Entrepreneur: Aarti Pandey
Business Name: Folk Fitness
Welcome to Entrepreneurs of India #startupstories episode 83
Following a fitness regime not only refreshes your body, but also boosts your productivity. But being fit doesn’t mean you have to hit the gym every day. There are also much more exciting ways to keep your health intact. Aarti Pandey, along with her friends, wanted to combine the best fitness practices with a flair of creativity.
She wanted to give a new experience to fitness enthusiasts. That’s how she founded Folk Fitness, India’s first holistic dance-based fitness regime inspired by 122 registered folk dances from across India. Folk Fitness has already made it to Limca Book of Records.
With a vision to reach out to every household in India, Folk Fitness is now spread across 18 Tier I and Tier II cities in India and also in Australia. Founder Aarti talks about her journey with Folk Fitness and how her brainchild is set to change our fitness regime.
1) How did you get your idea for this business?
The concept of Folk Fitness came about when quite literally- Aarti Pandey, Manoj Upreti and Ashwin Pandey chanced upon the idea of combining their love for fitness and culture.
Being extremely passionate about the rich and varied cultural heritage of India, it always bothered the three as to why none of the Indian Folk Forms were used as a core concept of Fitness regimes. As a country, we are always looking up to the western trends forgetting about how much our own culture has to offer.
It was a classic case of “ghar ki murgi dal barabar” (a Hindi idiom suggesting that whatever we get easily, is valued at a much lesser price). The very first conceptualization happened on one fine Sunday evening when Ashwin- the soul of Folk Fitness, went out on a limb and proclaimed that our own Folk Dance is the ultimate form of functional training.
The idea of Folk Fitness being a perfect exercise for the whole body attracted some apprehensions but also a lot of excitement from Aarti and Manoj motivating him to further prove it to them.
After a long duration of research based on science of fitness management, the first routine of the Yuva Training program was created.
After a case study was done on 26 people to gauge the reception and post analyzing the phenomenal response, the first “Make in India” workout routine came into being.
2) Why is “now” a good time for this idea to exist?
Only 1% of people in India adopt to fitness routines, because of exercise and workout options they have are something with which they don’t relate to, as almost everything is imported from outside India.
It is not the lack of awareness towards fitness but lack of effective solutions. Even from an employment stand point the Government of India is projecting to create 1.4 crore skilled manpower by 2025 with Health and Wellness sector being a key contributor.
With the Government of India supporting the Health and Wellness sector by formulating the Ministry of Ayush and asking people to stay fit with various challenges on social media, this is the correct time that we can blend in the system as well.
A lot of celebrity and fitness industry experts are coming up with innovative campaigns like the #HumFitTohIndia Movement is helping us voice our unique workout solution to mass audience.
Taking these three points in account, Folk Fitness team researched through 122 registered folk dances of India over two years to derive fitness benefits which was converted into a holistic 60 minutes workout routine comprising of warm-up, upper body, lower body, cardiovascular and meditation forms of workout, all in one session.
Indian Wellness and Fitness sector will require creation of 5 million trainers by 2020. With an employment stand point the Government of India is projecting to create 1.4Cr skilled manpower by 2025 with Health and Wellness sector being a key contributor. Through our certification, Folk Fitness offers fitness entrepreneurial opportunities.
3) What was the reaction from your family when you first decided to become an entrepreneur?
It is very imperative that the family supports the decisions made by an individual. Since Folk Fitness was my third entrepreneurial effort, my family stood behind me very strongly. My mother-in-law and my husband especially were supportive with the kids when I had to travel a lot in the initial stages of Folk Fitness.
They supported us and our venture both financially and mentally. I always say that an entrepreneur should never hesitate in asking for help from their families. Family is the primary institution to every individual and it opens a lot of floodgates of opportunities.
4) What was your biggest mistake in business and what did you learn from it?
Not really a mistake, but running a fitness facility for 4 years (Fiber Fitness) made us realise that all that Indian fitness sector has today, is completely imported from outside India. We realised that everything is coming from the western world & there was a need of something purely Indian for people to relate to and their involvement, which gave birth to Folk Fitness.
5) What is your biggest obstacle in the next 12 months and how will you overcome it?
Folk Fitness can’t be explained, but only be experienced! We want maximum number of people to experience Folk Fitness and derive its true essence from experiencing it. We want to reach out to the influx of India and have them go through the richness of Indian culture and the goodness of science of fitness.
We are doing so via the Fit India campaign, corporates, schools and huge forums are the ways through which I am planning to reach out to all. We are creating employment opportunities by providing fitness enthusiasts with a platform to venture into fitness entrepreneurship.
