Fitness startups keep fingers crossed as Karnataka’s new guidelines leave little window for re-opening

Bengaluru: Startups and individuals running neighbourhood gyms and sports facilities are unsure how the coming weeks will play out on the sector, as Karnataka continues with the curbs on their operations.

While those operating outdoor sports activities are seeking clarifications on the state’s May 18 guidelines, others are quietly building up their online presence, pinning hopes on a digital future.

Neighbourhood gyms are concerned about viability of their business even if they are allowed to reopen after some time with a number of restrictions.

“Every gym depends on the per sq ft capacity that we fill; 75% of the gym’s crowd comes during peak hours. If we restrict the floor space to five members at a time, it will not be economically viable,” said Chandra Gopalan, the head at Contours India that operates a chain of women’s gym in India.

According to health experts, physical fitness and increased immunity are critical in the society’s fight against Covid-19, but the facilities that offer services to improve these have become the first casualty of the pandemic.

The latest guidelines say stadiums and sports complexes can open. But the clause still leaves some questions. “Is this exclusively for SAI (Sports Authority of India) centres and government-owned centres of excellence for training of national-level athletes? Or, can the public start using private badminton courts and football turfs that have come up across Bangalore,” asked Rahul Thomas, the founder of sports startup Sporthood in HSR Layout.

While most brick-and-mortar sport clubs and fitness centres are trying to figure out how they can survive the hard times with minimal bruises, some have got into the online space early on.

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“One-size-fits-all business model won’t work. Fitness centres will have to expand into other realms like taking their services to customer’s doorstep as well as through online courses,” said Amit Gupta, the founder of city-based sports and fitness startup He has taken his startup to Gurgaon, Hyderabad and Indore by relying less on physical structure, and more by reaching out to one’s doorstep and device.”We have developed tech enabled fitness solutions. We have come up with hundreds of YouTube Do Yourself series, Free Live Sessions on the social media,” Gupta said.

Quite a few have already adapted to the new normal.

Contours India has shifted to virtual classes to continue providing services to members and also ensure that trainers stay fit. Thomas has launched an online class, Sporthood Live. “Earlier we were running a network 20 football and badminton clubs across Bengaluru. We have now launched an online programme, keeping the average Indian living room in mind,” he said.

According to Gopalan, going virtual is probably the better way right now. “We only hope the situation dies down. Gyms are unlikely to be opened till June or July.”


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