By Rohit Vaid
New Delhi, Sep 17 (IANS) Despite some state governments’ reluctance on opening of fitness centres along with high tax incidence, industry major Gold’s Gym India expects to reach pre-Covid levels of the business in the next six to nine months.
In a conversation with IANS, the company’s Chief Operating Officer Nikhil Kakkar revealed that positive response has been received from gym members in over a month’s time since the re-start of operations in select locations.
However, the reluctance of some state governments in allowing re-opening of gym and fitness centres is still impacting the business.
At present, the company has re-opened 75 of the 150 fitness centres it has in the country.
“The last six months have seen massive erosion of our business. While operations were shut on account of the lockdown, fixed costs continued to hurt us financially,” Kakkar said.
“Fortunately, since the last month, we have witnessed a rise in footfalls at our facilities, even the confidence level of gym members have increased.”
“However, it will take another 6-9 months to reach the overall pre-Covid-level.”
According to Kakkar, while on an average 250-300 plus members used the gym facility in pre-Covid period, this number has now fallen to 50-75.
“Practically, no new business is being generated. But our long term members have reposed faith in us and are increasingly using the gym facilities,” he disclosed.
“Though the worst is over but the overall cost when calculated will be enormous for the industry. We estimate that nearly 20-25 per cent of gym facilities will be closed down due to the Covid impact.”
As per estimates, there are nearly 100,000 gym and fitness centres in India. Over 80 per cent of these belong to the unorganised sector, while the rest are in the organised space.
Besides, the industry estimates show that nearly 20 lakh people are directly and indirectly employed by the sector.
“There have been job losses and truncation in the industry’s size. Globally, as well, we see our peers suffer from the same phenomena,” Kakkar said.
“Gym and fitness centres are by far more safer than other places like metro or public transport as we have compete access control, and contact details of the members and with the slot system, we can maintain social distancing norms.”
Nevertheless, he said that state governments of Maharashtra, Bihar and Jharkhand should immediately allow recommencement of operations.
On the issue of high tax incidence, he said: “Our bottomline is thinly stretched because of the pandemic and we have requested the Centre to give GST tax break on new gym memberships to steer-up demand.”
“We also urge the government to consider a status of healthcare industry for the sector.”
Accordingly, Kakkar said the industry has also proposed for an extension of working hour limit for gym and fitness centres.
“Some states do not allow 24 hour operations. We have requested that the industry be allowed to function 24 hours in a day and 365 days a year,” he said.
In terms of silverlining, he cited that pandemic has imbibed the need in general population to get physically fit and this trend in the long term will attract more people towards gyms.
“In India, only 0.5 per cent of the total population goes to the gym whereas in the US and the UK, this percentage stands at 15-20 per cent,” Kakkar added.
“The pandemic has triggered a change in mindset towards the need to get physically fit. In other countries people also get insurance credit for using gym facilities, the same needs to be promoted in India.”
Gold’s Gym India has been operating in the country for more than 17 years.
In the pre-lockdown period, it had 150 gyms across 95 cities. The global chain is deeply entrenched in popular culture.
In 1977, it received international attention as it was featured in the movie “Pumping Iron” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno.
(Rohit Vaid can be contacted at [email protected])