MUSCLE BUSINESS: The business side of the fitness and bodybuilding industry
There must be at least one person that everyone knows who eats a bowl of salad for dinner every night and counts calories like a greedy kid counts his glass marbles. In fact, you yourself could be the guy sticking to a strict diet and waiting for your cheat day to come. That’s the impact that the ‘think-fit’ attitude has had in our society. Everyone’s doing their part to live a healthier life style, whether it’s by watching what they eat or by going to yoga sessions at the wee hours of the morning. If you haven’t begun thinking fit, you might consider jumping into the bandwagon.
The definition of fitness might differ from person to person. For some, an average BMI and a healthy lifestyle might be all they’re after. But there are people who have different goals set for themselves. The aesthetic appeal of one’s physical body has never been given so much priority and by so many people as it is being given today. Everyone is after a chiseled body and 6-pack abs.
The guys want to have it and the girls want to “have” it too. Because of the increasing number of people looking to get the ideal body, the fitness industry’s development has sky rocketed. An increasing number of gym goers and the efforts of fitness institutions improving their services to stay in competition reflect the growth of the fitness industry. Along with fitness institutions, workout supplements are growing in almost equal popularity. So, unsurprisingly, the supplement market is also making waves.
With the proportion of fitness conscious people growing, the fitness industry is prospering as well. To know more about the business side of things, we got in touch with the heads of two gymnasiums and two supplement suppliers of Nepal.
IF YOU HAVEN’T BEGUN THINKING FIT, YOU MIGHT CONSIDER JUMPING INTO THE BANDWAGON.
1.How has the fitness scenario of Nepal changed in the past decade?
Nima: The fitness scenario has changed quite drastically in the past decade, especially in the past 5 years. There is much awareness amongst the people about the importance of leading a healthier and complete life. One can see the changes as quite a lot of Fitness Clubs and Futsal arenas have sprouted in the valley which shows that there is a demand for fitness centered activities.
Paras: Tremendously! People of all ages have become health conscious over the years. They have started realizing the significance of staying fit. The movies and media have also made many people realize that one must be fit to carry out the fabulous fashionable clothes. More and more people are joining gyms and getting involved in sports to become fit. Every gym that I visit, I find substantial number of members working out and it’s a pleasant sight.
Nishant: Few years ago, the concept of fitness revolved solely around body building. People generally used to go to the gyms to build muscle and look like Arnold or Sylvester Stallone. Today fitness isn’t limited to just that but embodies the entire concept of keeping oneself healthy. In fact unlike the yesteryears, people actually prefer a lean body than big bulging muscles. Fitness is a rapidly growing industry in the country and the mushrooming fitness centers and fitness enthusiasts is evidence enough.
Ajit: People’s perception of fitness has taken a turn for the good in recent years. Stepping away from just going for walks and runs, many have taken a serious approach. People have started joining health clubs in order to engage themselves in exercises with variations that fit their particular goals. It’s good to see that many people are making fitness a key part of their lifestyle.
IT IS SAD TO SEE PEOPLE MISINTERPRET FITNESS WITH LOOKING AESTHETICALLY NICE
2. In some cases, it seems that fitness in Nepal is still a seasonal affair where people flock to the gym when summer peeks around the corner. What does that have on business?
Nima: Yes, it is sad to see people misinterpret fitness with looking aesthetically nice which leads to people going for their fitness regimes mostly in the summers when they want to get rid of their winter bulge and look better in their summer clothes. This trend does make gym attendance to a minimum during the winter season.
Ajit: There are the regulars who frequent the gym regardless of the season, but yes, there are many that come into the gym as summer approaches. During this season, our member’s inflow increases by around 60%. But the business keeps going even during winter as there’s plenty to keep people busy at the gym. When winter hits, most people just want to try indoor activities in the club rather than going through the painstaking process of bundling up to go outside to get exercise.
3. We definitely think fitness is taking a more serious turn from being just a fad amongst youngsters. What is your take on it?
Nima: On the positive side, it is a welcome sight to see that more and more of the youth today are health conscious and heading to the clubs to stay fit. In an evolving nation like ours, there is a change occurring in the general mindset and it is good to see that the youth is the primary driver in keeping the health trend in the forefront like many other sectors. The youth of Nepal cannot be undermined as they are now leading from the front which is essential in raising the issue of health awareness, it is now cool to be fit and this trend has the older generation thinking and generating interest too.
