Pratik Saraogi tells us how he is using Actofit to change the way people measure fitness.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Pratik Saraogi: Surviving for almost a year through the pandemic, my family finally caught the virus just last week. Thankfully the recovery has been super-fast, and it hasn’t spread. It’s been a huge shift for everyone, and in a good way, brought families closer together.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Actofit.
Pratik Saraogi: I was always a fitness enthusiast. I always believed that 10k steps were not a true measure of fitness. In an age when step-counting was the rage, we found Actofit to provide more in-depth analytics to drive data-driven workouts. I was lucky to find 2 brilliant cofounders and raised seed and an angel round in the first 18 months of our business. We launched an Indiegogo and a preorder campaign where we had 4000 backers for our first batch, and that’s what fueled our growth forward. Prior to Actofit, I used to work in finance, and I’ve studied management at Purdue & UCLA.
How does Actofit innovate?
Pratik Saraogi: We work very closely with several gyms where our devices and solutions for the end-users are deployed. Based on real on-ground problems or gaps that users feel they have, we look for solutions. We test our solutions to the T with the clubs we work with at a beta level before releasing them. We innovate on both the hardware, software fronts by bringing in new data sets that were previously un-measured or making sense of a data set available.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Pratik Saraogi: Coronavirus has been mixed for our business. While parts of the business have shut down, other parts have grown. Like many other businesses, we took a conservative approach in terms of our expectations. However, we couldn’t predict how health-conscious and health-focused this pandemic has made consumers, especially consumers of the Indian region. The caveat here was that consumers were not only worried about their own health, but a lot of times, it was the people around them (parents, siblings, children, grandparents, friends, etc.). These health fears the pandemic catalyzed gave rise to our wearables and smart scale sales. Imperial in-house data and a study we conducted at IIM, Indore both showed that a constant health monitoring device could in fact increase your health score and overall health for the simple reason that a constant measure device makes you more conscious of your health. Based on the facts and data we have collected, we see an uptick in 2021 as health consciousness is leaping from a temporary phenomenon to a permanent one.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Pratik Saraogi: We have to make difficult choices every day. Most of these choices are not easy, as they have a lasting effect on business economics or human resources. Our biggest lessons were manufacturing lessons learned from China back in 2016. Being fresh in the manufacturing play, we didn’t realize the levels of testing and repeat testings we need to do at every layer of manufacturing. With a final test report of higher rejected goods, we realized with testing at every layer; we could have avoided a lot of defunct units. But that’s what has taught us to be more prudent in our approach since, in the last 5 years, to maintain record yields.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Pratik Saraogi: Being a tech-driven company, we were already using project tools to manage our team collaborations. Post-covid-lockdowns, we were able to scale our methods on existing Trello, Jira, and Zoom to continue to stay in touch and talk to each other every day, almost like we were in office. Collaborations needed on the hardware product development and testing faced higher challenges, but our team was always able to find creative ideas to challenges that the crisis threw. With gyms being a major customer base for us, we suffered a lot of accounts being shelved, but we sort of made up for that by way of our hardware devices finding their way to people’s homes for connected home fitness.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Pratik Saraogi: We’re somewhat more competitively priced while having a higher feature set, being from India. Simultaneously, being a smaller company, we are usually open to customizations that a lot of other companies are not eager on. Our current competitors or alternatives are not a connected wholesome fitness ecosystem that provides a one-stop-shop for all fitness demands, whether it be an everyday consumer or business solutions. Our software solutions are targeting personal trainers, coaches, gyms, boutique studios, etc., while our hardware devices are further targeting everyday consumers from individuals already in the fitness space or individuals looking to begin their fitness journey apart from personal trainers, coaches, gyms, boutique studios, etc. For each of our verticals, we have different competitors, but we don’t have a competitor at the overall integrated level, which sometimes pushes us ahead in the minds of our customers.
Your final thoughts?
Pratik Saraogi: Covid or no Covid, challenges are always going to be thrown at any startup. The ability to pivot through those challenges, being nimble on our feet, and being decisive in our actions is what has helped us weather the storm. You need to build a door to allow an opportunity to knock on it, and as founders, we need a little bit of luck as well, sometimes to make things go our way.