Formation of Multi-National Corporations (MNCs) is constantly examined to assess and determine the status of economic development in a country. Nonetheless, the contribution of small businesses has always been crucial all along. According to The World Bank, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) contribute around 40% of the nation’s GDP in emerging countries and 60% of national employment. Small businesses consist of sole proprietorships and partnerships that are commonly privately owned and have fewer employees and overall revenue.
An exhaustive definition cannot be formed as different countries have their distinct criteria based on revenue, profits or number of employees for qualifying as a small business. For instance, according to The US Small Business Administration (SBA), a business having less than 500 employees qualifies for a small business in the USA. With the rise of COVID-19 pandemic in March, economic slowdown followed in practically all regions. Although small businesses struggled substantially with many shutdowns, few which were virtual or found a way to be virtual survived and saw an acute rise in demand.
Digital fitness had already paved its way into the market before the pandemic, fueled by the inability of people to join gyms owing to financial, timing or other constraints. But with the onset of lockdown that restricted physical activity outside the premises of an individual’s house, millions began exercising for maintenance of physical fitness in their rooms through digital fitness on YouTube, Instagram Live, Video Conferencing or Fitness Apps. Many people now own a new activity-tracking device that monitors their daily steps, calories burnt, exercises, body temperature, heartbeat, blood pressure and even body sugar level. Workout apps and technological advancement in this sector have been tremendous due to increasing growth and demand for physical fitness. Digital fitness business in itself is not only limited to few online videos, nowadays online subscriptions, wearable devices, personal trainers and smart gym equipment are all part of it.
UNDERSTANDING THE GROWTH
According to the International Health, Racquet and Sports club Association, US$ 30 Billion Health and Fitness industry in the US is growing at a rate of 4% for the past ten years. According to the “Covid-19 Fitness Behavior Survey” with over 50000 responses, the lockdown in India increased the demand for virtual yoga classes by 87% and High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workouts like Zumba by 72% and aerobics by 67%. Around 77% maintained fitness through DIY (Do-It-Yourself) home workout and household chores. The survey also revealed that it was the younger generation from 25 to 34 years that took the charge for digital fitness solutions.
There are numerous reasons for this acceleration which will continue for at least one coming decade. Involving in physical exercise regularly is the key for self-improvement and tackling the current and upcoming sedentary lifestyle with Work from Home culture. As the emphasis on maintaining better immunity spread around the world due to Covid-19, people, in general, are being attracted to physical fitness. Employers have now understood that not only healthy people are more productive and successful, but also their life and health insurance (which nowadays falls in the employer’s hand) cost less.
Social media cultivated fitness communities where people get inspired by others, share goals and get motivated to stay fit. Another added advantage of digital fitness is less cost. Apart from a few exceptions, learning through online streaming and apps cost relatively less than offline means. Nonetheless, digital fitness cannot replace in-club workouts. Almost everyone thinks at least once of joining a gym but few stay committed. With streaming online classes, live trainers availability 24/7 and activity tracker devices, people are now able to fulfil their new-year resolution and long time commitment.
CHALLENGES IN DIGITAL FITNESS
Whilst virtual fitness and classes have evolved and eased wellbeing, the industry growth faces certain challenges too. As fitness enthusiasts strive to socially interact with people having similar interests and goals, digital world restricts it to a certain level making people socially reclusive. Also, as fitness involves relaxation with proper space and ambience, people are not able to create the same in their home with the family members around and lack of space. Technical issues like slow internet speed and connectivity issue are common with all forms of digital businesses. This leads to outrage and disappointment amongst the enthusiasts as it creates an imbalance in the workout schedule. At times, the quality of content available virtually is not effective and efficient. To fast pace the industry, concerned people have to address these problems for a better and secure future.
FUTURE OF DIGITAL FITNESS
In the coming years, the fitness industry is likely to see several trends:
- Hybrid model: Fitness enthusiasts are likely to continue their ongoing fitness through online modes and integrate it with the traditional in-club workouts as the tension of virus eases.
- Gyms offering Digital Fitness: With the loss in revenue during the pandemic, gyms are likely to make available digital fitness in the coming years to retain their existing base and expand to people in different cities and countries. However, they will face extreme competition from existing fitness apps and upcoming apps that are in progress.
Hence, small businesses in the digital fitness segment now need to build a value-driven ecosystem that caters to needs to all consumers.
Even with the reopening of fitness stations around the world, people are unwilling to give up their convenience of in-home workouts. Sanitization, social distancing, temperature checks and exercise with masks are emerging as the areas of concern. According to The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 15% job growth of fitness instructors and trainers is expected till 2029. With a low entry barrier, ample opportunity and decent earnings, digital fitness might shape the market related to physical fitness and exercise in the coming decade. Digital fitness was bound to grow in the coming future but the pandemic only accelerated this growth process.