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The woman who did the ‘fit’ting thing!


Pooja Rao at her Studio

Pooja Rao at her Studio

I am guessing this is how your New Year started. You resolved to go to the Gym everyday, to get into shape. You resolved to work out everyday, to eat right. You enthusiastically signed up for gym memberships, partner deals and all! You are gung-ho about it- for 4 days. And then you are looking for excuses to skip the gym.  You drag yourself for the first week. And then skip a day. You tell yourself…just one day, just today. And then it snowballs into weeks …and then before you know it, its been months since you visited the gym. Life takes over. There are ‘priorities’. Was it this week that the membership was due for renewal?  Uh Oh!

Also see: A peek into the mornings of a Monster Mommy!

The problem with most exercise regimens is that they are all half-baked and excessively boring. The only interesting thing that can happen to you is your gym buddies. And you are lucky if you see them everyday!

Meet Pooja Rao. The spunky lady who decided to take the plunge and ‘fit’ it all together. She quit her cushy job as a HR professional to bring the right perspective of fitness to us. She started the “Transform Pilates”  Fitness Studio; that promises not only great results, but promises to do it in an informed and interesting way!

Pooja Rao at Transform PIlates

Pooja Rao at Transform Pilates

Kidskintha did an exclusive interview with Ms.Pooja Rao of Transform Pilates. Read on …

Tell us a little about yourself and your venture.

I’ve lived in Bangalore almost my entire life. I did my schooling in Bishop Cottons Girls High School and went to Jyoti Nivas College where I did my BBM. I started my career in HR in 1998. I have worked with some amazing people over the years in my corporate life. However I reached a point where I wanted to do something that did not involve sitting behind a desk! I was always in to fitness and Pilates just seemed like a natural choice because of the way it works; intelligent and effective. I did my STOTT Pilates certification in Bangalore. Along the years I’ve also been certified in Core Barre in Singapore and TRX. My interest is in functional training and core stabilization; as is evident from the classes I teach. I am also training to be a sports nutrition coach and am very interested in how our nutrition and lifestyle affect our health.

My husband works for an IT Major and I have a son who will be 10 this August. My husband too is very active and plays a lot of sports and my son is a true blue cricket crazy Indian!

What was the inspiration behind your start-up? Is your start-up an answer to some challenge you came across yourself?

I started Transform Pilates because I was an avid gym goer myself and I felt that most of the big name gyms in the city are there to offer a generic fitness experience to people who walk in. Except for some very self-motivated people who are able to transform their fitness level, most people I see (particularly women) would enter, get on the treadmill, get on the elliptical or stationary bike and do an hour or so of cardio at a moderate pace and do some stretches and leave. This definitely is not going to get desired results. If anything it will become boring very soon and then people drop out. I wanted to start a Pilates studio because it strengthens and tones your core muscles which is the foundation of your strength. With an unstable or weak core small and simple movements even can lead to injury. Pilates can be beneficial for a very athletic fit person and also for a person who has a sedentary lifestyle.More over Pilates teaches you to be much more body aware and raises your level of fitness for another other activity you may do like tennis or running or a cross-fit class.

What led you to believe that this would be your niche?

Honestly I wasn’t very sure if I would do well teaching exercise. Doing exercise in one thing but teaching it is completely different. However when I started I loved it and then people I would teach started coming up to me and telling me that this was the first time they actually looked forward to an exercise class, that their backs were feeling better or that their abs were feeling more toned without doing endless crunches. I believe I take a genuine personal interest in each person I have taught. I know their health history I know their expectations from the class and I try to deliver as best I can. I think this comes across clearly and people appreciate it.

What is your venture’s big picture? Do you believe you idea can change the world in some way?

My long term goal is to be a hub for people who want to make a lifestyle change and not just a temporary goal to fit into a dress or because their doctor said they should exercise! I hope to use my nutrition training along with Pilates and other similar fitness methods that people can use throughout their life not just when they are young. People need to understand the importance of good nutrition as against “dieting”. Many people still believe that if you exercise you can eat whatever you want; there is not true. Good clean eating will add as many years to your life if not more, as exercise can.

Also see: Soul Bakers for Soul Food

What challenges do you see in your niche?

The biggest challenge I am facing is to find well-qualified trainers. This makes me have to think about running a certification course myself. This limits me in my expansion plans of either introducing more programs or opening more studios without diluting the program quality.

Do you see the Internet as your biggest online partner?

Definitely! We practically live our lives in the virtual world. Our friends are online, our family is online and unfortunately even our boss is online! Given that we spend so much time connecting on the internet this is a huge opportunity to reach out to people, connect, inform, educate and receive feedback etc.

