Payal Kadakia is reinventing exercise in 50 cities across the world, making workouts social, engaging, and – most importantly – fun. Read how the MIT grad is beating off the competition to create one of Forbes’s hotly-tipped Next Billion Dollar Companies.
With investors including Google Ventures and Thrive Capital, ClassPass was always destined to shake things up. Now, seven years into its journey, the fitness app tipped by Forbes as a future billion dollar enterprise shows no signs of slowing down its pace. Partnering with over 12,000 studios in 50 cities around the world, ClassPass amps up workouts across the globe, giving users access to an unprecedented level of variety from Muay Thai to gymnastics, pole dancing to meditation classes. As it makes its mark in Hong Kong, we sat down at the Hive Central with founder and executive chairman Payal Kadakia, who explained their mission and their might. “We’ve built this system so that it’s really about convenience in the sense of being able to do anything that you want,” she says. “Our entire platform is built on discovery and giving people the access and flexibility to make fitness not obligatory, but fun.” Hop off your treadmill and read on to find out more.
The multinational enterprise first blossomed in 2011 as the brainchild of MIT graduate Payal and has since embarked upon a turbo-charged mission to offer their services globally. That journey has seen them become the world’s largest fitness network, offering over a million classes. “While we are a fitness product, we’re constantly thinking about the best way to help people live a fulfilled life,” Payal explains. “We take our time to make sure we understand each market and the ways people want to live and work out.”
Offering a monthly membership, ClassPass makes it easy to sign up for hours of fun. Each plan includes a set number of credits which are used to book classes through the month. Clicking onto ClassPass’s intuitive platform, users can filter by the type of workout they want, the time they want to work out, and there’s even a map view to sort by location. After that, you just hit reserve and show up. Focusing relentlessly on customer experience, the company has raised USD 250 million to date, developing proprietary technologies such as machine learning software and recommendation algorithms. “There’s really no one that knows as much about where people work out more than we do and the way they work out,” Payal laughs.
When quizzed about ClassPass’s competitors – of which there are multiplying crowds including GuavaPass and Planet Fitness, Payal remains unfazed. “ClassPass has always had copycats, but we’ve been working on solving the problem in the market – whether it’s for the business, studios, or customers – longer than anyone, and because of that I think we’ve evolved and really optimised all its components for our customers and our studio owners,” she relates. “At the end of the day, we’ve taken a lot of our copycats out in the past and in every market, and we just really keep our eyes on the prize.”
What that means is continuing to develop their offering, tailoring its services to cater to every need within the market seven years on. “When we first started, we didn’t have credits, and now we have this beautiful credit system. You couldn’t go to some studios more than three times, and now you can,” Payal recalls. “There were a lot of things where we had to put ourselves out there to figure out how we worked for the other side of the market.”
At her core, Payal is a woman on a mission to change the world. Committing to constant, global expansion, her company has processed over 50 million reservations to date and she has become one of Fortune’s 40 Under 40, as well as won her place among Forbes’ Women Entrepreneurs to Watch. “I really, truly believe that every single time someone goes to class, we make an impact on their life. It’s not like we took their attention for a few seconds, we’ve changed hours of people’s lives,” she says, with palpable sincerity. “We’ve had our hands in really improving people’s lives and that’s something I feel grateful for every single day.”