A lot of people are afraid to commit to long term gym memberships because they are afraid that they would not have enough time or they might lose motivation halfway through it. Sully Bholat, CEO and founder of Flexible Pass, has the solutions to these problems through his fitness app that gives people the flexibility to reach their fitness goals whenever and however they want.
Sully shared his business journey with Faces of SMEs team (F). Let’s see how he started this business.
Sully Bholat, CEO and founder of Flexible Pass, created an app to help people in Myanmar reach their health and fitness goals however, wherever, and whenever they want. Because of their "pay as you go" model, users don't need to apply for long term gym memberships anymore."There will be struggles, but you just have to be persistent. Just be brave and eventually you will see the light at the end of the tunnel."
Posted by Faces Behind ASEAN SMEs on Tuesday, January 28, 2020
F: Can you give a short background of your business?
S: In Flexible Pass, we connect Myanmar people to a wide variety of fitness activities using our app. You can use our app to discover and book fun activities. We are planning to expand to the wellness industry. Starting next year, we’ll be adding in some spa in our service.
F: Why did you start your business?
S: I started this business in 2017 June. I was part of the first batch in Myanmar to join a program called the Founder Institute. I attended a 3-month program and I graduated in June 2017. I took business management, majored in international business, in college because I always dream to start my own business, especially in managing people from different cultures. In 2016, I moved back to Myanmar after I graduated. I took a break and think of what I should do with my life. Later that year, I went to a few pitching competitions and I grew a pretty big interest in entrepreneurship. Because of that, I joined a fund-raising program later that year and this idea started from there. Flexible Pass is my first full-time job. I don’t have much experience but I’ve been learning a lot since the day I started this business. I learned from my mistake and apply it in my next steps. I also have good mentors and I also learn from entrepreneurs in Myanmar. One of them actually became one of my board of directors. So, I’ve been receiving a lot of guidance.
F: Why are you interested in the health and fitness industry?
S: People want to get fit, stay healthy, and live a healthy lifestyle but the problem is when they sign up for a gym membership, usually, they don’t end up going to the gym as often as they wanted to. They spend a lot of money and they didn’t get the result that they wanted, so they would think that gym membership is not for them, and as a result, they get discouraged from going to the gym. We feel that this contributes to why people are not living a healthy lifestyle. Our main solution is to help solve that problem by providing them flexible and cheaper option. We use a “pay as you go” model, so you will only pay on the day when you will use it. We want fitness to be a fun activity, that’s why we offer different activities such as yoga class, Zumba class, yoga classes, swimming, rock climbing, sky diving, and other fitness activities. We believe it doesn’t have to be the same and boring activity every day.
There are opportunities in Australia, but the reason why I went back to Myanmar is because I felt that 2016 was a big moment of change in Myanmar in terms of technology and new business ideas. I felt like there are more opportunities in Myanmar. I also felt that this is an industry where there is a lot of market potential in Myanmar. There are already a lot of big players in other industries, such as travel, food, and delivery services. I see similar concepts being successful in other countries around the world, like Class Pass in the US, so I started my own version of it and localize it in Myanmar. We are the first one to introduce this concept in Myanmar and we are the only one operating in a system like this so far.
F: Since this concept is new in the Myanmar community, what is the feedback of your customers?
S: It was challenging when we first started because we are introducing a new concept in Myanmar. We were worried that people in Myanmar wouldn’t be interested to pay online because our cards are digital and people might not like this concept. But once we had a good number of users, people just adapt to this system. Our customers are happy with our business model. Before people would only have 2 choices- gym memberships or no gym memberships, but now we give people more options to choose from by adding a flexible pass in the choices.
F: What is your advocacy?
S: I would say to help people in having a healthier lifestyle. We want people to be healthy, and at the same time, live the way they want. Our slogan is “your fitness your choice”. We give people the flexibility to do their fitness whatever and however they want. I want to focus on helping Myanmar people get healthy.
F: What is the greatest or most memorable challenge that you faced so far?
S: The greatest challenge that I faced so far is to really scale and grow the business as much as we wanted. We have limited funding and we feel there’s still a lot more that we can do. In terms of human resources, we are still short on numbers. We also want to expand our locations and explore other cities so our users can enjoy more of our services. We have 1500 active users monthly and I want to grow that number significantly.
F: What is your advice to those who also want to start their own business?
S: I feel that sometimes it’s best to just do it and learn from your experience and mistakes. Bring those learnings to help you grow and expand. Keep on learning. I struggled initially, but then I seek some advice from mentors and people who are also running startups that are also similar to what I have. There will be struggles, but you just have to be persistent. Just be brave and eventually you will see the light at the end of the tunnel.