Leandro Caldeira, Gympass CEO for Latin America. Photo: Paulo Vitale

Wellness-benefits startup Gympass focuses on digital solutions and resumes growth

The Brazil-based unicorn has incorporated online products and services to its platform, offered video classes with gyms and personal trainers, and attracted 40 new corporate clients during the pandemic

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Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, much has been said about the transformation of corporate environments and the consolidation of the home office as a definitive workplace from now on. Little attention has been paid, however, to the gaining popularity of “home gyms”. Without access to fitness centers, closed due to decrees that established quarantines around the world, people brought physical activities into their homes. Gympass, the largest wellness-benefits platform for companies, has taken a central role in this new scenario.

Even before the coronavirus reached Latin America, Gympass knew that the impact caused on business would be big also in the region, where the firm has partnerships with more than 30,000 sports centers in about 2,600 cities in Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Chile. Operating in Latin America, the U.S. and Europe, the Brazil-based unicorn, valued in 2019 at over $1 billion, had by then already felt in Europe the economic effects generated by the outbreak and the social distancing measures adopted to contain it.

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In an interview with LABS, Leandro Caldeira, Gympass CEO for Latin America, recalls the experience of Italy, the first western country strongly affected by the pandemic. “When the government decreed the closure of all gyms, we were irrelevant for two weeks,” he remembers.

Seeing the seriousness of the crisis, Gympass executives accelerated projects and envisioned that the natural path for the continuity of its services lied in the digital environment. The quick response meant that the first project was already up and running in the end of March, when the virus began to spread more rapidly across the Americas. At that time, the platform allowed partner gyms to offer courses by video conference. The initiative helped to bring users into the platform and stabilize the number of enrollment cancellations.

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A demand for more flexible training schedules made the startup partner with more than 40 apps that brought wellness products and services onto its platform. Subsequently, it sought to offer more personalized experiences, partnering up with personal trainers. “We had a lot of people locked up at home and also many physical education teachers without any clients. We joined both ends of this equation,” says Caldeira.

Gympass user interface, with new Gympass Wellness feature of online training. Image: Courtesy

Since then, more than 1,600 personal trainers have registered on the platform; 1,000 of which in Brazil. Gympass has already computed more than 1 million hours of activities done online, including wellness solutions, live classes with gyms and with personal trainers.

The rate of users who tried new gyms rose from 20% to 25% since the same period last year in Brazil. At 7PM, the most popular time for physical activity in the country, there was an increase of 14% in daily check-ins.

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A reversal on the initial fall

The reversal of the initial drop in business was rapid. At first, the initial uncertainty about the duration of the crisis, added to the higher rate of enrollment cancellations, led the company to lay off about 20% of its employees, but new formats with an emphasis on online alternatives made Gympass attract 40 new corporate customers during the pandemic.

This was the most challenging obstacle we overcame. We resumed growth and had new corporate customers at a time when all companies were retracting and cutting costs. New clients hired Gympass because of the new value proposal we were able to offer.

Leandro Caldeira, Gympass CEO for Latin America

Online training classes were a lifeline for many gyms, which managed to keep part of revenues even behind closed doors. The option of personal trainers attracted professionals to the platform at a period of great uncertainty for them.

Dayane Giacomazzi, a personal trainer using the Gympass platform. Photo: Courtesy

Dayane Giacomazzi, a physical education teacher from São Paulo, says that she experienced a month when her income from training fell almost to zero. Invited to take a test at Gympass right at the beginning of trials of the platform’s format for personal coaches, she saw 95% of her income in May come through the platform – today, that rate is at 70%, according to her.

“I can already go back to the gyms, but I don’t want to,” says Giacomazzi, who have worked at the Reebok Sports Center for over 10 years. Last month, she taught 211 classes to 60 participants on Gympass.

Online training is here to stay, both for students and for me. Participants see results, and I have seen former customers who had moved abroad back taking classes with me again.

Dayane Giacomazzi, A Brazilian PERSONAL TRAINER using Gympass

More attention to mental health from corporate customers

The transformations resulting from the pandemic did not happen only within the startup, they also changed users’ profiles. Gympass saw more and more corporate customers concerned about mental health and the quality of life of their employees, for example. In the platform’s marketplace, it is possible to find nutrition, meditation, psychological support and even financial education apps.

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“Resumption of gym activities in the post-crisis will be gradual, but the health issue has gained relevance. The big change I saw is on mental health, which has become an important feature for all companies”, says Caldeira. “It is no longer an icing on the benefits cake, it is now something central to the product.”

The CEO explains that this is a segment that was not prepared to offer services on the scale and in the format in which they started to be demanded. “We present ourselves as a possible solution, and we will continue to refine this offering,” he says.

Another forecast is the permanence of the digital environment as an option for physical exercising. According to a survey conducted by Gympass in July with 4,266 people, 30% of respondents said they want to continue training online, combine online and offline sessions or stay 100% online after the pandemic – 27% of them did not know how they will keep their exercise routines in the post-crisis.

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For people who find excuses not to work out, online classes may be the most attractive way to start training. Intimidation is the main barrier for those who are beginning to exercise and the personal trainer can be the least intimidating option, especially when the courses are virtual.

Leandro Caldeira, Gympass CEO for Latin America. Photo: Paulo Vitale

“The role of the virtual environment as an entrance is going to be very important for many people. It attracts those who did not attend any gyms and were embarrassed to do it, and who now may start at home”, says Caldeira. Even before the pandemic, 70% to 80% of Gympass users had no previous gym membership, according to the executive. In the new scenario, the potential to attract new participants of fitness and wellness activities has grown even more.