Sonal Singh is the co-founder of Fittr, one of India’s fastest growing online fitness platforms. A London School of Economics postgraduate, Singh has been included in the list of Business Today’s Most Powerful Women 2020, after being crowned Miss Asia Universe in 2016. Previously, Singh served as a strategy and operation consultant for Deloitte based in London.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
KrAsia (Kr): Give us more insight into how your journey began, and what it was like competing in the Miss Asia Universe Competition.
Sonal Singh: I had recently moved to India and started working as a freelance consultant, and got approached to participate in this competition. I wanted to get into shape & that’s when I heard of a small Facebook group, at the time called SQUATS , I decided to join. That’s when I met Jitendra Chouksey (JC), the founder, who trained me for the competition, in which I won the title. I was then invited as a guest speaker to a community event, and it was truly inspiring to meet the team, and I could already see the strength of the community. Through our conversations, we realized I could add some value. My journey began as a customer and I officially joined the team in 2016 helping to build it to where it is today.
KrAsia (Kr): What was it like training online, as compared to at a physical gym?
Sonal Singh: I had my reservations at the start, because I had never done this online training before. Firstly, the community really debunked a lot of the fitness myths that I had in my head, like not eating carbs after 6pm, which really helped me understand my body better. I also started changing my behavior, and the habits I formed. After I started seeing results, I began to trust the process. Also, although it was online, I was connected to so many people in the community going through a similar journey. Hence, I didn’t feel isolated like you typically feel with a lot of other online fitness solutions out there. .
KrAsia (Kr): I read that Fittr started off from around 100 people to over 2 million members now. What do you think is the reason for this community’s success and growth?
Sonal Singh: Fittr started off as a platform to share information completely free of cost, with the goal of democratizing fitness. We want people to see how fitness is attainable by anyone. That’s been the core tenant of our philosophy, as has very much been ingrained into how we operate today. We’ve done a lot of work in curating our community to ensure that quality, scientifically backed content is provided and it’s a safe space. I think that’s generated a lot of trust & led to great love and loyalty from customers and community.
KrAsia (Kr): Since Fittr doesn’t contain any endorsements, how do you sustain this business to ensure that everyone continues to have access to these resources?
Sonal Singh: All the information on Fittr is provided free of cost, from the diet tools to exercise videos, plans & recipes. However, enroling with a coach for a fee gives you 1-on-1 highly tailored guidance while giving you the ‘nudge’ you need. Our business model just worked, and we were profitable from the start. I think that again goes back to the trust and credibility that we have built within the community and the quality of coaches who provide clients with results.
KrAsia (Kr): When I go on your website, a lot of the stories showcase weight loss, which in itself is not an easy thing to do, let alone digitally. What would you say is the reason why this community is so different and successful as compared to the other ones out there?
Sonal Singh: Like i mentioned, our mission has been really clear from the start. We want to make 50 million people fit, and I think that when people sign on and join the community, they are aware of this, and align themselves to it as well. This is a key component of community building, and it has reached the point where even the members of the community feel like giving back. When one of the members undergo a transformation, as you said, it’s not an easy thing to do. Hence, they’re super proud that they’ve done it, and just want to share it with the world by posting about it in the community, and telling all their friends. We’ve grown through word of mouth as when people see the results right in front of them, they know that the process actually works!
KrAsia (Kr): I’m curious to know, does the way that people exercise vary from state to state?
Sonal Singh: You’re right, in a country as diverse as India, even languages vary by state. . Where we see the major difference is in food habits. For example, someone in North India would have a completely different diet from someone living in South India. We’ve been able to address this effectively, as our coaches are also very regionally dispersed. Due to the fact that it’s an online model, we have coaches from all over India, and even outside India. For example, If we have a client from South India, he might prefer having a coach who speaks in his language. Hence, it’s very easy for us to then find a coach to be able to cater to that specific need. Another thing that’s really important to note is that, on the very first consultation call the coach and client will have an in-depth conversation. The client shares food preferences, the type of workouts that they want to and do not want to do, and this is where all the expectation setting happens. It’s about customising a solution that adapts to the client’s existing lifestyle, while bringing about behavioural change. That’s the only way it’s going to be sustainable.
KrAsia (Kr): To wrap up, what are your hopes towards driving Fittr forward in 2021?
Sonal Singh: I think now more than ever people have started to prioritize their health & have realised that online fitness can actually lead to results. We are really looking forward to expanding our service offerings. We started off predominantly doing fitness and nutrition plans through our 1-on-1 online coaching, and have now ventured into online live personal training, which has grown significantly in the last few months, as people are abandoning their gyms to work out from home. But we’re also going to add different types of workouts you can access at home. Currently, we have Resistance Training, Zumba, Martial arts and Yoga, but we also want to include more dance options as well as other types of fitness workouts like boxing. We also want to provide tailored guidance to verticalized groups who have specific health needs. We’ve recently launched Fittr kids and also plan to provide offerings for other specialised groups such as the elderly and pregnant & post-pregnant care.