Shivjeet Ghatge, Co-Founder & CEO, StepSetGo

Co-founded by Shivjeet Ghatge, StepSetGo is India’s first fitness app to reward the users for walking. While the brand is already motivating users to stay indoors and fit amidst the lockdown, with their latest offering on their app, StepSetGo is encouraging the consumer to up-skill as well by simply walking. StepSetGo is one of the market leaders in the fitness-rewarding space. The app has collaborated with leading brands like Bajaj Avenger, Apple, Boat, Skechers, Puma, and Decathlon, among others to reward its users and encourage them to stay healthy. Launched in January 2019, they are constantly focusing on encouraging their users to stay fit. In a conversation with CXO Outlook, Shivjeet Ghatge talks about his journey as an entrepreneur, challenges he faced, plans for StepSetGo and many more.

 

My journey as an entrepreneur

My journey has been quite an interesting one right from the time I chose to be an entrepreneur. From juggling, many different ideas to zeroing down to a completely new and innovative idea was an amalgamation of a great challenge but an exciting one. With close to 8 years of experience in advertising, I always knew that I wanted to be my own boss. I wanted to build a brand that was completely conceived and nurtured by my passion for it. During my advertising stint, while working on a few projects and consulting for various medium-sized family businesses on their branding and advertising needs, the idea of StepSetGo was born from a joke that simply stated: “the gym should pay me to work out!”. This then led to brainstorming and thorough research. Abhay, Misaal and I went through a dozen ideas, and made five full-fledged business models, before stumbling onto, the (at that time) final version of StepSetGo that we knew, was a winner.

With fitness routines, comes a certain amount of lethargy combined with the lack of motivation which was the problem we wanted to address. I got a gym membership but was never consistent with my workouts for some or the other reason. We observed and found multiple stories where fitness became an added chore for people to follow. We understood that we needed a concept that would seamlessly make fitness a part of people’s lives without becoming a burden. There was a huge scope to make it exciting and engaging. We wanted to get people excited about their fitness journey and instantly understood the correlation between Fitness, Gamification, Rewards, and Habit Formation.

StepSetGo is aimed to eliminate the ‘lack of motivation’ that most people face while trying to stick to a regular fitness regime. It is a free application available on your Google play store and Apple store that rewards users in the form of SSG coins (StepSetGo’s in-app currency) by simply counting the number of steps walked. The different gamification elements have kept users glued to the app. These include various individual and social challenges, level progression, and games that unlock more lives with the number of steps you take, etc. The app also gives you access to other members of the SSG fitness community where users can locate relatives, friends, family members, and colleagues to compete, encourage, and tease to stay fit together. Since its inception in Jan 2019, the app has seen a steady rise in the activity metrics of its active users that include everyone from a college student to a 60-year-old retired army general. The motto is to make fitness accessible and exciting to all, and the app has successfully achieved that in a very short period.

The challenges I faced

Our biggest challenge was making sure the application was simple enough for everyone to use. Our target market was anyone with a smartphone, so we had to ensure everyone, irrespective of age, gender, literacy, etc. could understand the concept. Making an app that caters to the general population was tough, but what happened after we finally launched the application proved that we had done a decent job. The application grew from 100 users to approximately 6 million users in less than 2 years. More than 95% of this growth has come through organic means and word of mouth publicity. We see apps spending more than they can hope to earn in marketing (post-funding). We wanted to make sure the platform worked not just on a usability standpoint but also on the business side. All three of us believe in a simple concept, if your business is not capable of making money, it’s not a business, it’s a hobby. We wanted to have enough features (other than the rewards) to engage the users after they started their journey on StepSetGo.

Services that StepSetGo offers today

StepSetGo primarily rewards the user for staying fit simply by counting steps and converting your steps into SSG coins. It tracks your calories and steps walked during the day. It offers you a closed social community that is focused on one goal, i.e. leading a healthier lifestyle. The community also drives social competition which further motivates users to be active. The Bazaar section on the app is where the user can redeem the SSG coins. There’s a plethora of brands from sports, beauty, online learning platforms, gadgets, etc. to choose from. Overall StepSetGo ensures the user’s fitness journey is simple, fun, social, and engaging.

StepSetGo has received dozens of success stories where people have lost a considerable amount of weight and rewarded themselves. Recently, StepSetGo has had an opportunity to applaud 8 users who dedicatedly walked towards staying fit, lost weight, and redeemed Apple iPhones.

