Even 5-6 years ago, going to the gym and lifting weights considered the only option to stay fit; jogging or walking was exclusively for diabetic patients and senior citizen; you need to wait for someone coming from abroad to bring supplements for you as there weren’t sufficient products in the market. Nike, Reebok, and Adidas were only brands most of the people were aware of but only a few had the luxury to own these. Fitness gadgets were only for riches, cycling considered as low or lower middle classes mode of transportation. It was even difficult to find standard gym; yoga was considered as upper class’s hobby; carrot and cucumber was a major part of a diet to reduce weight and very few were ready to take fitness as their main profession. Fast forward a couple of years, the scenario changed dramatically but positively.
People are becoming more health and fitness concerns and trying to lead a healthy life with a better lifestyle. Two things I believe have contributed profusely in this dramatic change in the fitness scenario of Bangladesh. the Internet has enabled the free flow of information about health and fitness choices making people more aware and economic development have ushered in the rise of an affluent middle class. Interestingly, more investments were made by young entrepreneurs who were willing to venture into an untapped market; establishing more gyms with proper setup attracting the fitness enthusiasts to join in hordes.
The scenario is so promising now that we see the establishment of two to three new gyms every month. The good thing is people rushing to these workout places don’t only aspire to become a bodybuilder. The age group is also diversified. Starting from young teens to those in their 40s and even 50s are finding fitness to be the mantra of a healthy life. They are coming to gyms to exploring powerlifting, cross fit, catalyst fitness, aesthetics fitness, body weight training, HIIT, boxercise, spinning and so on. The number of athletes from bodybuilding, powerlifting, etc. to take part in international contests are rising by leaps and bounds. Accolades and awards are also being brought home. Trainers are getting international certificates so that they can train the clients and provide global stands services. Last but not least, international fitness franchises are also closely observing further investment opportunities in Bangladesh.
Yoga, aerobics, Zumba has become regular topics of in the middle-class drawing room. A number of high-quality yoga centers were opened only last year targeting not only the people of the upper class but also with an aim to raise awareness about the benefits of yoga among the common mass.
A good number of fitness brands are available in the market now. Authentic products from brands like Nike, Reebok, Adidas, and Puma are being catered for the local consumers. Official showroom of Puma, Lotto, and Kelme have already opened their official showrooms in Bangladesh and rests are waiting to enter the market.
All these have given enough hope to local equipment and sports brand giants like Multi Sports, Sports World, Body & Sports, Shah Sports, VIP Sports, etc to invest further; some of them have launched new showrooms in prime areas to catch up with the demand in the local market.
Sports supplements like Protein, Creatine, CLA, BCAA, Fat burner, etc are widely available now and big brands like Muscle Pharm, MuscleTech, True already have their official distributors in Bangladesh. An amount of 5-6 lacs Tk is the average monthly sales for online supplements stores, which was a number beyond imagination even five years ago. Besides the e-commerce based shops, international supplements store Nutrition Depot has started serving the fitness enthusiast of Bangladesh.
Almost all mid to high-level clinic, hospital and diagnostic centers have nutrition department to help people providing consultancy and diet charts.
To maintain calorie-based diet food, companies like Lean Nation, Easy Diet BD, Slimming Diet, Arif’s Diet, etc. started providing healthy food at doorstep, so that people don’t need to worry about preparing healthy food anymore. ‘Fit Chef’, the latest venture for specialized diet service has recently joined the league to serve people according to their needs. All these are still catering to a very niche market but with the advancement of technology and awareness, the size of the consumer base is sure to expand.
TWO THINGS I BELIEVE HAVE CONTRIBUTED PROFUSELY IN THIS DRAMATIC CHANGE IN THE FITNESS SCENARIO OF BANGLADESH. THE INTERNET HAS ENABLED THE FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION ABOUT HEALTH AND FITNESS CHOICES MAKING PEOPLE MORE AWARE AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT HAVE USHERED IN THE RISE OF AN AFFLUENT MIDDLE CLASS.
International chains like VLCC, Vibes, etc are already leading the market in the wellness sector. World’s latest 3D Body assessment analysis scanner, ‘Fit3D Pro-scanner’ is already providing service for the last three years. The young generation is exploring different forms of martial arts stating from Karate, Taekwondo, Kick Boxing, Muay Thai, Krav Maga, Jiu-Jitsu, MMA (Mixed Martial Art) and so on! Institutes are offering different kinds of courses to encourage the youth and also promoting martial art as a form of self-defense.
People are exploring different sports and community groups like BDRUNNERS and BD Cyclists are helping and expanding them to move forward towards a healthy lifestyle. Bangladesh has its own Half Marathon ‘ Dhaka Half ‘, thanks to Dhaka Run Lords, where more participants from more than 15 countries touched the finishing line. Athletes from Bangladesh are taking part in international marathon events and we have IRONMANs from Bangladesh as well. Trekking and hiking have become a popular trend among the college and university going young crowds. People are becoming more tech-savvy and using a fitness tracker like Apple watch, Fitbit and Garmin. Also, they are maintaining their fit lifestyle with the help of different apps. Bangladesh has already stepped into the digital era of fitness and launched their own local apps ‘Amar Diet’ and ‘Amar Gym’ to provide easy digital service in diet and fitness sector.
Even in social media, groups like Fit & Healthy Bangladesh, BD Muscle & Fitness, Choose to Lose, etc are encouraging, motivating and supporting people online to stay fit and healthy.
For the last two years, specialized exhibitions of fitness products and services namely Bangladesh Health & Fitness Expo is being organized by Savor International Ltd. to promote a healthy lifestyle. Local fitness entrepreneurs are also going abroad to participate in International fitness expos and conferences.
With so many positive news from the fitness industry in Bangladesh, we only hope to experience further growth. It’s imperative that the local investors and entrepreneurs work collaboratively and share knowledge about the market. Together, I believe we can develop an ecosystem where all the different types of fitness related venture will thrive and eventually can contribute to building a healthy nation.
The writer is a fitness entrepreneur.