Nishant: Exposure to foreign media plays a major role here, especially Indian cinema. Today you see almost every actor with a six-pack and every actress with a well-toned body. The youngsters idolize them and want to become like them. As soon as they pass out from their high school (+2) they hit the gym. The gyms or alternated body-toning regimen are visibly advertised today. So building or maintaining a well-toned body is becoming a fashion, a thing of prestige today. Yes, fitness is taken seriously these days.
Ajit: Traditionally, what began as a fad among the youngsters has now turned into a fitness phenomenon among people of all age groups. People are more aware of the links between health, well-being, fitness and nutrition. People of all ages and fitness levels ranging from professional players, to even the elderly, are more aware of the importance of putting time, energy and money into keeping their bodies in tune. In my observation, people with 30 plus age are more conscious of their overall physical fitness whereas youngsters are more concerned with enhancing their aesthetic appeal.
I’D SAY THE FITNESS EMPIRE IS DEFINITELY HEADED TOWARDS MEETING THEINTERNATIONAL STANDARD.
4. Since you are in the business, how would you describe the transition that the fitness empire has experienced in recent years? Where would you say is it headed?
Nima : Health and fitness is definitely making strong inroads amongst the multitude as more and more people are keen to lead a healthy and fit life. It is heart-warming to see that people are now aware of the benefits of physical exercise and healthy eating habits in their day to day life thus ensuring a healthy and illness free life. Keeping fit is more about having a healthy lifestyle and this is only complete when exercise and healthy eating is practiced. People have become more inclined towards choosing a healthier lifestyle today as we see the rising popularity in bio-organic and whole grain food products and supplements.
Paras: Just a decade or so ago, this business was undeveloped. Gyms were few and far away with equipment not up to the standard. To find modern equipment, you had to go to the gyms in big hotels and very few other gyms that were not easily accessible to everyone.
But now things have changed. There are many top class gyms and qualified trainers in the scene. Along with those, you can now easily get top class dietary supplements and gym accessories in Nepal from authorized stores of international brands. Hence I’d say the fitness empire is definitely headed towards meeting the international standard.
Nishant: It’s a growing industry in Nepal. The number of gyms are increasing. Information on gyms and fitness activities are easily available. Fitness activities launched internationally is immediately launched in the country. This isn’t just concentrated inside the valley but all over the country. Supplements are easily available at an affordable price. People now know the importance of fitness and are eager to invest in it. I see it moving in a positive direction.
Ajit: Today, fitness has transcended from just being about losing weight to becoming a form of stress relief, a healthier lifestyle choice and even a social hub. And since joining a fitness club is a large financial commitment, people make well informed choices about what they are going to get. As they become more conscious, this business is also shaping up to be a thriving career.
5. At the moment, this is probably one of the most prosperous sectors in Nepal. Do any challenges come up or is it all smooth sailing?
Nima: I would not really say that the fitness industry is the most prosperous one at the moment as it is a passion driven industry more than it being profit oriented. One of the main challenges that the fitness industry faces is that there are lots and lots of clubs that have sprung up recently in the valley and elsewhere in the country and most clients compare prices above the service and facility inclusions that the club offers. To stay in the lead, it is imperative for health clubs to provide member satisfaction by helping them achieve their fitness goals and monitoring their progress on a personal level and ensuring that they maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Paras: Since the number of people interested in fitness and healthy lifestyle is increasing by the day, I agree that this is one of the most prosperous sectors in terms of business in Nepal. If you talk about Dietary supplement business, it’s still a new concept. There are many challenges. Sometimes, unauthorized vendors pop up from nowhere and sell the products just for profit and there is no one to see if the products these people sell are genuine or not. Most of the time, consumers get fake products from such vendors. Without proper guidance, if you use dietary supplement, it won’t give you the result for which you are using it. We generally try to explain these things to our consumers and make them aware of the fact that products like dietary supplements have to be purchased through authorized vendors with full knowledge about their job. That way, you’ll get the original and right product and advice to reach your fitness goal. Many still think that Dietary supplements are medicine and has side effect. These are not medicine and pure dietary supplements don’t have any side effects if used with a proper guidance.
Nishant: Despite the growth, it is still a young industry. Being in the supplement business, the biggest challenge is the grey market. The grey market sells low quality products at cheap rates. Also, bogus myths surrounding the use of supplements really hinder our efforts in promoting the benefits of supplements. Educating people has been a big challenge.
