First things first, the health and fitness industry in India is poised at an inflection point, with high market fragmentation, stupendous market potential and end-to-end overall growth. Several new business models are emerging to disrupt this industry.
The fitness and wellness sector in India has come a long way from the days of the local ‘akhadas’ to wrestling now being a part of the international Olympics, with India actively taking part in it and winning medals for the country. Bodybuilding and powerlifting championships are other such examples. Since pre-historic times, mankind’s tryst with fitness was driven by the will to survive and this he did, through hunting. Festivals and social occasions made people travel huge distances and perform for hours together, which in turn required exceptionally higher levels of stamina and strength. Then occurred agriculture and farming and after that, men were trained extensively to become fit soldiers. Today fitness industry in India, is chiefly driven towards heath, well-being, good looks and confidence. Resistance training, aerobics, Zumba, aerial yoga, Pilates, MMA, kickboxing etc. have become the fitness trends over a few years in India.
However, the fitness industry in India is largely an unorganized, fragmented and unstructured sector, waiting to be consolidated into an organized entity. More recently, it has been witnessed that many mom-and-pop structures are making way for organized retailing in the gym business and the trend will only accelerate in the coming times, with the entry of global players, home grown startups as well as online marketplace business models, structured around the gyms and fitness domains- not only fitness services, but also products.
The market is looking up in India. Thanks to today’s fast paced, hectic modern lifestyles which seldom allow a person to workout actively or follow a well-crafted fitness regime. Now gyms and fitness studios are on people’s smartphones. This has forced many people to do whatever they can to keep themselves fit and active and a healthy diet often tops the set of try-outs. Heart healthy, probiotic, sugar-free, fat-free, low-cholesterol, baked, boiled are some of the lines we see appearing in product packaging these days. Furthermore, muscular and toned bodies of celebrities and fashion icons coupled with healthy lifestyles are making Indian consumers embrace fitness like never before. People are spending quite a sizeable moolah to look and feel good. The trend is encouraging people to take out time from their busy schedules and visit the gym or follow a strict workout routine in the comfort of their homes by taking personal training services. People are coming to terms with the fact that those who exercise regularly are happier and healthier compared to those who don’t. Also, regular workouts help in reducing stress, anxiety and depression and keep a host of diseases at bay, including 13 types of Cancer. Strength, energy and stamina are the other immediate clear cut benefits that come with working out regularly.
In India, the total retail market for fitness as a category is valued at Rs. 4,579 Cr (US$ 0.76 bn), growing at 16-18 per cent and is estimated to cross Rs. 7,000 crore (US$ 1.18 bn) by the year 2017. Modern retail is estimated at 28 per cent of this total market and is expected to grow by 22-27 per cent. Fitness centers are burgeoning as disposable per capita income rises and sedentary lifestyles lower immunity amongst today’s youth. Fixation to resistance training increased amongst men and so did aerobics and strength training amongst women.
The Indian fitness industry is undergoing a revolution of sorts spiked by the increasing incidences of obesity and diabetes. If we look around, we will find that weight loss advertisements are rampant everywhere. This is one of the key reasons as to why health clubs and gym memberships are growing. Spending on fitness was earlier seen as a luxury, but now it is a way of life. Not just in the urban areas and cities, but also in tier 2, tier 3 cities, towns and even in the villages, where people are increasingly opting for wellness and fitness choices. A preventive approach to healthcare has led to an increase in demand for not just services but also products. Today’s health conscious and fitness aware generation wants to look and feel good at any cost; and this is further fueling the overall growth of the fitness resources and services.
Moreover, global corporations, the ICT industry, BPOs and KPOs specifically, have already provided the impetus to the industry by installing in-house fitness centers and health clubs within their office premises. The hospitality industry is also following the trend. Domestic and international hotel chains have several existing projects in India and many others are in the pipeline. Hotels in smaller cities are providing gyms, if not spas – in order to cater to the demands of the new age health conscious customers. Couples today are receiving gym subscriptions or even fitness equipment on their weddings as gifts.
Community centers in residential societies and even apartment complexes nowadays, invariably hosts a gym. Not just in metropolitan cities, fitness is spreading like wildfire and each tier 2 and tier 3 city is now home to a dozen of gyms and fitness centers. Multinational fitness chains and gyms are taking the franchisee route to enter the Indian subcontinent. Considering India’s high and middle class population, there is ample space in the market for more and more such players. As the competition increases, the possibility of growth is more in the industry.
Small home gyms are also coming up in the houses of business tycoons, industrialists, sport icons, celebrities, socialites and fitness freaks who can afford the price and the space. Now, there are even personalized gyms to meet their specific whims and fancies. There are even online on-demand home services portals and mobile apps which provide gym trainers, fitness experts, and nutritionists etc. for fee.
Big and established fitness chains and gyms are already diversifying their product and services portfolios to tap into the market in each and every way possible and reach out to potential customers. Many such companies have acquired public equity to fuel their growth plans. Given the diverse and unorganized Indian market, franchising have caught on really fast. Many are using the franchising model to scale up their operations and also to tap into a larger client base. Skyrocketing costs of healthcare and specialized medical interventions have pushed people to turn to prevention as a viable option, rather than cure.
Interestingly, the fitness oriented customers are mostly in the age group of 20 to 40 years. Therefore, this is right from college days to employment days. This segment of the population is mainly focusing on looking good and having a fit and toned body. Post the age of 40, are a segment of population who are working out to fight some health issue and those who have been advised to do so by their doctors.
Also, earlier it was usually the male population who embraced physical fitness. Today, 45% of the members are female. Easy access to the internet, TV and technology have brought about a paradigm shift in perspective of woman taking to fitness and health seriously. Rising cases of osteoporosis and lowering of bone density have catapulted women to take up health, diet and fitness in a major way. Similarly, breast cancer continues to take lives of millions of women and is in fact the second most common type of cancer among women in India. Lifestyle, good looks, Bollywood and Hollywood celebrity lifestyle influences are some of the other considerable factors.
Modern fitness concepts have entered India a good 20 years ago and so it would be wrong to say that the industry is at a nascent stage by any measure. All stakeholders, including gym owners, fitness franchises, equipment and nutrition manufacturers and distributors, trainers and educational institutions, professional associations and the government should come together and catapult the industry to a stage where it can flourish. Undoubtedly, fitness industry has great potential in a country like India. It is a sunrise sector, poised to grow by 20-30 per cent year on year.