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Business News/ Money / Personal Finance/  How India pays for fitness

How India pays for fitness

An average Indian works out only 4-6 times a month as against the global average of 12-18 times and eventually ends up overpaying, says a study
  •  Kiran Raj says the pay-per-use sessions at the gym works for him best
  •  (iStock)Premium

    Mumbai: How often do you search for fitness centres or gyms near you? There are around 23 million searches on Google every day for fitness centres. According to the study, Indian Habit of Being Healthy by Redseer, there are 90 million health-conscious individuals in the country. There is also a change in the way payment is made for fitness. “There are around 24,000 gyms and studios in the country, out of which 95% are organised outlets and 5% are unorganised," said Neha Motwani, co-founder at Fitternity, a web aggregator for fitness outlets.

    In the fitness parlance, an organised centre is one which has a chain of outlets either intra- or inter-city, she said. “The 95% chunk has no access to technology, operational capacity is low and the opportunity to manage and expand the users of scale is minimal. In fact, 96% of fitness outlets in India don’t have an app or a website," said Motwani.

    To aggregate fitness service, there are companies and apps such as Bookyourgym Fitness Pvt Ltd, Playnlive Sports India Pvt Ltd, Gymer, Gympik Health Solutions Pvt Ltd, Fitternity, Fitpass and Growfitter that have entered the market.

    “There are different dynamics emerging in the way people are paying for their fitness regimes. For instance, you can now take your gym memberships on equal monthly instalments (EMI) or pay per session," she said. An average Indian works out only 4-6 times a month as against the global average of 12-18 times and eventually ends up overpaying, according to a study by Fitternity.

    Pay in lump sum or per use?

    Because of how the fitness packs are priced, you either end up overpaying or underutilising your membership. The 12-month packs are cheaper than the shorter tenures: the three-month and six-month packs. This is prevalent across all gyms or fitness centres in India. Take the example of a Gold’s Gym branch in Lower Parel, Mumbai: their quick result program 25-week pack is priced at 40,320 and 52-week pack at 43,661. “This is because the fitness centres also require upfront payment for their expenses, like rent or salaries. Looking at the cheaper incentive of a longer duration, one ends up taking the more expensive package but essentially ends up overpaying," she said. There is a major need to allow people to spend on the basis of their consumption, she said.

    For instance, Mumbai-based Luv Deshpande, 31, who is an advertising professional, travels a lot for work in a month’s span. “Sometimes I am not in the city for at least 15 days a month and all my workout days and fees get wasted as I attend hardly 12-13 sessions a month," said Deshpande. He had earlier paid for an annual membership of around 16,000. “Currently I am paying 266 per session in which I get cashbacks of 150 per session," he said. Effectively, Deshpande effectively ends up spending less than 116 for a session if he decides to use the cashback amount for his pay-peruse facility. Sometimes the payment is nil when a good amount of cashback accumulates.

    “This way I end up spending 14,000 a year and save around 2,000 on an annual basis," said Deshpande.

    Not everyone opts for the pay-per-use option owing to their long periods of absence. Mumbai-based banker Shilpa Purswani, 37, finds the pay-per-use feature more beneficial because of the flexibility to go for any session. “With annual or monthly packs, you are booked for a certain category of dances/workout sessions. When I pay as per my utilisation, I can choose any dance form I want," said Purswani who is a member at a dance fitness studio.

    Purswani had paid around 2,561 for a month’s duration of weekend classes, but after learning about the pay-per-use facility, she could also access weekday classes with the same money. “The validity for the initial amount I paid is now extended to five months from one month. I am accessing different classes with the same amount and as per my utilisation," said Purswani.

    Although in smaller ‘unorganised’ gyms, which have been in the market for a long time and have a larger proportion of returning clients, the requirement of pay-per use service is lesser.

    “The branch in Sion which has been around for 15 years now witnesses more of returning clients, but the branch in Khar which has been around for four years now has around 5% of their clients using the pay-per-use facility. Most of them generally convert to an annual membership after one or two drop-in classes," said Aanchal Gupta, founder at Arts in Motion, a Mumbai-based fitness studio.

    EMI and cashback

    Another option is to opt for session packs. For example, you can choose to pay for a total of 150 sessions and exhaust them over a valid period of three years. Bengaluru-based Kiran Raj, 27, finance officer at HSBC Bank paid 1,000 for 20 classes which could be exhausted over a period of two months. “I did not take the annual membership and chose these session packs as I have to travel a lot for work. I did not want to waste or underutilise my money so I chose to pay only for the set of classes that I attend over a period of time," said Raj.

    You also have an option to pay through equated monthly instalment (EMI). However, it is not advisable to take a loan for fitness expenses or any kind of expenses. “Around 30% of the long term memberships taken on Fitternity are on EMI," she added. Say your annual membership fees is 14,060. If you take an EMI for a span of 12 months, your with-interest EMI will be 1,274 per month and total amount will be 15,288. You will end up paying 1,228 extra on an annual basis.

    Some platforms also provide zero-cost EMI service. Growfitter, Mumbai-based fitness discover platform launched in May 2016, offers zero-cost EMI for member gyms or fitness centres and it has partnered with Bajaj Finance Ltd, a nonbanking financial company for the same.

    “Around 400 plus fitness centres which have partnered with us have zerocost EMI option on board," said Sanmati Pande,33, chief executive officer and co-founder at Growfitter. “There is no interest applied on it. So for example, if your six-month membership costs you 6,000, you will be paying 2,000 a month for three months," said Pande.

    Some offer cashback on health insurance plans. “We also have an incentivised wellness program wherein we have partnered with insurance firms that track certain parameters like your attendance at the fitness centre, number of steps taken and fitness assessment and offer a cashback on your health insurance premiums which can be used for your subsequent premium payments," said Pande.

    The cashback can range from 8% to 30%, said Pande. The insurance companies that they have partnered with are Aditya Birla Health Insurance Company Ltd and HDFC Life Insurance Company Ltd. Considering that you now have flexible options to pay, check for the plan best-suited for you instead of overpaying.

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    Published: 16 Mar 2019, 07:00 AM IST
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