Ajit: Yes, the number of gym goers is steadily increasing and more new people are enrolling themselves into it.But there are certain challenges that we face time and again and the most common problem is finding quality employees, especially personal trainers in this fastest growing sector. And of course power shortages is one of the biggest challenges in this and any other industry.
6. In your opinion, what would be the next appropriate changes that need to be brought on in order to take the business to the next level?
Nima: At the moment, the trend and the growing awareness of staying fit is good enough to keep this industry afloat. In a perfect situation it would be really nice to incorporate the latest fitness trends and the changing training methods here but it would be expensive and only within the reach of a few and hence the purpose of raising awareness and making fitness accessible to many would be lost. Hence, I think that with time and maturity the levels of the business will grow.
Paras: We still need more qualified fitness professionals and more fitness programs that are popular and successful in developed countries definitely need to be introduced to take the business forward. As far as my business is concerned, what we need to do is to make people understand the importance of dietary supplements, which we are attempting currently.
Nishant: Fitness awareness is crucial. You cannot build muscle or get lean in a single day, or a short period of time. Becoming fit takes a long time and people need to understand that. Gyms have to show professionalism too. They now not only have to hire trainers but also proper nutritionists, maybe even personal trainers. They also should start training session where the consumers are taught about importance of both exercise and diet.
Ajit: Holding varieties of physical fitness seminars and workshops at all levels would help create a sense of awareness among the people regarding their overall health and fitness.
7. The majority of the people would agree that getting seriously into fitness is an expensive affair. How would you justify the expensive nature of the industry?
Nima: People have to understand that in this day and age everything costs money and to have a facility in the neighborhood which provides you the tools and facilities for a healthier you, it is a small price to pay. Local clubs like ours are not that expensive as we want to give good value to our members and encourage them to lead a healthy life within their budget. Having a well-equipped facility nearby or within the walking distance is a bonus for all but one has to understand that quality equipment, trained personnel, clean premises and maintenance do cost money but most people now understand the importance in investing for good health.
Paras: I won’t deny that it’s an expensive affair. But if you think in a broader prospective, being fit and healthy means you are more active and you’ll have a more productive life. And if you still think getting into fitness is an expensive affair, think about the consequences of being unhealthy- hospital bills, short career span hence less income, low selfesteem and what not? If we look beyond the price and look at the overall worth, it’s well worth the cost.
Ajit: I think this industry is not expensive in comparison to the lifestyle and expenditure on different unhealthy foods. If we change our living standards, compared to our expenses on unhygienic food, it’s ultimately cheaper.
8. How would you classify the age group and gender ratio of your clients? Nima: Our members’ age group range from 18 years to 70 years and the male female ratio is 50:50
Paras: Well, we have variety of products for different age group and gender to meet individual needs or demands. Our sets of clients are from all walks of lives. There are younger ones whose target is mostly to add muscle mass, be lean or shredded and we provide products as per their need. And there are slightly mature ones who are more concerned about being fit and healthy. As far as my experience goes, most of the male clients want to put on muscle mass whereas female clients want to lose weight.
Nishant: When we sell our products we say it can be consumed by people between age of 18 – 65, but the people who mostly buy our products are people aged between 18 -34.
Ajit: We cater to every age group so that they all come in the masses. For the age group from 4 to 9 there are the children’s dance classes. For the age group of 10-15 we have B-boying classes. Those who want to lose fat and build muscles, they can try our Gym. It seems that members above 28 years of age are more interested to try cardio vascular workout which helps reduce weight and increase stamina. Our Zumba and Aerobic classes attract more female members while boxing and kickboxing classes have been targeted especially for the youths. Also, for those above 60 years of age, they are provided with back and knee strengthening exercises and other mild cardiovascular exercises, Sauna and steam to relieve sore muscles.
9. When you entered into the business, what mind frame did you have? Was it purely based on the business prospects and profit, or was it a passion driven decision?
Nima: Fitness Mantra was incepted on the basis that a couple of the partners were fitness instructors and the whole idea was to engage the local youth and promote entrepreneurship. It was more passion driven initially as it is always nice to promote good health and it will be an icing on the cake when this becomes more lucrative in the future.
