With adjustable dumbbells, skipping ropes and yoga blocks flying off shelves, the market for at-home fitness equipment is going strong even in 2021
In the summer of 2020, partners Rhea and Raunaq Singh Anand watched their friends and family dive into a new-found rigour of daily workouts. Behind the frantic endeavour was the belief that being fitter than they were meant the better their body’s chances of contracting COVID.
They decided to make space for and build a home gym in their Delhi house. It was then that a business idea took shape. Close to a year later, the partners have launched Flexnest, one of India’s first personal fitness brands selling 12 essentials solely for home use.
Rhea and Raunaq have identified that though home gyms were all the rage in June 2020 when we believed that the cure was just one magic vaccine away, the big picture is that home workouts are becoming a way of life for many. Gyms may be back in business, but that does not preclude the booming market of at-home fitness gear. Even US President Joe Biden reportedly does not want to give up virtual classes on his Peloton bike as he moves to his new home, and he is 78.
“Our aim is to make everything you will ever need for a complete home workout,” says Rhea. “We are working with a design team from Germany to create signature products ranging from smart dumbbells, kettlebells, yoga mats to inter-lockable gym tiles that can fit anywhere inside your house.” The speciality is space-saving adjustable equipment, like dumbbells that you just turn a dial on, taking the weight from 2.5 to 24 kilograms.
While the brand is pan-Indian, it is also in touch with fitness influencers in New York and Paris to keep tabs on the diaspora market there. After all, the lockdown saw the rise of fitness influencers like Chloe Ting and MadFit in India too.
Dumbbells from Flexnest
Home high ground
Noting the demand for fitness gear, during the last week of December 2020, Amazon announced an on-going Fitness Fest, with heavy discounts on equipment, trackers, apparel, and more. “The sellers on Amazon.in have seen a significant surge in demand for products in the health and fitness category,” says an Amazon representative.
The e-commerce platform points to its search trends: ‘treadmills’ has gone up 1.5 times, ‘home gyms’ is up by 1.3 times and ‘weights’ by 1.2 times. Other sub-categories such as sports equipment, fitness bikes, yoga, and activity trackers also saw a considerable uptake, according to the company.
Sohrab’s must-haves for beginners
- Coach to celebrities such as Alia Bhat, Sohrab Khushrushahi’s academy SOHFIT offers virtual personalised and buddy training programmes, bootcamps and challenges. Speaking from his experience of coaching online, he says, “Beginners need gear that gives them enough variety to mix and match. Your gear should be durable and not take up too much space. You don’t need to build a full home gym, start with the basics and progress to more challenging equipment.”
- Skipping rope:
- It is the best form of cardio if you cannot go out for a run.
- Dumbbells or kettlebells:
- Either is fine, you can buy a few different weights: heavier for the lower body and lighter for upper body. If you do not have access to them, resistance bands also work.
- A plyo box or a sturdy bench:
- You can do box jumps, step ups, chest presses and more with this.
“It’s not like every other year, where we observe a horde of fitness enthusiasts hitting the gym for membership in January. People are conscious about risking themselves and their families by going to public classes. Plus, at the gym, there are restrictions of social distancing and wearing a mask while exercising,” says Prachi Bhargava, spokesperson for Decathlon.
The sports retail brand says that fitness gear contributed to almost one third of its total turnover share for 2020, and almost 80% of those sales came from enthusiasts wishing to workout indoors — “mostly from rowing machines (recorded a 315% growth) and self-powered elliptical machines (recorded a 195% growth)”.
Fitness centre Cure.Fit has pivoted to online classes, clocking 5,00,000 sessions on a daily basis (they have begun reopening their physical spaces now), with over 1,00,000 subscribers. “Our trainers as well as the app specifically call out what kind of equipment will be required for a certain class,” says Tshering Wangdi Yolmo, Business Lead at CultSport, the workout gear arm. “Our TPE yoga mat with stance marking sold out within a week of its launch. We are bringing it back in February,” he says. “Free weights (dumbbells, kettlebells), yoga accessories (mats, blocks, straps) and resistance bands are doing very well.”
The year in fitness
With the investment people have made in equipment, COVID still on everyone’s minds, and trainers and trainees now used to an online format, it is likely that workout from home is here to stay in 2021 too. Personal training online is lower priced for those looking for a coach, the commute time is cut out, and people have carved out a space to exercise at home.
- Gender bender
- Yoga Straps and blocks are more popular with women customers compared to men, while free weights (5 kilograms and above) are more popular with men, at CultSport.
- Growth spurt
- Skipping ropes registered a 300% growth from newbies, while there was an over 250% growth on 50 kilogram weight kits, at Decathlon.
- Age weight
- Users from 35 to 50 are mostly the ones buying indoor cardio equipment, at Decathlon.
Then there is social media. With everyone online, fitness influencers began putting out challenges, ranging from Kitty Kalra’s squats for a minute for 14 days to Sohrab Khushrushahi’s 21-day (and his current 40-day one).
Sports equipment retailer Grand Slam Fitness registered maximum leads through July 2020 with the top keyword search being for ‘motorised treadmill’. It has however seen a significant decrease in month on month leads through e-commerce website IndiaMart. Prateek Sood, Director of Grand Slam, said in a press statement that this could be that gyms have resumed.
It could also mean that the future of fitness at home is in smaller pieces of equipment that can be stowed away easily, that with parks and roads being open, cardio can be taken outdoors, while strength and flexibility training is done at home. “All we can say is it is still too early to predict consumer behaviour and upcoming trends,” says Sood, in a world that has now accepted uncertainty as a part of life.