Having your own private gym you can access 24/7 at the press of a button may seem a little far-fetched, but Singapore startup The Gym Pod wants to give you just that – in a shipping container.
If you had to name some of the pressing concerns Asia’s time poor, urban professional crowd face, they could well be a quest for convenience, a lack of space and an obsession with exercise. The Gym Pod, ‘Southeast Asia’s first fully automated, smart container gym chain…’ sets out to address those concerns. With two locations under its belt and more in the works, the Singapore-based startup establishes tiny, private gyms in disused shipping containers, giving its members access to a private workout space any time of day or night, and all at the touch of a button. Founder and self-confessed ‘gym-trovert’ Damian Chow sat down with Hive Life to explain how he sees Gym Pods as the future.
Damian always found gyms unsatisfactory. “I have always been active in team sports, but as I grew older I tended to exercise alone more. I thought about getting a gym membership, but they are expensive. I tried registering for public gyms, but they are always crowded, and they can be a bit intimidating, especially when there are a lot of huge guys around,” he laughs. Factor in Singapore’s heat, making outdoor exercise tricky, and you have a limited list of options when it comes to private, affordable and convenient places to exercise. “In the end, I resolved to work out on my own at home, and that’s when I started thinking how great it would be if I could convert my room to a home gym and share it with other people,” says Damian.
In August 2017, he began asking around for ideas that would facilitate a private, self-contained gym without all the associated costs. “We had lots of different ideas. Some friends suggested cardboard boxes! But we eventually settled on renting shipping containers. They come already built, and the space is about right for a gym.” Funded by SGD 50,00 of his own money (he has since raised SGD 200,000 from angel investors), he then had to scout for a space. “We tested The Gym Pod at the JTC Launchpad, an industrial area populated with startups. It was ideal, because there’s only one gym there, and its standard opening hours don’t quite fit the need of the demographic working there. People working at startups usually work odd hours!” They’re also exactly the demographic he was pitching to; independent, private users who are up for trying out something new.
With an eye on convenience and low maintenance costs, The Gym Pod is completely automated. To book their slot, users access the app, reserving anything from a 30-minute session for as low as SGD 2.5. Each pod is fitted with basic equipment like dumbell sets and a treadmill, with a maximum of 3 people allowed to use the pod at once and the option to book the whole pod out for yourself. Everything from its aircon to its lights is set to switch on automatically before your arrival so you’re all good to go. All the user has to do is press the ‘door open’ button that appears on their app. “We now have on average 400 sessions booked per month, per pod,” says Damien. “We think that will grow as our second pod at Alexandra Technopark has only entered its third month.”
Conversions to their cause have not all been easy to come by, but Damien has stuck to his guns. “When we first launched The Gym Pod, we received some negative feedback from serious gym-goers who said it wasn’t a real gym,” he says. “But, when we asked our users, we found that there were a lot of people like me out there who want to have a private session and do their own basic workout. I’m glad that we stuck with our concept. ”
Next, there are plans to install more Gym Pods at locations that are currently underserved by sports facilities, think public housing flats, industrial offices and parks. They have also had requests from the US, New Zealand and Hong Kong, with plans to roll out in the latter towards the end of this year. With its roots in exercise, convenience, and space-saving solutions, Damien hopes to bring the joy of working out to millions of other ‘gym-troverts’ just like him, one fuss-free, private session at a time.