Making Fitness Your Business - Grow by Investing in the Nation's Health Fitness in India has come a long way from the sleepy but prestigious gymkhana clubs to the modern gyms and studios mushrooming in every city

By Manisha Ahlawat

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Fitness as a business really took shape in the late 90s with the opening of first weight training clubs in metro cities that focused on muscle building. Soon a weight training room with an aerobics studio together came to be known as the "gym". As more and more people saw the business potential beyond a personal passion, new systems and technology were introduced to make the business scalable.

Today, the health and fitness industry in India is clocking double-digit growth with no signs of slowing down. Not only is this business one of the hottest sectors to invest in, but also gives you the satisfaction of contributing to a virtuous cause - people's health.

While starting a business is a very exciting and thrilling experience, a fitness business comes with its own peculiar challenges. You can choose to start your own from scratch or invest in an established fitness franchise. Franchising can be a smart way to go because you can give your 100% to implementation and execution and not waste time and effort in devising new systems and processes. Do your homework well in choosing a franchise, especially in terms of their ongoing support in training and technology.

Here are Few Things to Keep in Mind Before You Start on This Journey:

1. Identify the market segment you want to serve in the fitness industry. Identify the product or service you want to offer. From e-solutions to e-commerce to fitness franchise to health products, it is wide open right now. Create value, solve a problem or fill a void, you will never go wrong. Validate your business idea through a survey if you like.

2. Choose your partners well, they say a business partnership is more difficult to maintain than a marriage. If one does more than the other or if one becomes the face of the business, there is bound to be friction unless these terms are agreed upon before the partnership is signed.

3. Chalk out clear budgets for the required resources for your fitness business, plus some to spare. Go down to the smallest details like monthly phone bills or stationery cost. Go over the revenue projections with industry experts, keep them realistic. It is better to err on the safer side. Once you have an idea of the required CapEx and working capital, look for investment partners. Go for the "love money" first, meaning from family or friends. Avoid loans or VC at initial stages.

4. Build a dependable and talented team - no amount of funds will help if you have a lackluster team. Imagine you are creating an epic movie, who all will you cast? Pick your team like you would pick stars, perfect for the roles they are expected to play. If one is good at marketing, you need someone else to handle finances for you. Take your time in building a rock solid reliable team that will stick it out with you through thick or thin.

5. Delegate, delegate, delegate. Do not try to do everything yourself. How will you be the chief strategist or CEO if you are spending hours on mundane tasks? "Do what you do best, outsource the rest" should be your mantra.

6. Network - in the initial days when your brand is not yet built, people identify your business with you. Fitness is a business largely built on personal relationships. Do not hesitate in selling to friends and relatives. Remember you are starting something of value, being fit is good for everyone and why not start with family and friends.

7. Expansion and scaling up is what entrepreneurs dream of. However, doing too much too soon can cost you your business. Remember the sign on the highways, "Better late than never"? Patience is a must-have attribute in this business. Give your best but do not expect overnight results.

All the advice cannot prepare entrepreneurs for the many good or not so good surprises along the way. In the end, it will be your passion and dedication that will make or break the business. Most importantly, hang in there, most businesses succeed because someone just does not give up.

Manisha Ahlawat

Managing Director, VivaFit (Master Franchisee - India)

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