People hold the notion that fat loss equals aesthetic gain. That’s just a by-product, says Raj Ganpath, founder, Quad Fitness. What really counts is how strong you can get
DIVYA M. CHANDRAMOULI
“We talk about what you can do, not what you can lose,” states Raj Ganpath, founder, The Quad (the brand name under which the company operates). That sounds like nothing I’ve heard before. And take it from me; I’ve been trying to knock off the weight for a while now. “At the start, we tried to convince our clients that our approach towards fitness and nutrition works on so many levels but it’s impossible to convince everyone. Now, we just schedule a trial class to see if a prospective client can work with us and if we can work with him/her. Typically, after signing up for our bootcamps, most clients become converts after a month of training with us,” he says. The Chennai-based company conducted its first bootcamp in 2011 and in its third year running, it has trained over 175 people.
Every week, The Quad’s Facebook page tells the story of one of its clients who has reached its wall of fame. And these people’s list of conquests is impressive – from battling asthma to auto immune disorders to postpartum weight gain. Clearly, The Quad’s doing something right. So how is it different from the other options to fitness? First of all, there’s no state-of-the-art machinery, no exercise charts to follow and certainly no air conditioning. At The Quad’s bootcamp, you exercise in open space and there’s minimal equipment (kettlebells, ropes and the likes) and the best part is that the workout routines are never the same so there’s little room for boredom to set in. Second, there’s a difference in attitude. The Quad doesn’t focus on aesthetics – so nobody is in a rush to weigh you or make note of embarrassing measurements. The belief is this; the stronger you get, the better you look. Third, there is emphasis on how much knowledge you take away from the experience. “Those who come to The Quad get coached and that doesn’t happen elsewhere. We spend a great deal of time understanding our clients’ strengths and weakness so we can keep giving people fixes, almost to the point where it’s annoying,” shares Ganpath.
Where everything’s different
While The Quad is unique in its service offering, it also does business differently. Ganpath and his co-founder, Arvind Ashok chose not to look at money first. “When we design a service, the first question we ask is; ‘How is this going to better people’s lives? How much money we stand to make, comes later,” says Ganpath. He goes on to explain how the company’s bootcamps are structured where there is a cap on the number of people, which is not relaxed, even when the demand is high.
The Quad’s concept of extending benefit is not limited to just prospective clients, Ganpath says that trainers and employees are equally important and their interests are factored in too. Unlike gyms where trainers are expected to generate more business through personal training, at The Quad, trainers are expected to be open to learning that helps better their own capabilities. It makes perfect business sense to build on human capital and for this, The Quad has devised a system of interns where those who fit the bill join them as interns and train their way up to being coaches. A background in the fitness industry isn’t a part of the mandate, what Ganpath and Ashok value most is a willingness to imbibe the work culture that is being set. Ganpath adds that a part of his responsibility is getting everybody to talk the talk and walk the walk.
Change can be good
While being different is great, there is the flip side of dealing with people’s preset notions. An avid blogger and public speaker on fitness and nutrition, Ganpath says he’s always faced with people who think all he does is to sell. He also acknowledges the frustration in fighting people’s inherent inertia towards anything new. “There are people who come in to a trial class wondering what we’ve got to offer that they haven’t seen before.” Here, Ganpath draws a parallel to retention rates at most gyms – while they see a retention rate of anywhere between 20 per cent to 30 per cent, Ganpath says that The Quad’s rate is as high as 90 per cent. Perhaps one of the reasons for this is that the company allows people the chance to leave by working in a refund clause.
As for pricing, The Quad’s price range per bootcamp is higher than the membership fee levied by the top gyms of the city but Ganpath argues that it is far more competitive than the price you pay for personal training at these gyms. “We positioned ourselves in the middle where we charge more than a gym membership but we don’t charge as much as a personal trainer because we don’t train one-on-one even though we give our clients a lot of personal attention,” he says.
The business end
The Quad’s founding duo of Ganpath and Ashok have succeeded in creating fantastic word-of-mouth marketing and their story is one that proves that a good product or service finds a way of selling itself. Even so, there are challenges to be met. The Quad’s business model relies heavily on the quality of its coaching and that presents a difficulty with regards to scaling up. Predictably, Ganpath says that the company will look to scale but not at the cost of the quality of service. Starting July, The Quad has opened a second location for its bootcamps and is eyeing a third by the end of 2013. “We won’t go from one location to 200, we are likely to go from one to two to four to eight,” says Ganpath. Thus far, The Quad has been self-funded and even when the expansion phase kicks in, Ganpath expresses a hesitancy to go the external funding route. Simply put, the pressures of being answerable to an investor, in terms of maximising business opportunities, is not something he wants to face. Ganpath adds that the company will look to be self-funded or look at a partnership in the future, where it can still dictate business terms. “We’re working on having the basic premise covered and then, we’re open to making changes that do not impact what we set out to do,” he concludes.
Quad Fitness Pvt. Ltd.
Founders: Raj Ganpath, Arvind Ashok
USP: Pioneering a fitness regime that challenges traditional notions on fitness and nutrition
Raj Ganpath wasn’t always into fitness. In fact, through his growing years he was a “fat kid” who battled asthma and that didn’t allow him to participate in sporting activities. Post a degree in engineering, he went to the U.S. to pursue a masters and that’s when he took to running, to prove to himself that he could overcome his personal struggle. “I just thought I should be able to run. And while it didn’t happen overnight, soon, I found I was running close to 100 kilometres a week.” Despite running, the asthma remained and that’s when Ganpath looked to nutrition for an answer. Soon enough, he was able to understand food better and through a process of self-experimentation, he eliminated those foods that triggered his attacks. Controlling his asthma was a huge achievement for Ganpath, one that made him view nutrition and fitness with a degree of seriousness.
Initially, he shared his ideas with friends and family and soon began online consultations while he still held on to his day job of working with a medical devices company. “At the back of my mind, I always wanted to move back to India. Given that the scope for me as a research and development engineer was limited, I didn’t know how I was going to get there.” That’s when he met current business partner, Arvind Ashok, at a common friend’s party in the U.S. – the two of them shared similar thoughts on fitness and as fate would have it, they were both looking to go back home. As they considered the idea of going into business together, they prepared themselves by attending several certification programmes. Soon enough, they laid the foundation to Quad Fitness Pvt. Ltd. in Chennai. They chose to name the company after the quadrilateral where each of the four sides represents the four sides to fitness – strength, speed, endurance and mobility.
By Ganpath’s own admission, the move was huge. Even today, there aren’t many players who offer what The Quad does and there are fewer still, looking to grow the niche category. But what mattered was that Ashok and Ganpath were able to put together a big picture. “Business partners should be the way we are; we know what we’re in for, we know what we’re working towards and we know each other’s pluses and minuses,” he says. And this has helped the duo in pioneering a fitness regime that is fast gaining appreciation, from all quarters. Ganpath is quick to credit his support system for much of this success. “I’m inspired by the people in my life as I get to see them up-close; my parents who continue to show me the importance of patience and perseverance; my wife, Srividya, who opened my mind to possibility and Arvind, who’s never taken me for granted,” he shares. Even as he inspires those around him to keep it real while eating or working out, Ganpath urges anyone with a dream to do something to protect that dream, zealously. “Not many people get to do what they really love. Just the fact that I get to do this, everyday, is amazing,” he says. Indeed!