By Relena Sei
The pandemic has upended lives and affected work, leisure, and personal health. Of the three, perhaps health took the worst hit. And that’s exactly what Hong Kong-based QFit aims to resolve.
Whenever Donna NguyenPhuoc had close friends quarantining in Hong Kong, she’d send them some wine, chocolate, and cheese. This care pack aimed to cheer them up during their period of isolation. But the accounts of their experiences of being cut off from the world for 21 days made her feel that she needed to do more.
Donna recounts the effects of quarantine on her friends. One continued to sleep with the lights and television on at night even after quarantine because she didn’t want to feel alone. Another refused to see or talk to anyone after a period of isolation.
“Humans are not built to be locked in a room, in a confined space for 21 days,” Donna tells Jumpstart. Donna is Managing Partner at tech investment firm Sparq Capital, and CEO of smart fitness rental platform QFit.
Donna’s friends aren’t alone. One study found that quarantine during COVID-19 led to “increased risk of experiencing mental health burden,” including depression, anxiety, insomnia, and acute stress.
Further, being in quarantine means limited mobility, fewer trips to the grocery story, and sedentary locked-in lifestyles. This leads to severely limited fitness and nutrition options for people.
Based on her friends’ experiences and those of people quarantining in hotel rooms, Donna and her team started QFit. It is a smart fitness rental platform that focuses on people in quarantine. It offers fitness and wellness products from diverse brands.
The company’s aim, Donna says, is, “To be like Amazon but for rental.”
How QFit works
QFit acts as a marketplace for brands offering tech-enabled fitness and wellness solutions. It offers products on rent that include smart gym sets, smart skipping ropes, air purifiers, or smart brewing machines for herbal drinks.
Its most popular product currently is Move It’s Smart 4-in-1 Gym Set. The set comes complete with a smart personal trainer, app assistance, movement sensors and calorie tracking. The set can be rented for HK$1200 (approximately US$154) for a period of 21 days, or purchased for HK$2199 (approximately $282).
QFit is also working on a virtual mental health platform for users to access affordable mental health support.
By functioning as a rental platform that also offers purchase options, QFit gives customers a degree of flexibility to switch between routines. Customers can easily test out routines without committing to purchase equipment outright.
“It’s a highly profitable business. We rent out equipment two or three times, we get back the cost,” she says, adding that reaching break-even so rapidly makes the model sustainable as well. The company is in talks with potential partners outside of Hong Kong, including Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore, to scale.
Onwards and upwards
QFit’s purpose as a company is to expand the range of fitness and wellness options available for those in quarantine. It also enables companies to go to market with the right kind of technology.
Donna notes that her own experience in tech investing at Sparq Capital equips her to make informed decisions on what kinds of products meet both these objectives. It’s why the company is selective of what products make it onto the platform. The company even has an interview process for potential vendors. It’s what Donna believes lends the company its distinct advantage.
“Anyone can jump in and [replicate QFit’s model] very quickly, but as we know tech, we have the capability of assessing what works and what doesn’t,” Donna says.
“We actually have quite big budgets, so any direction we want to expand, we actually have the money to spend,” she says. Being well-funded allows the company to focus on running the business without worrying about its next fundraise, says Donna. “That’s a luxury, in a way,” she says.
While QFit is currently serving market demand arising out of quarantine measures, the company aims to target tourists in the future. The compact size of its products and the tech connectivity they support makes them a perfect fit for a luxury ‘fitness-as-a-service’ model for travelers staying at hotels or Airbnbs.
“[It’s] like a Nespresso machine, or a kettle. The hotels can just leave QFit fitness gears in the room for the guests to use, like an in-room gym,” Donna says.
During the pandemic too, if Hong Kong’s mandatory quarantine period were to reduce from the current 21 days, it would attract more tourists to the region and grow QFit’s market potential, she explains. But as it stands, the necessity for isolation measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be very real.
Worldwide vaccine roll outs arrived to collective relief and anticipation. But Asian countries are still trying to contain the pandemic. India is plunging into its second wave, lockdowns are being extended in the Philippines, and the vaccination rate in Hong Kong has dropped by 35%. 2021 is still only emerging from the shadows of the global pandemic.
Donna and her team will have their hands full for the incoming future, as the pandemic continues to place personal health management at the forefront. For companies such as QFit, that are redesigning the way personal health is approached, this opens up a world of possibilities in the present, as well as in the post-pandemic future.
For more details, please visit https://qfit.life/
Images courtesy of QFit