Khaleej Times - August 2018

Fitness startups hit the ground running in UAE

Sandhya D'Mello

August 27, 2018

Innovation and disruption have spared none and it is evident in all segments of business, with the fitness industry now taking this route in the UAE. Most UAE residents are battling some form of disorder or the other and startups are here to help with innovative solutions. Popular startups such as Fit On Click, Walkstarr and SwitchDXB among others are becoming the most sought-after apps that help people stay fit amid their busy schedules.

Ben Samuel, founder and CEO, Fit On Click, said: "With more and more Dubai residents focusing on fitness and health, 2018 has been quite significant for Fit On Click. We have established ourselves as a key player in the emirate and are now in the process of a more aggressive expansion plan across the UAE. The year saw us expand our corporate fitness and wellness programmes, enabling us to work with more than 20,000 employees of various interest groups. Among our major clients this year are Tecom Group, Dubai Islamic Bank, DM Healthcare Group, Engineering Contracting Company and several other local government organisations."

Fit On Click started off in 2015 with an initial seed funding and witnessed a 300 per cent increase in revenue by 2017. Following the brand's success in Dubai, Fit On Click has set out for aggressive expansion, and aims to raise Dh1.5 million in 2018.

Samuel said: "One of the major reasons for a such an increase in corporate involvement is the proactive approach of both the UAE and Dubai government in promoting fitness and wellness among nationals and residents alike. We are expecting more corporate programmes in the coming months with an expected intake of an additional 20 per cent compared to 2017. As part of our strategy to enhance the user experience, we are working on several new technological upgrades, which will facilitate a 360-degree wellness and fitness offering under Fit On Click. Our idea is to become a one-stop solution for all fitness, wellness and sports activities in the UAE."

Fit On Click plans to roll out several new features into its 'Find My trainer' section, which enables clients to choose from about 1,500 personal trainers across Dubai. "Later this year, we plan to launch our new mobile application with all our services and offerings on board. We also plan to soon start selling online tickets for various fitness, wellness and sports events. We have already started tying up with organisers of various events," adds Samuel.

SwitchDXB curates a diverse mix of series, activities and experiences across Dubai and Abu Dhabi - all available on an app for users to browse, book and pay. The founders are currently in their Eureeca funding round and have already attracted over $1 million from two prominent Emirati backers.

SwitchDXB also works closely with huge Dubai-based developers such as Emaar, as well as Emirates airline on a pipeline of projects with many more high-level collaborations to come. Gary Blowers, co-founder and chief executive officer at SwitchDXB, who was a former investment banker on Wall Street in New York and a semi-professional football player in the UK, said: "Given the ever-increasing range of fitness offerings available in the UAE, we spotted an opportunity to create a marketplace model through SwitchDXB that showcases multiple services in one place, creating a unique platform that benefits both service providers and customers.

"For app users, we have our proprietary platform that we designed for people to discover services, watch videos, book and pay for fitness, leisure and wellbeing activities and for fitness service providers, we have proprietary business software with tools that help them grow their business. What is especially unique is our engaging video content, which is all produced in-house. These videos give users a taste of the real experience and inspire them to book the session, activity or experience," Blowers added.

Walkstarr - a free UAE-based fitness app - rewards users with discount vouchers for their everyday walking. Based on the scientific fact that a minimum of 10,000 steps a day would help keep an individual fit, the app counts a person's daily steps, be it at home, office or on the jogging track. Once the goal of 10,000 steps is reached, the individual can unlock discount vouchers from fashion, style and dining brands listed on the app.

"The idea of the Walkstarr being quite novel, it was a challenge to convince brands to come on board initially to reward the efforts of an individual. With this reward system, the brands were quite sceptical. Once these roadblocks were overcome, they were able to see the value it held for the community and how they would be contributing towards it as well. However marketing was one of the influencing factors in making the brands support the app as it appealed to millennials," said Neha Choudhary, founder and CEO, Walkstarr.

Currently, Walkstarr features fashion brands in the form of Red Tag which offers up to 15 per cent discount on fresh stock, style brands in the form of Belle Femme which offers complimentary blow dry and other grooming services and healthy dining brands such as Just Salad, Belong Restaurant and Saladicious Grillz offering between 15 to 20 per cent discount on their bills. Apart from these, the app also offers the opportunity to unlock discount vouchers from My Gym and MAD.

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Michelle Blowers