For the last two years Rabi Karki, resident of Kathmandu, has been working out at a fitness centre in Sukhedhara. A regular gym goer, Rabi has seen massive changes in his digestive system, body image, and sleep patterns since then. He has also recommended many of his friends to join a fitness club. Ashlesha Shahi Thakuri from Dhangadhi, who is also a yoga trainer has been practicing yoga for the last three years and has witnessed progressive changes in her overall well-being. She has seen more people practice yoga than ever before in the last few years, but says that many still do not have a clear understanding of what yoga is.
Not only yoga, every segment of the fitness industry has seen huge growth in the last five years. Fitness entrepreneurs say the fitness industry is at its all-time high. This is reflected in the mushrooming of fitness centres and the increasing number of people exercising outdoors. Once COVID happened, it put the brakes on this expanding sector. Raul Moktan, founder of Gymkhana Muay Thai says, “The growth of the fitness centres is at a low point due to the pandemic, but the knowledge of fitness is in an ever-growing stage.”
Not so long-ago fitness was synonymous with having six-pack abs, biceps and lean beach bodies. Gym centres used to be frequented more by young males who wanted to get that ‘perfect’ body. Gradually this has moved towards a more holistic approach to fitness, concentrating more on mental and physical well-being. According to fitness centres, more than fifty percent of their clients are already embracing overall fitness as a way of life. And the industry, which once used to be largely dominated by male members, is seeing the participation of more women.
At present their clients vary from young kids to middle aged people of both genders. The rise is led by various factors, mass media being one of them. Moktan says that the growth of the industry and increase in fitness knowledge has been fueled by access to education and information. Information is just a click away, which has made customers more informed and conscious about their health.
Prasanna Thapa, Manager of Jasmine Fitness and Spa also says that only a handful of people had knowledge about the health benefits of gyms, spas, Zumba when Jasmine Fitness first started out. Back in 2008, Jasmine Fitness opened its doors with forty-five clients and since then has seen this grow to more than 2500 customers. The last thirteen years has seen the industry grow by huge amounts. “The increasing number of gym clubs proves this. The industry was shaken during the time of the blockade, fuel shortage and recently the pandemic but it carries huge potential for further growth,” he says.
Gyms pop up in one’s mind when one talks about the fitness market. In fact, it covers a large space from fitness centres to gym wear, fitness gadgets, wearables, nutrition supplements, gym equipment among others. Globally, it is a thriving industry worth over 96 billion US dollars. Here in Nepal, we also have premium fitness centres generating an annual revenue of around twenty million.
Impact of COVID
The gym business also experienced its fair share of misfortune because of the pandemic. Fitness centres like Pump, Gymkhana saw a decline in their revenue by more than fifty percent. They had to shut down completely for three months in the first wave and for another two months during the second wave. Fitness club owners mention that even when the business resumed, clients hesitated to come back to the gyms due to the fear of coronavirus.
Uttam Suwal, proprietor of Fitness Choice Nepal, which supplies fitness equipment across the country says, “The COVID-19 pandemic is the lowest point I have seen in the last twenty-three years of the business. We are lucky to have survived it.”
On the other hand, the COVID pandemic has disrupted the industry in a positive way. The revenue of gym clubs obviously dried up but people are being more conscious about their health. Coronavirus sent alarm bells to people living a sedentary life.
Like all businesses, the fitness industry also moved online to retain its customers and for promotion. Gymkhana started free online classes for its existing members while charging the new ones. The virtual sessions attracted more than a hundred new clients. The Pump also followed suit by providing free online classes while urging clients to pay as much as they wanted in the sessions that followed during the second wave. The easy access to online workout sessions is also said to have been a boosting factor in the rise of the number of health-conscious people.
When the lockdown took effect, workout enthusiasts had no other option other than to do home workouts to stay fit. According to Suwal, the market saw a hundred percent rise in the sales of home gym equipment with fitness equipment prices ranging from Rs 3000 to Rs 10 million depending on the segment.
Diversification of Classes
Fitness centres are serving a variety of classes from yoga, Zumba, cross functional, MMA, cardio, pilates among others. And the courses start from Rs 6,000 a month to Rs 40,000 per year. These are premium fitness clubs like Jasmine Fitness Centre which serves corporate clients and celebrities. It has monthly, quarterly, half yearly and yearly packages offering services like gym, spa, yoga in prices ranging from Rs 71,531 to Rs 482,891.
New gyms are popping up in every corner of the city, a reflection of the rapidly growing public interest in health and fitness. But the haphazard establishments also pose a risk to the healthy growth of the industry itself. In the absence of standards to follow while setting up the infrastructure, gyms of various sizes and strengths are coming to the market.
Moktan says that the cost of setting up a new gym depends on what kind of courses you offer. It starts from two million and can go up to a hundred million. Meanwhile Shrestha says that all the players in the market need to be appreciative of each other and promote one another. A healthy competition should be followed for the growth of the industry.
Though the industry seems to be recovering after coming to a screeching halt due to the enforced lockdowns, fitness clubs are worried that the Omicron variant will be as devastating as the earlier ones. Even so, against this backdrop, according to fitness club owners, the number of gym subscribers has increased, with numbers running above 100.
“There is no other risk other than COVID-19 and we are concerned how big the next one will be. The competition is also getting fierce which we have to keep tabs on,” says Shrestha. Thapa says that COVID-19 is the greater challenge at present. “We had posted a good revenue of Rs 20.1 million last year. We are targeting to meet the same this year. But the Omicron variant might disrupt our plan,” Thapa adds. “Meanwhile, increasing freight charges, restriction on loans like cash margins are some of the hurdles importers are facing in the industry,” Suwal shares.