Flexible Pass expands to Mandalay, diversifies services

Sully Bholat, founder and chief executive of Flexible Pass, Myanmar’s first fitness booking app, is expanding into Mandalay, where interest in mixed martial arts, yoga and gym classes is growing along with the middle class. “The fitness trend has been picking up in Mandalay over the past few years, and many gyms and fitness centres are opening up there too,” Mr Bholat said.

With funds raised in Myanmar last October, Flexible Pass will launch in Mandalay by the end of March, with about 20 gyms and other fitness centres on board. “We will add more partners in Mandalay over the next few months after our launch there,” Mr Bholat said, adding that he is expecting more local fitness enthusiasts there compared to Yangon, where around 35 to 40 percent of Flexible Pass users are foreigners.

That’s not all. By the end of this year, Flexible Pass plans to diversify beyond fitness activities into spa and beauty services. “There are challenges with these types of bookings so we are taking some time to improve our system to avoid double bookings and allowing for changes in bookings. That’s why we only plan to expand our offerings and partner base to spas and beauty salons in the last quarter of 2019,” Mr Bholat said.

Flexible Pass is expanding amid growing awareness of digital payments in Myanmar, which bodes well for businesses. “We are seeing a rising volume of people moving to card or cashless payments. Over the last few months, only about 10pc of the purchases on Flexible Pass were done by cash, and the remaining 90pc were done by non-cash methods,” Mr Bholat said.

These include bank transfers, online or credit card payments and WaveMoney transfers. “That is a big shift in the ratios over one year, because in January 2018 about 65pc of the purchases were done by cash and 35pc were done by non-cash methods,” he said. That saves Flexible Pass from having to send staff to collect cash from users across Yangon.

Launched in June 2017, Flexible Pass allows fitness enthusiasts to book classes at yoga or martial arts studios and purchase single entry passes to gyms and fitness centres at a discount of up to 40pc over walk-in rates.

The app currently has more than 1500 users and has so far logged over 15,000 bookings, according to Mr Bholat. The app has over 70 partners. On a monthly basis, the app sees an average of 2000 bookings from 600 active users.

Last August, Flexible Pass raised US$100,000 (K150.6 million) in a fundraising round led by Seed Myanmar, an early-stage technology investment vehicle of Singapore-based Vulpes Investment Management and Yangon Capital Partners, which is the investment arm of the financial advisory firm Trust Venture Partners. In October, venture capital firm Nest Tech added an undisclosed amount to the fundraising.

On the app, users are able to buy credits or points at $1 per point in lump sums of $30, $50 or $100 per purchase. He or she can then exchange the points for access to more than 100 gyms and fitness centres in Yangon. The number of points deducted varies from as low as 1 or 2 points for local gyms like VX Gym or Yangon Fight Club, to higher-end fitness centres such as Raw by Infinity, or in hotels like Pan Pacific Yangon.

Users can also book activities like rock climbing, sky diving and horse riding on the app. More recently, users were also able to sign up for the Yoma International Marathon via Flexible Pass.

But why would gyms and fitness centres agree to accept lower rates? Mr Bholat said some partners had been reluctant to lower their rates at first, but most join us “because we help them draw in traffic,” he said.

Once onboard, partners are expected to sell walk-in access to their gyms at a discounted rate to Flexible Pass, which then offers it to users of its app at a slightly higher rate. The firm earns a commission from the spread between the two rates. At the end of each month, Flexible Pass then pays its partners at the agreed rate multiplied by the number of bookings.

“In the beginning, some partners are not willing to lower their prices a lot. But we think that if the price is too high, people may not book,” Mr Bholat said. “We can also earn from those who do not finish their credits or points.”

So what’s the end game for Mr Bholat? While expanding remains a priority for Flexible Pass, he isn’t ruling out other options. “While we are the first such app in Myanmar, this concept is not new. In Asia there is Guava Pass and also KFIT from Malaysia. ClassPass, which is from the US, has also expanded into Singapore and Thailand. If they come to Myanmar, these bigger players may be potential buyers of Flexible Pass,” he said.

Source: Myanmar Times

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