The pandemic has affected thousands of businesses, including the fitness industry where chain gyms and boutique studios are no longer allowed to host in-person workouts and have been forced to close down or sell their equipment. That’s not to say that Malaysia’s fitness scene has died entirely. In fact, it has quickly pivoted into a new, digital world where workouts are streamed online, opening up a whole new world for marketing fitness.
One great example is Benjamin ‘Benny’ Price’s Joompa app. The Kuala Lumpur native and 31-year-old co-founder, CEO and fitness educator developed a digital platform for fitness services and personalised training after his friend and co-partner shared how well he had done with a personal trainer of his own.
“When we decided to do this three years ago, the point of which I realised that we were solving a problem was when I couldn’t find personal trainers to list on our platform. That’s when we resolved that this was worth pursuing as a business model and a great place to start. From an umbrella point of view, we connect people to coaches. But there’s a lot more that goes behind the scenes to make sure that it all works well,” Benny shares.
“The concept of Joompa is really trying to make the whole process of personal fitness easier. What we’ve built is kind of a two-way street, everyone ends up winning because we make it easy for the public to find a coach, and we make it easy for the coaches to connect to a database of people who are looking for just that,” he continues.
“I don’t know if you’ve tried looking for a personal trainer in Malaysia but it’s a bit tricky because when you Google it, you’ll get all of these gym websites. If you’re just looking for someone who you’d want to work with individually, you might just end up running around in circles until you ask a friend, and your friend probably has only one personal trainer themselves. At Joompa, we’ve put a lot of time into filtering and verifying each coach to ensure they’re of the quality that justifies their price point, and that they’re capable of really delivering the results and the appropriate experience for someone who’s trying to make progress,” he adds further.
With the fear of going out at an all-time high, Joompa’s services are very fitting for current times. Benny says: “The platform is particularly suitable for people that don’t want to go out of their residences to go to a gym. They don’t want to go to a big gym full of people where they just get a trainer that walks and meets them at the front desk. It’s really suited for those who want to go through the selection process and want to be shown the information about the coaches available, and then making an educated decision, and have the incredible convenience of having the coaches come to you. What we’re tried to do is reduce the friction of this process completely. It’s difficult enough as it is to find a reason to work out so what we’re trying to do here is make that it stick. The process of downloading the app to having to book and pay for the coach to come to your location takes under two minutes. It’s for anyone who’s looking to make progress with their health, wellness and fitness with a coach that has been verified, not with just our own internal processes, but with previous experiences and reviews, so you know that you’re getting a high-quality coach.”
However, that’s not to say that COVID-19 hasn’t brought upon many challenges to Joompa. “We are very lucky as a tech platform that our overheads are not as high as a company that has a physical space. Be that as it may, clients are starting to lose that motivation. There’s only so many times you can get locked at home and show up online to work with your coach. The many rounds of MCO also have had a dramatic effect on people’s spending power, so a luxury product like ours, where we’re helping people elevate their quality of life, is not usually seen as essential,” Benny says.
Benny is also South-East Asia’s only qualified Resistance Training Specialist (RTS) educator. RTS is the world’s oldest and most prestigious exercise mechanics course, created by Tom Purvis and delivered internationally by Dr Mark Slavin. It’s most famously touted by successful educators such as Ben Pakulski and Joe Bennet. Of plans to take the platform further, Benny shares: “Education is also something we’re pushing pretty hard at the moment with the RTS course. Other than that, we’re currently working on revamping the app. We’ll have a pretty new look and AI software that will be released by the end of this year. That should allow us the accessibility that we were looking for where people are able to leverage the information, data and experience that we have as a business with our coaches, and be able to use them from a personal point of view.”
Benny views health and wellness as being contentment-related and there are a few prongs to that from his perspective. “You’ve got confidence, energy levels, general health, happiness – all of these things come together and sort of encompasses wellness to me, and if I’m looking at what we provide as a service and how that relates to wellness, it’s the reason I love what we do. We don’t aim for clients that are unhappy, who are not looking forward to their training sessions. For a majority of our customers, it’s meant to be the highlight of their day.”
So what lies ahead for the future of personal fitness? In a post-COVID world, it is most likely to be based on a mix of at-home programmes, which we have all become accustomed to, and in-person classes for that human appeal. Benny feels that the industry has a lot of growth opportunities in it over the coming years. “We should hold ourselves to a much higher standard. It’s an industry-wide thing, internationally. Things were much more predictable when you’re looking 18 to 20 months ago before COVID, but what’s very interesting from my point of view is that people have realised that working out at home saves so much time as opposed to going on that commute. What was holding people back was not that they were too lazy to work out, it’s having to go out to the gym and spending their time in traffic. My heart really goes out to those that have spent decades and years building up their businesses and seeing that destroyed at the moment. However, COVID has made people realise that their health matters and see the value in personal training and having someone focused on optimising their health.”