This interview has been transcribed and adapted into an article by Grace Holloway.
Lockdown Economy: Interviews by think tank AlterContacts.org with real entrepreneurs sharing insights, challenges and successes during the COVID19 global pandemic to inspire, motivate and encourage other entrepreneurs around the world.
In this interview, we meet Sushant Pradhan, the CEO of The Physique Workshop, a gym chain in Nepal. They provide customized workout and diet guidance to each and every member with a complete scientific approach and help them lead a healthy lifestyle. We talked about the problems The Physique Workshop (TPW) faced during the lockdown. It was very challenging not just from a business perspective because fitness is a lifestyle. The number of memberships took a hit and it also affected people who went to the gym regularly. TPW motivated people to switch to a home workout. They contacted all of their clients and asked what they needed help with. They made videos and provided guidance to people for home workouts to give continuity to their progress at the gym. The gyms are partially open currently with safety protocols in place. Now TPW is getting new clients and with stable policies, they are optimistic for the next summer.
Please introduce us to The Physique Workshop, and it’s services.
Sushant: The Physique Workshop is a fitness center, we’ve been here since 2013. We have five locations in Nepal.
What kind of services do you provide?
Sushant: Basic gym services. We do everything that happens in a gym, including gym trainers, personal trainers, and cardio training.
On your social media and website, it mentions that you provide individual consultations with everyone who comes to your gym. Could you elaborate on that?
Sushant: When someone joins the gym, they are typically beginners, and they don’t know much about fitness. Fitness has moved more towards science and data-based approaches. We do initial counselling with each client, and based on their lifestyle, preferences, or past experiences, we design a workout and diet plan that they can actually follow. It isn’t the best or most optimal diet plan, but one that matches their lifestyle, so that they can be consistent. We then make sure they are guided accordingly.
What was your motivation behind starting your business?
Sushant: The main idea behind the Physique Workshop initiated back in 2013 when I was doing my Bachelor’s. I was in my final semester, and we had to do an internship. I jokingly asked the teacher if I could do one at a gym, and I was allowed to learn parts of management. So I did my three-month internship at a gym. I was already into fitness, but what fascinated me was working with people and learning how gyms work. That was the first spark in me, where I thought that maybe I could start my own gym. Also, back then fitness was taking a more traditional approach. People used to see it as a solution to being overweight or wanting to get a fitter body. I wanted to turn it into a lifestyle. You don’t think about brushing your teeth, you don’t only brush your teeth when they start decaying. That’s the basic concept behind fitness as well. Slowly it has turned in that direction. I could only further that if I had my own platform, and that’s the idea behind the Physique Workshop.
Before the pandemic hit, how was your business performing?
Sushant: We were doing pretty good. We were planning on expanding further, adding a few new locations, and adding more franchising. We had a lot of members, over 700. The pandemic started, and the lockdowns, and that has really affected the business.
What kind of problems did the pandemic pose?
Sushant: Since this is part of your lifestyle, people come to the gym religiously. It’s how they start or end their day. It helps them pace their work for the whole day. When a very important part of your life is missing, your whole schedule gets messed up. For a lot of people, they were very anxious when they heard we were going to shut down. We motivated them to keep up with their fitness regiment by switching to a home work out.
What strategies did you put in place to combat the effects of the lockdown?
Sushant: First, we reached out to each and every one of our clients. We asked them if they needed help with anything. Since most people are used to working out in the gym setting, they have never worked out at home, using weights or alternative exercises. We had to let them know that there could be an alternative to keep them from losing their progress, and once the gym resumes they can unpause where they left off. We helped with our clients’ diets, made new workout plans, made videos, and helped with home workouts. People appreciated that. Once the initial phases of lockdown eased off, some people were able to get back to the gym. They were glad that we were able to move them towards an alternative source of working out.
What was the behaviour of your consumers doing the lockdown, especially new people wanting to get into fitness?
Sushant: A lot of people were anxious. People understand fitness as just working out at the gym. For a lot of people that might be true, but there are alternative forms of exercises. A lot of people were anxious to get back to the gym, but they were also excited about switching to a new form of working out. However, that didn’t last long. People wanted their old regiment back. But they were at least able to maintain their progress, and that’s what matters most.
Do you know what your competition was doing during the lockdown? What kind of approach did they have?
Sushant: Initially, everybody was shut down. Slowly, the neighbourhood gyms started opening up to special people, or unofficially. We decided to follow the orders and remained shut throughout the whole period.
Now that the lockdown has been eased, what is the situation of the Physique Workshop?
Sushant: We are partially open right now. We are open a couple of hours in the morning with very limited membership.
What is the situation with your clients?
Sushant: We do not have the same number of members as before. The memberships drastically dropped. We are also currently in the in-season. In fitness, the first and last quarter are the in season, and the second and third quarter is the offseason. We are now seeing the start of winter, and we are in the middle of the festival. We have reached out to a lot of people, and they are excited to come back after the festival. We will have to wait and watch. We are also targeting new people, and we are seeing a rise in new clients.
What precautions have you taken for the safety of your trainers and clients?
Sushant: The first and foremost priority is to keep the staff safe because if they’re safe, the members are safe as well. We make sure everyone is wearing at least masks, most are wearing face shields as well. We check the temperature of every client who comes in and has them sanitize their hands. We have sanitisers and cleaning cloths for all equipment for both before and after use. We also limit the number of people we have. We have multiple sizes of gyms, and we are not allowing more than 15 people into our larger gyms at a given time, and not more than 10 in the medium-sized.
What is the outlook for the Physique Workshop for the next three months?
Sushant: This really depends on policies. Stability in regards to policies is the biggest concern for me right now. Hopefully, things stay as they are right now, with how things are progressing with a gradual easing of precautions, and people are becoming less scared. If that’s true, in the next four or five months we will enter summer, and I think that could be a reset for us. We will see more people coming in.
If you could point out three things that you need help with, what would they be?
Sushant: The first one would definitely be rent. I think this is the biggest issue right now for all business owners. Regardless if you’re open or not, rent is due. Another one would be some kind of stability when it comes to policies. We don’t want any more surprises. We plan for the next three, sixth, twelve months, and then things change. The whole plan then has to change. We’ve had that since the first lockdown. I think for me, these two are crucial. Everything else, we can do once these things are in place.
About the Guest
Sushant Pradhan is a content creator/ influencer as well as the founder and CEO of The Physique Workshop.
The Physique Workshop is a gym chain of Nepal with branches at 5 different locations and with plans to expand further. With the goal of providing customized workout and diet guidance to each and every member with a completely scientific approach, The Physique Workshop has helped transform over 10,000 clients during its 7 years of operation. Since mostly appealing to younger crowds, The Physique Workshop focuses on providing ease of mobility and access to its clients as well by providing universal access whereby a client of one gym can have access to all 5 locations as per their ease.