Covid Outbreak Throttles India s Fitness Industry

While the nation is steadily winding its way out of the harrowing second wave of coronavirus, the ominous third wave is viewed as the next lurking predator ready to attack in late September or early October. To compound the dire scenario, children are expected to be the most vulnerable group this time around, with no vaccine evasion for them until next year. To make matters worse, experts also claim the writing is already on the wall, with Kerala reporting over 30,000 new cases for the second straight day and even Delhi and Mumbai seeing a slight increase in daily cases.

Amid the excitement, there’s a deeply ingrained pessimism that has gripped many fitness enthusiasts who shy away from working out at their fancy neighborhood gyms. For example, Abhishek Mukherjee used to spend Rs. 25,000 a year to train 5 days a week at Anytime Fitness in Dwarka before the pandemic hit. But when the Covid-induced lockdown was imposed last year, he decided to end his membership and instead opted for morning walks and “workout at home” as a safer alternative.

With the lower turnout of gym members (and even patrons), the domestic fitness industry is in a doldrums and can barely stay afloat with the looming third wave. The number of walk-ins has been decreasing regularly, although all outlets followed government-mandated Covid protocols, such as:

Rayansh Thakur, Athlete, Fitness Expert & Nutritionist believes the pandemic has had a twofold impact on the fitness industry. In his words: “The pandemic hit me professionally. While people have realized the importance of maintaining their bodies and moving, not everyone is ready to actually surrender. The realization came in theory, but hardly in practice. People are still skeptical about going back to the gym and not everyone can opt for a virtual workout. Even though we offer free consultations, growth has still been bleak. But if the situation improves and calms down, we will hopefully get back to normal soon. “

Gym entrepreneurs burn their fingers
While smaller gyms are about to close, larger chains with mammoth losses and disguised unemployment are becoming the norm for many thousands of trainers and supervisors. Additionally, many prominent gym owners and franchisees are either downsizing their branches or resorting to large-scale layoffs, or even going so far as to ask their employees to take vacation (go unpaid).

Gold’s Gym, the world’s largest international gym chain with nearly 150 centers and 2,000 coaches in 95 cities in India, has put its expansion plans on hold. “Rent accounts for a large part of our turnover at 25 percent, and we require waivers, but many landlords have not yet committed themselves. While payroll accounts for 30 percent of our costs, electricity and water account for 10 percent. Payments are also made for housekeeping, safes, security, and equipment maintenance. So our franchisees work with wafer-thin margins, “reveals Nikhil Kakkar, COO of Gold’s Gym India, adding:” According to government guidelines, we had to close our gyms in Mumbai for at least 6 months last year and for many months an intermittent base in Delhi . In the end we had to permanently close 10 fitness studios in different cities and now there are 140. “

Pravesh Gaur, owner of the Fast Fit fitness chain in Delhi and Faridabad, already sent some of his employees on unpaid leave last year. After suffering an approximate loss of Rs 20-30 lakh per branch, he is actively considering other austerity measures. “Lockdowns (during the first and second waves) were really tough for our industry and still are. Although I didn’t close a gym, I was forced to send some of my employees on unpaid vacations. We are now planning a hybrid, online and offline concept. I’m currently in the process of developing my own online platform, ”reveals Gaur, who also runs Srauta Wellness.

Likewise, Kamal Sharma, owner of Fit & Fab Fitness, is closing its independent center in Bangalore. “I’m closing my gym and opening a new one in Mysore. Even though the shutters have been shut down (during the lockdown) the landlords are unwilling to forego the Rs monthly rent. 50k per month. “

Most of the people quoted above agreed that the government can help them with interest-free fitness center loans and should extend the window of time to pay their GST

Market dynamics

Although the estimate of the current size of the fitness industry is controversial, a report by Redseer Consulting had the country’s fitness industry, which includes equipment, sportswear, fitness services, and recreational sports, valued at $ 12 billion in 2018 by FICCI, E&Y, Redseer Consulting , Global Wellness Institute and IHRSA & Fitternity in fitness services estimate that six million active users spend an average of $ 350 to $ 400 on fitness services annually, representing a market of $ 2.6 billion in size.

The number of fitness studios in operation is also not accurate. According to an estimate by Fitternity, a web aggregator for fitness outlets, there are around 24,000 gyms and studios in the country. Gympik, a health and fitness aggregator, claims there are about 20,000 gyms across the country, including neighborhood exercise centers as well as nationwide chains. A study conducted by Gympik shows that 58 percent of men visit a gym for bodyweight training to build muscle, while women are more inclined to dance exercises – 85 percent for aerobics and 81 percent for Zumba – to achieve weight loss goals. Reducing stress and health risks was a major reason for respondents to join fitness centers.

As Amaresh Ojha, Business Head, RoundGlass Gympik, puts it: “The world fitness after Covid is very different from that before the Covid world. People accept the virtual training along with regular classes. We have made it possible for fitness centers to conduct their courses virtually and keep the members busy. “

Future prospects
Market research firms estimate that despite the Covid onslaught, the entire fitness industry will grow by 27 percent annually and reach the $ 32 billion mark by 2022, including fitness services (such as gyms, slimming services and formats such as Zumba, aerobics, Crossfit, etc. ) will contribute approximately $ 6.6 billion.

Many analysts predict that the industry will now operate on the “hybrid business model,” which is essentially a combination of limited on-site and online courses. Sonal Singh, co-founder of Fittr, says, “Anyone who wanted to keep going, stay fit or start your fitness journey amid a sedentary lifestyle and switch to virtual fitness. This further accelerated the adoption of a hybrid model of online / face-to-face training that more stationary gyms are likely to maintain as the pandemic recedes. “

According to industry estimates, the home fitness market in India is Rs. 1,400 crore growing at 40% CAGR. India has home fitness penetration of 0.5% compared to other major markets like China and the US, while China and the US have 5% and 20% respectively.

Mohit Mathur – Founder and CEO of OneFitPlus, India’s largest FitTech and Connected Fitness company, says: “Given the WFH model and our inherent need to stay fit (even more so after the pandemic), many people are choosing fitness At home. The disorganized private fitness training market sees the effects in certain metropolitan pockets. But at the macro level, we’re seeing a huge increase in the on-demand fitness segment at home. “

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