Sachidanand Tripathi, 48, a public servant in the northern Indian city of Varanasi, has not used the treadmill he bought on the advice of his GP for more than a decade. But as the epidemic began to spread across India last year, Tripathi found himself reconsidering that choice. Boredom of recovering at home and thinking that staying healthy would give him a better chance of beating the coronavirus made him start the sport again if he were to contract the virus.
Tripathi’s son also uses the treadmill as the gym has been closed for over a year. “This year, my son and I started watching exercise videos on the laptop and taking turns running to follow the trainer,” says Tripathi.
As gyms and sports clubs remain deregulated, the demand for indoor exercise equipment has increased. French retailer Decathlon has reported a 300% year-on-year increase in sales of cardio-related exercise machines in India between March and July 2020. Period In 2019
Realizing a new trend in where and how people exercise, Pratik Sud, a serial entrepreneur in the Indian healthcare sector, decided to launch an IoT-enabled fitness equipment startup called SynqFit in June 2020.
Between April and May of last year, the gym industry will undergo major changes due to the lockdown and people will have to adopt new ways to continue exercising, as they do with home events. That’s when we decided we needed to make a connected fitness platform,” said Sud.
Founded by Rajat Sahni, Sameer Joshi and Sood, SyncFit makes stationary exercise bikes with interactive 22-inch screens, like those made popular by Peloton, the American equipment maker that lets users stream content while pedaling. SynqFit wants to give its users the convenience of access to hundreds of workout videos at home, but after the first six months, continued access means ditching the monthly subscription fees.
The company has partnered with manufacturers in mainland China and Taiwan to manufacture the bike parts that will be assembled in India. “When we started working on this, we were at the height of the epidemic. Due to travel restrictions, we were unable to personally inspect the hardware, so it took us a long time to decide which materials to use and negotiate their prices,” said Sud.
While the SynqFit equipment works like any stationary bike, Sud has put his weight behind creating a library of over 300 videos on health and fitness. The company has partnered with nearly a dozen coaches and health professionals to produce these pre-recorded videos as well as live sessions. “We understand that joining a trainer is very personal, and preferences vary from person to person. Moreover, everyone’s health needs are different. That’s why we have fitness videos ranging from cycling, cardio, aerobics to yoga,” said Sud.
In India, square footage of living space for four people – a typical household size – is usually priced in. The bike requires a 5-foot by 4-foot space for placement. In addition, users must place an exercise mat next to the bike to follow the trainers’ instructions during the live broadcast.
“We envision SynqFit as a trainer-driven product that fitness enthusiasts can use by searching for a variety of videos of workouts supervised by trained professionals. The idea is to engage users with quality content in the 30-60 minutes they spend exercising,” he said.
Access to the SynqFit content library for the cycle and the first six months costs INR 120,000 ($1,600). To keep users motivated, SynqFit tracks the distance each user rides on their bike, the number of calories they burn and the number of exercise repetitions they do on a leaderboard. According to Sood, a device can record the information of four family members and give each person their own account to track their progress. These services cost INR 1,500 ($20) per month.
Because of the premium price – non-smart exercise bikes cost between 8,000 and 20,000 (US$108-270) on Amazon – the company has only sold 160 bikes so far. Sud has partnered with financing companies to offer customers the option to pay for SynqFit bikes in installments. The three founders jointly invested $300,000 to start the company. Now, they’re looking to raise $2 million in a pre-series round and ramp up production and hit a target of selling at least 1,000 bikes by the end of 2021.
Sood said the connected fitness equipment market has seen gyms, dance studios and yoga centers remain closed, so people are more proactive about staying fit. “Even when they do open up, people don’t feel comfortable working with others in a closed space. According to London-based market research firm Technavio, the global market for the connected fitness sector is expected to reach $7.5 billion by 2024.
SynqFit competes with unicorn startup CultFit, which runs a chain of gyms and yoga studios and offers users live training sessions through its app. During the lockdown, CultFit had to close its branches and focus on creating training and exercise content for its members. CultFit has also acquired a treadmill company that makes smart stationary bikes.
“The sector itself is quite large but not very crowded. “The timing of starting this company is really high, because now is the time when home gym options are in demand more than ever,” said Sud.
This article is part of KrASIA’s “Startup Stories” series, where KrASIA writers talk to founders of tech companies in South and Southeast Asia.