6) What habits contribute to your success?
Folk Fitness Movement and our vision to reach out to maximum number of people, is my biggest motivation. Seeing all those happy and satisfied souls, gives me the motivation to work harder each day. My husband and both of our other co-founders are also an inspiration to me, they keep me going.
We have set on a mission to incorporate 100000 trainers in the next five years. So far, we are doing so good and this journey that we have embarked on, our story and the transformation stories that we see are my motivation.
When every single morning these women tag me in their posts on social media, it gives a sense of responsibility as well as accomplishment.
I will say that I am a hardworking woman who has been lucky at times. It’s through my hard-work and determination that I have been able to reach out to and empower so many women. I have been extremely lucky in terms of support from family. My parents always pushed me towards dance. They always supported me and channelized my energies in the right direction.
Again, I was lucky enough to have such a supportive better half and extended family. They have always been there for me and helped me stay focused. It is very important for the people to believe in their ideas before starting an enterprise. I was lucky enough to have great business partners whose vision matches ours and are on the same paths to achieve our goals.
7) If you had the opportunity to start this business again what would you do differently?
All we search everywhere is for hope. So, I would not change a thing other than just hope for more support from the industry that we belong to. At the beginning of it all, people were apprehensive about the whole concept of Folk Fitness.
I got constant support from my team who always pushed me to achieving new feats every-day. But, they all were negative about the possibility of us making it in the Limca Book of Records. I used to frantically mail the point of contact from the Limca Book of Records with all the details about Folk Fitness along with the supporting documents. My team was not confident about us getting a recognition from them.
But, I somehow was completely optimistic about this and made it a point to follow-up every single day with the committee. One good morning, they finally replied to my mails and asked some more relevant documents.
In just a month’s time, we were recognised by the Limca Book of Records to being India’s only Dance-based Fitness Regime to have incorporated 122 registered Folk Dances across India. I always remember this, when I’m low or when I feel that a thing can’t be achieved and strive harder to get things done.
8) What is your favourite inspirational quote?
“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” – Denis Waitley
If things go haywire or do not fall in place, I don’t think of it as a failure. I take it as a learning. Every entrepreneur has a morning voices, which are either good or bad voices. I always tend to go towards the positive vibes, which help me keep going. I always look at the bigger vision and start from the beginning with the help and support of my team.
9) Where do you find inspiration?
I prefer spending quality time with my kids. At home we have a strict no TV policy for everyone. I makes sure I have at least one meal with my family and us parents do not engage in our phones during this. We talk about our day and chores and engage our children in healthy discussions.
If on a Sunday, it’s a must attend event for me, I take my kids along with me. On other typical lazy Sundays, the family outings are fun and playful as we always engage in a game or any such activity.
The family has a habit of reading books together every night over watching the TV together. Support from my husband is a key reason why I have been able to manage my kids and a career.
When Folk Fitness started, I had to travel a lot for months together. My husband, Deepak used to take care of the kids and flew them every 15 days for a short family trip. I engage in Folk Fitness sessions every day and dance my way to fitness.
10) What is your favourite book?
I read a lot. I like to read autobiographies and biographies of successful leaders. I have read books like “Long walk to Freedom” by Nelson Mandela; “The Story of My experiments with Truth” by Mahatma Gandhi; ‘Narendra Modi: A Political Biography” by Andy Marino and “Sadhguru, more than a life” by Arundhati Subramaniam to name a few.
These books inspire me to go beyond by inhibitions and to conquer the world with all the might and determination that one could come up with. I would suggest the youth to read voraciously. It not only helps with the vocabulary, but also helps boost confidence and morale of an individual.
Books help frame the thoughts and beliefs of an individual and that is why it is very important for everyone to read.
11) What advice would you give to someone starting out?
Entrepreneurs can do anything and achieve enormous success in whatever field they choose. They just must get themselves on the right path and muster the courage to trust their beliefs. Indian Business sector is rife with examples of women who have made it big in business.
My advice is to them that they should take the first step towards starting a business and they should ask for support from their family. T
here is no shame in asking for support, be it monetary or mental support. When we do that, it opens-up a million more opportunities for us to look forward to.
There is always a chance to explore in every domain. Aarti Pandey successfully unlocked an opportunity in India’s fitness space by creating a unique platform where people could unleash their creativity to lead a healthy lifestyle.
The only thing that helps an entrepreneur succeed is his or her courage to tread a new path. Like Aarti points out, every entrepreneur should muster up the courage and trust in their ideas to move ahead and achieve the best results.
Thank you Aarti for sharing your inspiring story. You can follow Folk Fitness on Instagram now.
Check out the books recommended by Aarti!