The Team that I work with

If we talk about the co-founders, all three of us have taken up responsibilities based on our strengths and expertise. I look into the finances, marketing, and business development which are the areas of my core competence. Abhay Pai, Chief Technology Officer, looks after the infrastructure, development, and support of the app, and Misaal Turakhia, Chief Product Officer, handles the technical aspects of the product, design & UX, and app development.  As far as qualifications are considered, I have worked for over a decade in business development and marketing, while both Abhay and Misaal come from a technical background and have had years of experience in their respective fields. We came together for this very reason. We realized that these were the three main verticals we needed to start this venture. As our organization grew, we were quick to accept that we would need to bring in a lot more people to not only grow our venture but also fill in the gaps. It was a unanimous decision that every new hire would be treated as a team member and not an employee and that every member of the company must constantly contribute to the growth of StepSetGo. We have a team of young people who work dedicatedly towards the aim of making the platform reach newer heights in the least amount of time possible, all guided and lead by a senior person with experience in that particular field. We deliberately avoided having a strict hierarchy in place or giving designations that denote authority to ensure that all decisions are made with a discussion across the board with every single team member involved. Every aspect of our brand is considered a shared responsibility for the whole organization. We have inculcated a work culture that makes each member believe that he is part of a team that built this venture and it is this sense of ownership, responsibility, and pride that makes our business run smoothly.

The mistakes we made and the lessons we learnt 

Most of StepSetGo’s early problems are defined by most as ‘good problems’ for a company to have. Because in less than 2 years, we have already established ourselves as one of the market leaders in the health and fitness space and our marketing spends has been next to nothing. So, when it comes to awkward stumbles, I would say there were things such as:

1) Three co-founders replying to support emails throughout the night because the application has a team to user ratio of 1:1,00,000. Trust me, this is not easy when the team size is 4 people.

2) Users not trusting the authenticity of the application because the app did not have banner ads.

3) Essentially, rebuilding the application because the app was built without considering how it will work when the number of downloads multiplies 10 times over a month.

The biggest and the most unexpected lesson for us was just how much attention a service that solves a problem in a new way can attract. StepSetGo’s organic user growth in its first year is a testimony of this.

My education and life as a student

I went to a school that was based on the teachings of J. Krishnamurti. It was a boarding school  (and this is the best part) that did not have exams till the 10th grade. The school didn’t believe in inter-school competition, and a lot of attention was given to self-learning. We were pushed to think for ourselves and form our own opinions rather than being told what to think. This transcends into how I manage my team. I give everyone as much responsibility as possible to approach a problem in the way they see fit. Sometimes things do go sideways, and I am more than happy to help get things back on track, but I have seen that most times the solutions brought forward by the team are more optimized versions of previously tried techniques.

Since we didn’t have the pressure of exams until the 10th grade, I remember being glued to the J.R.R Tolkien’s –  ‘The Return Of The King’ just two hours before I had to go for my biology exam, I’m talking about the 10th standard ICSE board exam here. This didn’t help us get the 90/100 marks that are looked at as a norm nowadays, but we fell between the 70 and 80 percentiles, and it didn’t matter in the larger scheme of things. This, in itself, was an important lesson. Added stress or pressure doesn’t solve problems, and overdoing anything tends to have diminishing returns. This structure is prevalent in the office. Even though there might be 100 deadlines coming up, the atmosphere is always light. As the one in charge of your team, you get to decide the tone and mood for everyone else. If you are calm, composed, and not showing signs of stress, your team will follow suit.

People who influenced me professionally

I have never really been awed by the  Bill Gates or the Jeff Bezos’s of the world instead I have always been fascinated by people who ran small to medium-size enterprises, achieved a fabulous work-life balance, and reaped the benefits of their work. I had the fortune of witnessing a bunch of people around me, who were equally passionate about their businesses as they were for leading a good life. My uncle, who runs a construction company, did not have hectic office hours but he would always be connecting everyday occurrences to his work. For example, how an upcoming holiday should be connected to a newspaper ad. Showcasing that even though he might not be physically present at the office, he was always trying to grow his business. He also made time to travel the world and indulge in expensive hobbies, in his case sports cars. A successful entrepreneur for me meant someone who was equally successful in living his life to the fullest. Essentially what I am saying is that I believe someone is successful if they can look back at life at the age of 70 and say ‘I would do it all over again if I had to’.

My plans for the StepSetGo

I think being a bootstrapped company; StepSetGo has come a long way. We have been able to see the results by having the user’s active engagement on the app and a series of testimonials that don’t stop appreciating and acknowledging the concept that we have introduced. It is an overwhelming experience to see an idea come to life. Going forward, we aim to create a holistic fitness brand with a consistent objective of building a community that thrives on staying healthy.

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