Farah Suraputra of STRONGBEE tells us how the application allows users to book live online and offline fitness classes.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Farah Suraputra: We are doing well, thank you. Although we are spread in different places of the world, we spend a lot of virtual quality time checking in on each other’s health and wellbeing.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded STRONGBEE.
Farah Suraputra: I started my career in the banking industry and stayed for about 10 years; I also ventured into the retail industry for a few years before STRONGBEE. However, I have always been a health and fitness enthusiast, and I was raised in a family of sports enthusiasts. I have been an ashtanga yoga student for 8 years now, and I love joining sports events.
STRONGBEE is actually inspired by my own experience. I wanted to join an aquathlon a few years back, and it was difficult to find a swimming coach to train with. The same thing happened when I tried looking for a tennis coach for my son; I had to rely on word-of-mouth and connections to find proper trainers and facilities. Not to mention that booking these facilities can take a long time and often a hassle.
I realized that we need a comprehensive platform that is accessible, reliable, and easy, where we can search for the fitness, sports, and wellness resources we need, find reviews and book at the same time. So I started working on STRONGBEE.
How does STRONGBEE innovate?
Farah Suraputra: We put our users’ needs and experience at the centre of our innovation. We continuously check in with our customers, holding surveys and conversations through our dedicated and knowledgeable customer service team. We always take into consideration feedback, and our features are often inspired by our customers.
We do this with our partners as well, by asking them how we can help them to improve their business. This is why STRONGBEE also created a B2B platform for partners to manage their business, booking, and information directly. We facilitate various events and activations for partners to promote and grow the health and wellness market as a whole.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Farah Suraputra: The pandemic certainly gave the biggest push to digitalizing sports. Suddenly, due to physical distancing orders, the format of the classes offered became virtual. A lot of work needed to be done to introduce virtual classes to our audience. Including, managing classes’ information, communicating the how-to’s to our customers and partners, and more.
However, virtual classes came with an opportunity for trainers, studios, and users from different areas and countries to connect. Right now, we have 1800+ classes accessible from home, including classes taught from the US, Australia, India, and more. So despite the challenges, we found many opportunities to grow.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Farah Suraputra: There have been many challenges, as is the case with any start-up anywhere. STRONGBEE, as an app and company, has experienced many changes rapidly in the past year, and this requires hard work from our team and involves many difficult decisions, financially and otherwise.
We also see the pandemic affecting many of our partners. Some of them are unable to hold classes for a long time; some are closed down permanently. But we try to be a positive resource to our partners, such as by facilitating virtual classes to many trainers who have lost their studios to regain clients through our app.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Farah Suraputra: Video conferencing tools are undoubtedly crucial in our internal and external communications. We mainly utilize Zoom for virtual classes and events, and we’re proud to say that we are the first service of our kind in Indonesia that uses tools as such to reconnect classes with customers after the pandemic struck. Seeing the success of our virtual classes in the past year, we have also held multiple online events using Zoom as a platform.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Farah Suraputra: There is no app out there that provides as much as STRONGBEE in terms of service and partnership. Our vision is for an equal opportunity level playing field for our health and wellness practitioners and customers to deliver their services/find what they need.
In Indonesia, there are apps that offer access to booking fitness classes; however, that is not all STRONGBEE has to offer.
We offer a different and much fuller range of services. We cover the range of fitness, sports, wellness, facilities, meaning that users can book everything from yoga and Zumba classes, access to martial arts dojos, personal trainers, coaches and courts for sports such as tennis and swimming, as well as physiotherapists, nutritionists, meditation and sleep specialists.
I believe that the comprehensiveness of our service appeals to and helps a much wider range of people, from sports beginners, rehab, to serious athletes. Along with that, we continuously develop features that will reach out to all kinds of users in their different fitness milestones and journeys. We continue to innovate and to improve by listening to our users and our partners, to help provide and deliver what they need in the most accessible and holistic way.
Your final thoughts?
Farah Suraputra: I am confident that we will see a big growth in the fitness and wellness industry, seeing the rising awareness of health and fitness in our society. I am positive that Indonesia will be able to compete with other countries in terms of raising fitness and wellness awareness as well as the growth of the related industries.
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