Amaresh Ojha

Business Head, RoundGlass Gympik

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Budget 2022-23 Expectations: Fitness Industry Demands Benefits For Gyms And Startups

As several people choose to pursue their workout regimes from their homes, the AI wearables, advanced phone apps, and at-home equipment is expected to become synonyms to personalized fitness in the country.

The budget season is around the corner and industries across the spectrum are awaiting the forecast of the new fiscal year. Last year, despite the disruption caused in the first half of 2021, India witnessed a steady rise in its GDP, with an 8.4% increase in Q2 2021-22. This growth is well attributed to market relaxations and the rise in vaccinations that hit over a billion doses last year. In 2021, health and wellness continued to dominate the global scenario. In India, over 69% of people adopted fitness routines and improved their diets compared to around 50% global population for the same metric. This year, as the country anticipates the rise of the Omicron variant and Work From Home (WFH) becomes the new normal again, the sentiment towards personal health is only going to strengthen. To go by the recent findings of the Indian Sports and Fitness Goods Market 2021, the market is expected to thrive with a CAGR of 8.6% during 2021-2026.

However, to bring such growth figures into fruition, the industry needs dedicated support from the government – making the upcoming budget a crucial step towards it.

So, how can the central government accelerate the rise of the Indian fitness industry in the post-pandemic landscape? Here’s looking at three pre-budget expectations in detail.

Provisions for gyms and fitness centres

Gyms, fitness studios, and training centres have long been the first preference for people looking to kickstart their fitness journey. Home to 20,000 gyms, several Indians have been relying on these outlets’ spacious fitness interiors, advanced equipment, and personal trainers to fulfil their varied fitness needs. However, in the last year, as gym entrepreneurs shut their studios amid lockdown restrictions and increased COVID-19 protocols, there were more losses incurred than services sold. While most of the owners shifted their training sessions online or to hybrid fitness modules, 25% of fitness centres had to permanently close down due to a lack of capital resources.

In the upcoming budget, the need will be to recognize the losses that the fitness market is bearing amidst the ongoing crisis. Whether it is maintaining high-tech equipment or providing employment to thousands of trained staff, these institutes have been spearheading professional fitness experiences across different age groups and geographies without additional benefits. To complement their efforts in ensuring better and more effective fitness services in the longer run, the government can begin by implementing policy measures such as interest-free loans and tax reductions on fitness infrastructure and equipment in the coming year.

Moreover, since the scope of Fit India initiatives is largely focused on promoting fitness activities among educational institutions and rural belts, the government can integrate personal training into such programs and create provisions for these fitness institutes to expand their professional services in villages and towns.

Incentives for new-age technologies and fitness startups

As several people choose to pursue their workout regimes from their homes, the AI wearables, advanced phone apps, and at-home equipment is expected to become synonyms to personalized fitness in the country. Currently witnessing a y-o-y growth of 94%, the Indian wearable market holds massive potential in the post-pandemic fitness landscape. Similarly, as people looked for more personalized diet plans, exercise schedules, and wellness activities, the number of health and fitness apps saw a whopping 156% increase last year; with around 58 million new users jump-starting their well-being journeys.

To empower these sustainable lifestyle changes among Indians, there is a need to incentivize new-age technologies in the fitness industry. According to the IBEF report, India is also expecting to reach 900 million internet users by 2025, thereby opening a massive scope for Indians to integrate digital fitness into their regimes.

Incentivizing technological innovations will further aid the growth of emerging fitness startups in the post-pandemic landscape. India is known as the third-largest startup ecosystem in the world, with over 30 new unicorns added in 2021 alone. However, in the list of these successful startups, the fitness industry fails to have any proper representation. Despite their contribution in mitigating the pandemic’s impact on health and wellness in the country, only one Indian fitness startup has managed to hit the one billion dollar mark last year.

From offering different regimes —yoga, Zumba, HIIT workouts, and meditation— to customized wellness-centric products, these new-age platforms are catering to the growing need for personalized and digitally-led services in the market. Taking this into consideration, the government must provide dedicated funds to young companies and help them normalize and represent holistic living at both domestic and international levels.

After two years of navigating through an unprecedented crisis, India has entered a new age of working, learning, and living. This year, as the country moves towards building a robust hybrid landscape, the role of fitness studios and apps will need to be better recognized and encouraged. That being said, the upcoming budget will play a crucial role in setting the stage for growth, reach, and large-scale adoption of these fitness services and making them more accessible, affordable, and inclusive in 2022 and beyond.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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