Paras: I always wanted to have a great body and was regular at the gym. I used to see people taking interest in dietary supplement and in fact buying anything they got, not caring about the quality and content. That always bothered me. Due to my medical condition, unfortunately, I couldn’t continue my workout and since I always wanted to be in the fitness line, I decided to start this business by importing renowned brand of dietary supplements in Nepali market. I started working on the plans, studied about it before starting this business. So, you can say it was a passion driven initially but since I wanted to do the business for the long term, I was equally concerned about sustainability of this business. I was the first one to open a proper dietary supplement store in Nepal.
Nishant: It was more a passion driven decision. I lost 40kgs myself and saw people struggle with weight loss all the time. People did not understand the importance of the combination of exercise, diet and supplements to lose weight. Moreover supplements were not easily available, if they were available, they were very expensive. So I was determined to make supplements available in the Nepali market easily and then educate people about supplements and how they can be helpful to them.
Ajit: All of our business partners are fitness fanatics and were taking professional fitness trainings at different health clubs. So, opening a fitness center was a passion driven decision. We entered into the business some 2 and half years ago with the latest technological equipment and facilities. Our main aim is to make people understand the importance of exercise and how it changes there lifestyle. It is definitely business with the focus on health first.
10. In your opinion, how do you think an international fitness franchise would fare in Nepal?
Nima: As more and more people are getting conscious, this does open up doors for the newer training methods/ brands and International franchise. However, we have to be mindful that the market share for this will be small in the beginning and will be limited to only a few who can spend more as franchisees will be more expensive as investment in equipment and trainers will be high compared to the returns.
Ajit: At this point of time, when the local fitness clubs are taking a new height, it would be very much challenging for An international fitness brand to take a seat in the local market. It will have to maintain its brand consistency and at the same time adapt to the tune of the local culture.
Also the cost factor comes as another key challenge. Therefore I would suggest the international franchise would team up with local partners to get the right fusion of global branding and local demand. It will surely help in the success of international franchise expansion here in Nepal.
11. What are your most popular products?
Paras: I can’t pin point any one product as such because all the products have their own specialty or advantage. For the clients who want to add muscle mass or maintain their physique, whey protein would be perfect. Those who want to add size, mass gainers are the best choice and those who want to get rid of excess body fat go for fat burners. Pre workout supplements are also popular as it focuses on your strength muscle fullness, vascularity etc. multi vitamins, omega 3’s are preferred by most and so is amino acid tablets. Creatine monohydrate is another popular product for muscular development, strength and endurance.
- Serious Mass
- 100% Gold Standard Whey
- Platinum Hydrowhey
- Platinum Hydro builder
- Gold Standard Casein
12. What is your opinion on people’s decision to opt for natural foods over supplements?
Paras: I don’t think we would be honest if we said whether to use natural food or add supplements. It all depends on your need. If you just wanted to be healthy and have no need to develop muscle and bodybuilding, you could just go for natural food I guess. But if you are into bodybuilding or following certain fitness program or play sports for that matter, then just natural food is not enough and people need extra vitamins, minerals and other supplements and I might add that our products are mostly based on natural supplements which are targeted to promote natural growth of the body.
Nishant: If someone can use natural foods over supplements, we would definitely recommend that. But all the foods, from the packed goods to fresh vegetables, are tampered and adulterated. More over opting for natural food is much more expensive than going for supplements. As the name suggests “supplement” it is not an alternate to food but an addition to your food. You cannot get all the essential nutrients required to maintain your body properly for the normal foods. Supplements have been an essential part of diet in essential western markets and its use is rapidly increasing in ours too.
IF SOMEONE CAN USE NATURAL FOODS OVER SUPPLEMENTS, WE WOULD DEFINITELY RECOMMEND THAT.
13. How do you overcome these said challenges?
Nishant: To differentiate our products from the products in the grey market we have come up with tamper proof original optimum nutrition holograms. We have been advertising a lot in the print media, promoting the products with informative advertisements which let people know detailed information on the supplements so that they can decide which one suits their particular goals. We also have a Facebook page www.dietnepal.com/ dietnepal where we try to educate people about tips on general fitness, diets and healthy living.
Ajit: We identify and deliver our members what they want. The members want results and motivation, so compromising on the quality of the service in turn for profit is something you just can’t do.
Regarding the load shedding hours, when the automated fitness machines are not in use, we have our own set of alternative exercise plans.