How big do you envision your Market size and reach to be? What is your revenue model? Who are your competitors?

The possibilities are endless! Pilates is very new in India still and there is a very small community of certified instructors. What is important is to educate people that certification is important. Unfortunately, in India people don’t ask for certifications. We are so polite that we feel awkward to ask if a person is really certified. This leads to people who learn from You Tube etc. flooding the market and either injuring people or teaching incorrectly. I can’t really say there’s too much competition because I know a few instructors and when people call me and they are not close to my studio I always direct them to an instructor close by, there’s space for everyone. I’m just happy if people can experience this form of exercise whether taught by me or anyone else.

What is your brand proposition?

My brand proposition is to help people transform their bodies through simple effective exercise and clean eating.

How is your startup being funded? Are there any future plans of investments?

This venture is totally self-funded and at this point I am taking one day at a time and not looking at immediate expansion.

What are the current marketing efforts being incorporated? What do you see as necessary to take your business to the next level?

Right now I am looking at targeting the local population within a 7 km radius. In Bangalore traffic and roads as we all know in bad shape. Expecting people to come regularly from beyond a certain distance is unrealistic. Given that this is a place that you need to visit frequently distance and convenience plays a big factor in attracting people.

Most of my marketing has been targeted –either posters in gated communities, supermarkets, or Facebook advertising. What has been most successful is word of mouth referrals nothing works better than a personal recommendation.

The only way to reach further is to look at open another studio which I am not looking at doing right now. However I am open to doing corporate workshops where I can go into companies and talk to and teach people to stay healthy despite their hectic schedules.

What does your typical day look like juggling between mom responsibilities and owning a business?

My day starts at 5:30am no exceptions! I get my son Aditya ready for school thankfully he doesn’t need too much help since he is 10. I eat breakfast at about 6:30am and am out of the house at about 6:50am. My classes are all in the morning hours at this point so I am back home by noon. I also do a few classes on weekends. But the rest of my day is mine and I spend it on doing all the backend jobs for my studio marketing, accounts, planning classes etc. When my son is back I make sure I am free so I can spend time with him and support him with studies projects etc.

It’s actually not as strenuous as I expected, mostly because I have an extremely supportive husband who shares in all the parenting and chores. I think this is the only way it will work. I don’t believe in this unattainable media created mirage of the perfect woman where one woman does all the housework, raises kids, bakes cakes, is the CEO of her own company and looks like a million bucks all the time!

Please share particular challenges on managing a growing business being a mom, which is never less than a full-time job.

OK! Here, I have to give full credit to my son… he is a really easy going, independent sort I haven’t really had to do much. Maybe during exams I need to keep shepherding him back to his books at the most.  I think they key is to keep it simple initially, find your footing both in terms of work and personal life and then as the child grows up and becomes more independent you can scale up professionally. I have however delegated the task of cooking to a cook recently! I think that if you have a heavy duty corporate career or are busy with your business it’s important to get help whether it’s a nanny or a cook or it becomes too stressful and gives you no joy.

What is your personal mantra for motivation?

My personal mantra is to be true to yourself do something you like and it becomes very easy. Imagine waking up every day to do something you actually like…that’s motivation enough. If the going gets tough chin up and hang in there…tough times will pass too!

What message do you have for other aspiring Momprenuers?

My advice would be to trust your instincts. We women are capable of much more than we credit ourselves for.

A few words on what you like about Kidskintha.

I only recently discovered Kidskintha what I like about it is that it has some very relevant information regarding modern day parenting in India, whether it’s about raising kids in a color conscious society or in a highly materialistic environment…these are real issues that kids(and parents in turn) in urban India face. I also like that is shines the spotlight on moms who are entrepreneurs it is very encouraging and also inspirational when we hear of other moms who have taken the plunge!

Thank you!

For More Momspirations:

The art of kindling imagination- Meet Preeti Vyas!

Making a ‘Maker’ out of Every Child: Meet Bethany Koby

Cutting Through Clutter And Raising the Bar – Meet Jessie Paul

A Drop Of Fragrance And a Whiff Of Attitude: Meet Ahalya Matthan

Now, A Brain-Gym For A Better Brain: Dr. Krithika Kumar & Dr. Nick Ratterman

You can reach Pooja Rao @ Pooja@transformpilates.in

About the Author:

Devishobha Chandramouli is the founder of Kidskintha- a site dedicated to creating happy children. She believes that growing up well and happy is a function of growing up with well-informed adults. This site aims to deliver research-grounded and bite-sized pieces of information on two important facets of a child’s life- parenting and education. You can find her voice on the Huffington Post, Addicted2Success, TinyBuddha, Citizen Matters , Nectar and Lies About Parenting.

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