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Fitso and Hudle: Bringing recreational sports back

Left to right: Naman Sharma, Saurabh Aggarwal & Rahool Sureka, co-founders of Fitso

Left to right: Naman Sharma, Saurabh Aggarwal & Rahool Sureka, co-founders of Fitso   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

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With clear plans for 2020, the two Delhi-NCR start-ups are breathing fresh life into recreational community sports through tech solutions

For both the millennial and the boomer, recreational sports often take a backseat after the school and college years. Staying active became another item on to-do lists. Taking this into account, two Delhi-NCR start-ups that have been piggy-backing off the ways that our everyday lives have changed, and continue to change. Fitso, which launched in 2015 and Hudle, which started in 2016, both look to recreate the communal relationship with sport.

Hud(d)le in

“Over the past 10 years, there’s been a boom in fitness, but the focus has been mostly on individualism. And it was boring,” says Suhail Narain, the founder of Hudle. After a masters degree in Sports Management from the University of Michigan, Narain worked in event management and marketing for three and a half years, before wanting to get back to his interest in sports. “And since my professional experience was in events, I married the two,” he says.

It was an idea whose time was come. There were already aggregators in the market — the restaurant aggregator Zomato, event-aggregator and ticketing platform, BookMyShow, Mumbai-based gym aggregator Fitternity. The progression towards a platform that made it easier for us to find and tap-to-participate in community sport was then natural corollary.

A creative for Hudle

A creative for Hudle   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

But it took close to two years of “groundwork”, he says before launching the digital platform late 2018. “In the beginning, companies would hire us to run a badminton tournament for example, for its employees,” he recalls. “In that time, we interacted with thousands of spaces and players. The disconnect we found was that spaces and facilities were run in an archaic way.” The launch of their digital platform was one way by which facilities could be made more accessible — problems like going all the way to a badminton court to find that it was already in use by regulars, could now be overcome through the app, where booking could be simplified. They currently cover tennis, football, badminton, and basketball.

Swim, too

The other reason that it was the right time for Hudle to launch was the demand that Fitso, launched a year earlier, was already seeing. The startup, founded by three IIT-ians Naman Sharma, 30, Rahool Sureka, 31, and Saurabh Aggarwal, 31, launched with their swimming pool aggregator vertical, called Fitso Seals. Their services included not only finding and booking pools and classes, but also a trained coach. They started with swimming as “swimming literacy” is low in India, says Sharma, and as a single-person sport, it would be easier to practise.

A screen grab from the Fitso Sports app

A screen grab from the Fitso Sports app   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

“Primarily, we’ve had to focus on the level of hygiene in washrooms, quality of water, and safety. Also, usually, coaches are not trained and certified – and those who are available are focused on only kids or elite athletes,” he says. They’ve built an in-house curriculum that takes best practises from around the globe.

Fitso, that claims to have trained 40,000 swimmers since its inception, has since also expanded to other sports including badminton, tennis, squash, table tennis, cricket, football, and basketball. They’ve taken a leaf out of international aggregators like ClassPass, making a program called MasterKey, currently operational only in Gurguram. Through this, they make available nine kinds of sports, their facilities, as well as coaches.

Going forward

In 2020, both startups want to make it easier for older people nurturning hesitations, to come back to spot. Further, boyued by their experience with the football infra boom in Vasant Kunj, Hudle wants to replicate their interventions into existing group-sport facilities — they will expand to the Kozhikode-Calicut region, which has “hundreds of football turfs,” says Narain. Currently, they operate in Mumbai and Jaipur too, covering 200 facilities. They hope to expand to 1,000 across five major cities, and then estimate to have close to 1.5 lakh players on the platform by the end of this year.

Since their pre series-A funding of $1.5M in early 2019, Fitso is focusing on expanding MasterKey to Hyderabad and Delhi, and launching in Bengaluru, Mumbai, and Pune. “Our target is to get to a 100,000 active users by March 2021,” says Sharma, recalling the 15,000+ active subscriptions they have currently. Other than this, the team aims to further embellish their app with gamification — leaderboards, challenges, and progress trackers, Sharma adds, “because sports thrives on engagement through competition.”

Hudle, Fitso SEALS and Fitso Sports are available on Google Play and App Store

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 12:30:57 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/fitness/fitso-and-hudle-bringing-recreational-sports-back/article30495522.ece

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