The National - August 2018

Booking fitness, sports or wellbeing activities? SwitchDXB has it all

The one-stop-shop for all things health and sports is the brainchild of former investment banker and semi-professional footballer, Gary Blowers

Dania Saadi

August 19, 2018

Gary Blowers, 31, a semi-professional football player in the UK and a former Wall Street investment banker, moved to Dubai four years ago and was keen to book his sports and fitness activities online. To his surprise, Mr Blowers could not find a one-stop portal for bookings, so he decided to set up his own.

That’s how he created the sports, leisure and wellness booking app, SwitchDXB.

“It was born out of frustration. We wanted to do all these different things but it was really difficult to discover them,” says the SwitchDXB chief executive.

“When you did find these different things [through websites] it was almost impossible to book and pay for something unless you called up or visited the place physically.”

The company was set up in January last year and the app for iPhones was only launched in February. Mr Blowers and his two co-founders wanted to ensure the technology was ready according to the thorough market research conducted on user habits and provider’s needs.

“One of our main drivers at SwitchDXB is to drive people to do things they maybe wouldn’t have done in an ordinary week: whether that’s aqua spinning or something more related to mindfulness,” he says.

“Our passion for fitness, well being, and leisure drove us to create SwitchDXB. When you find something you truly believe in and connect with its purpose it is much easier [to do].”

Now the company is in the middle of its Eureeca funding round to help develop the next stage of growth: launching the app on Android next month and venturing outside the UAE by the end of the year.

The co-founders provided the first round of funding, Dh1 million, which was invested in the first six months, then another Dh1m was raised in an angel round from friends and family.

The start-up has also raised $1m from investors based in the UAE.

“Raising these early funds is one of the biggest challenge that a start-up business can go through,” says Mr Blowers. “I think that was a major tipping point for us.”

App usage in the Arabian Gulf is rising exponentially as the size of the young, tech-savvy population grows, and smartphone penetration reaches more than 100 per cent in some of the GCC countries.

Globally, active health and fitness apps are also growing, with 96 per cent of users dedicated to one product, according to figures from Yahoo-owned app analytics company Flurry, which tracks more than a million apps across all categories, providing insights into 2.1 billion devices.

Health and fitness apps show the highest retention rates across all categories, which indicates that users are dedicated to their fitness apps once they start using them, according to Flurry.

More than 75 per cent of active users open their health and fitness app at least twice a week and more than a quarter of users access their apps more than 10 times a week, it said.

SwitchDXB aims to build the same level of customer loyalty. It has signed up about 100 providers of fitness, leisure and well-being activities and targets to push the number to around 250 by the end of the year.

Each provider offers on average between four to five service lines. The number of app users is around 3,000 but Mr Blowers is more concerned with converting users into individuals with bookings. 

“Our goal is not to be obsessed with the number of downloads,” he says. 

“It is really on conversion because that is what really matters to the providers we are working with.”

SwitchDXB takes 15 per cent commission on every booking that is made and also creates video content for providers in order for them to showcase their services.

The start-up is also working on a corporate wellness offering for the app, where employees can book activities tailored for them.

“We will be able to track who does what and see patterns that emerge from day-to-day bookings,” says Mr Blowers.

But commissioning will remain the bread and butter, accounting for at least 80 per cent of all revenue.

The company, which could be profitable in two years, is focusing on expanding the business to other markets and adding users this year. Candidate markets include Hong Kong, which could be the second city SwitchDXB enters, depending on market research.

“Our goal is to scale the business up and that requires venture funding,” says Mr Blowers. 

“Once we get the business model really refined, our job is to go into new markets as quickly as possible. We are targeting markets we call international hubs that have residents and tourists similar to Dubai, a financial centre and a great mix of service providers.”

Read the original article at thenational.ae.

Michelle Blowers