we personalize the whole experience for everyone, every time. India loves to walk and we want to institutionalize movement to work to improve the heart's fitness. After all, the heart is the central axis of health and fitness.
Share some details on your Entrepreneurial journey- from a humble background to working for Goldman Sachs before founding fitpage- an endurance-first fitness start-up that curates deep tech-based personalized training, nutrition, and content through an integrated mobile and web platform. How was the ride for you?
I grew up in a remote village in Sarai Sevak, Uttar Pradesh and my early years were like other kids in rural India. We played the local games, studied on the banks of a canal and grazed cows to help the family till I turned 14. My mother wanted us to study to emerge from the cycle of adversity. That's when my younger brother and I moved to Pratapgarh, a nearby city, for secondary schooling. During my university days, I actively played several sports, represented UP and Uttaranchal directorate, and led the contingent and won rowing, sailing, semaphore medals, and a few other sports, which led to me winning the directorate's cup in the nationwide competition. I was also the cadet captain at the National Cadet Corps.
Reliance had advertised the job of a trainee security executive in weekly employment news, the primary means of finding jobs back then. The employment news used to be our bible of finding jobs and suitability to these. Since the pay was almost similar to that of an entry level commissioned officer, it was exciting enough to apply for. Being in NCC, it made me eligible to apply for the job. Subsequently, I also worked in security at Reliance before joining
Goldman Sachs. I learned to speak English at the age of 22 and joined Goldman Sachs in 2007 as a first-year analyst in 2007. I worked for about 17 years at large institutions before launching fitpage. I hold a bachelor's degree in Economics from Allahabad University and a full scholarship MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
Being an avid runner myself, fitpage stems from the idea of institutionalizing a platform where one can understand the how’s and whys and utilize these learnings to get fitter.
Why did you decide to turn an entrepreneur?
I loved my job, company and the industry. I was also fit. However, the desire to democratize my knowledge was long-prevailing, and I started helping people get fitter in the family and friends' circle. Building a platform to address these fitness-related issues at scale seemed imperative. That is how I moved away from corporate life to creating something that impacts people's physical and mental well-being with each workout.
Shed light on your further funding and expansion plans in 2022?
We go to market in early 2022, and in the subsequent year or so, we want to prove that one solution does not fit all. This is because each human is different, comes from different physiological backgrounds, and requires a personalized approach. We want to showcase that our quantified, personalized, science-backed system works efficiently. We aim to enable users to learn the impact of cardiovascular fitness and its significant effect on your body compared to just working out at the gym without having the right purpose.
We want to be an industry leader in the next 36 months or so since the technology can support personalization at scale.
How has this one-year journey for fitpage been, how much growth the platform has witnessed?
We’ve seen tremendous growth at fitpage. The past year has been rewarding. We’ve seen our team expand from a one-man army (which was me) to onboarding 27 members who come from a rich array of academic and professional experience across fitness and nutrition. In terms of funding, in the past year, we raised a total of $3.8 million. $3.5 million in a seed round from Astra Ventures at the beginning of 2021 and we additionally raised $300 thousand in an angel round recently. This investment came from Gaurav Jaitly – MD and head of equity, Goldman Sachs India and Maj. Manoj Verma, MD of Jaguar Security. We also launched our website which features science-backed articles on running, walking, nutrition and weight loss. We launched our flagship podcast Walk to Weight Loss: an audio-guided workout and Run with fitpage which is a running science and motivation podcast. We have published over 600 content pieces till date, including articles, videos and podcasts. Going forward, in early 2022, we will launch our app.
How many users are currently affiliated with the platform?
We are in beta yet and are aiming to launch the app in early 2022
Are you planning to acquire complementary businesses in the related field?
Yes, we have shortlisted a few and are in the process of acquiring them. We have been looking at ticketing platforms for running and walking event registrations, nutrition and other integrated wearable products.
Please elaborate more on fitpage's goal of putting the spotlight on endurance performance and improving cardiovascular health
The central axis of fitness and life overall stems from the cardiovascular system that includes heart, lungs and arteries. The heart is a muscle, and it detrains as we get sedentary. We move less, sit more and it further detrains. We wake up one day and hit the gym, hoping that all will be well. However, it is essential to understand that one needs to train the heart muscle to become stronger again. And that happens with the help of cardiovascular exercises. While many strength training workouts show a positive impact, one needs to perform cardiovascular exercises progressively to sustainably improve heart health, thereby improving the entire cardiovascular system. We do exactly that - we work on building the base of your cardiovascular endurance first and then improving on it, unlike anything else available in the market.
Tell us about your offerings? How are these helping users in staying fit? Share some insights about your trainers?
We love to work with people who don’t necessarily have a prior background in working out. They need our help the most and our approach of bringing science first makes it optimal for them. How does it work then - we have built an in app cardiovascular fitness assessment, through which we can identify the current cardiovascular fitness of the individual. The entire training, nutrition, and learnings are curated based on the result. It is even more interesting that these adapt as one progresses on their fitness journey. We work as virtual personal trainers for each individual, where our in-house researchers and exercise scientists have built the platform to be able to suggest the training intensities for each individual separately. This also ensures that the information quality is not diluted and provided without bias.
Tell us about your flagship podcast 'Run With Fitpage,' which ranks in the top 5% globally and 'Walk to Weight Loss'?
Run with fitpage, our running science and motivation podcast, features about 50 episodes with Olympians, coaches, nutritionists, researchers and academicians. This podcast series is built to bring science and research from the endurance sports industry to common people since science is replicable and can be extrapolated to all. These help our listeners learn and implement these in their training, recovery, and nutrition journey. Additionally, we came up with a fully audio-guided, Walk to Weight Loss podcast, which focuses on absolute beginners to get started on their fitness journeys. This podcast has featured in the top 10 health & fitness podcasts in the country on apple podcast since the first month of its inception.
How will the world be for fitness technology platforms in upcoming years? What is the demand size of these platforms?
The fitness technology platforms can connect the community at scale, deliver the same content across geographies and make it accessible to a much wider audience. India has ~400M smartphones, so the green field is set for that number to start with. Overweight, obesity and other lifestyle diseases cover more than 50% of the population and it is increasingly gaining prominence in rural areas too. The platforms will neatly leverage economies of scale and thus make content extremely affordable. This also solves the problems of gyms with huge Capex and Opex and become mainly unaffordable to the masses. The exponential growth or participative events in walking, running and cycling are MVP proof that people want to achieve an aspirational goal. Today, India hosts more than 3000 events per year and this is only a start
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