Payal Kadakia, founder of much-loved fitness membership company ClassPass, recently joined Richard Branson in Boston for Virgin Atlantic’s latest Business is adventure panel discussion. After her time on stage we caught up with her, in order to find out the secrets behind the business’ rapid success...
On the face of it, the success of ClassPass seems somewhat of a no-brainer. Tapping into the huge growth of the fitness industry, Payal Kadakia was able to disrupt the market through the introduction of a slick digital platform that offered people access to the best fitness classes at affordable prices - wherever they might be taking place.
However things are rarely that straightforward. Having successfully implemented the product in New York Kadakia was faced with the prospect of clone companies entering key markets ahead of ClassPass. Immediate action was needed. Here Kadakia explains some of the guiding principles that allowed the business to scale at speed, whilst continuing to maintain a glowing reputation among users.
Scale v product innovation - choose both
"For about a year and a half we were one of the fastest scaling companies in the world, we’re in 39 markets and we launched 20 of them inside 10 months. However we’re still a company that is heavily focused on product innovation. We’re now looking to introduce new aspects such as recommendations and social features, we’re constantly looking to improve.
"In hindsight, scaling at that speed seems crazy, I look back and can’t believe we did it. That’s the DNA of our company, we set ourselves a goal and just run towards it. We just needed to launch into new cities and quickly, there were a lot of copycat products coming onto the market. It was our product and they were our markets to lose. So many cities across the world had a great workout culture, we felt like we needed to be there. We ended up getting the process of launching into a new city down to one week."
Create happy memories
"One of the beautiful things about our product is that we get you to do something really positive, so even if you turn away from our platform then people still love us as we represent a happy time in their life. I think that’s where a lot of the virality came from and how the ClassPass brand has got such a positive reputation. It’s not just the app, it’s the actual physical process of going along and having a workout, that’s what people remember."
Be your customer
"I am my customer, one hundred per cent. It’s so important as the way to get the most insights from your product is by actually using it. When I’m at a class I’ll be talking to other users and getting feedback, which along with our research enables us to make changes.
"The biggest thing we’re up against is the decision to do nothing - you could either go to a class or decide to stay at home. What we always think about is ways to motivate people to actually get up and go - being your customer makes that thought process easier to understand. You can’t just post up a class and expect people to attend, you need to give them the motivation."
Push others to innovate
"We never started the company to put traditional health clubs or gyms out of business, or the idea of a regular membership. We want to help push others to innovate and so many of them are doing exactly that, we’re working closely with many of them and driving a lot of revenue their way.
"We’re a technology and marketing layer that is allowing everyone to get a better experience when working out. Our existence is helping them to rethink their product, their service and their pricing - that’s a good thing to be doing. If they stand still then they will run into problems, that can be said of any business in any industry."