Around theDesk, everyone knows GuavaPass. Except me. The company set up in Hong Kong in 2015, offering a premium range of fitness and wellness packages to the city.
I met General Manager, Antonia, and Studio Happiness Manager, Alex, to learn more about the company and welcome them to our new community at One Hysan Avenue.
The gym paradox
Joining a gym or class should be one of the monthly bills that makes you feel positive. After all, this is about a leaner, fitter body and a more healthy life.
But, let’s face it, most people who pay for a gym membership don’t go. In fact, some studies suggest more than 65% of people are paying not to go. This is part of the reason why GuavaPass has become a massive hit across Asia.
“GuavaPass is a monthly membership subscription service,” says Hong Kong General Manager, Antonia Da Cruz,
“This gives you easy access to membership of boutique fitness classes across different verticals. So, you can do whatever: yoga, pilates, martial arts, and so on. And you can go to unlimited classes.”
The company’s operations have snowballed. “We set up in April 2015,” says Antonia, “But, we’re all over Asia now, including the Middle East.”
The company started in Singapore. It was an immediate success and soon after operations in Bangkok and Hong Kong began. “We’ve grown very quickly,” says Antonia. “We’re in around 11 different cities now.
“Did you know that there’s four times more vitamin C in a guava compared with an orange!”
The pain barrier
What makes GuavaPass so popular with locals and expats alike? One of the main factors is the pricing.
The company focuses on group classes for women and men. “We strike a balance between a good, mass-market gym membership and boutique fitness packages,” says Alex Mount, Studio Happiness Manager.
Gym memberships don’t come cheap. “Many of the gyms in key districts will cost around $3,000 for a package of around ten classes,” explains Antonia.
“The price of GuavaPass’ subscriptions is attractive for people who are looking for something more bespoke and personalised. And you get dedicated care in these classes.”
After price, flexibility is a crucial factor for clients. “It’s straightforward,” says Antonia. “You register online or through the app and decide your package.”
“You can cancel your subscription at the end of a month. We have many clients who relocate so this gives people true flexibility.”
What’s more, depending on the package you choose, you can use GuavaPass when you travel. “You can change your locations and cities,” Alex explains, “then see the local schedules and go. That’s it!”
The innovation of a roaming fitness packages means people travelling for business or pleasure don’t need to skip class, as they would with a standard membership.
“Everyone in the team has the right mindset – we’re gung-ho and very hands-on.”
Alex and Antonia aren’t fitness trainers, although they’re both training to be yoga teachers right now. “We always get asked questions about health and fitness so we learn everything we can,” Alex smiles.
One of their most important roles is checking that their partner studios meet their high standards. The two women try out every class. “Hygiene and cleanliness are critical. Location and access are also important.” Antonia says.
Latino fruit vendor?
Why the name? Antonia laughs, “It’s a tropical fruit, the colours are fresh. And, we want to be the Apple of Asia for fitness and lifestyle”.
When they started, most players in the sector used names with words like fit, move and class. “Guava stood out. And it’s healthy.” Alex says.
“When I first started to call people I would tell them my name, Antonia Da Cruz and say ‘I’m from GuavaPass’. People often thought I was a Latino fruit vendor or something!”
What led Antonia and Alex to set up and run operations in Hong Kong? Back in 2015, Antonia was working a finance job in Singapore
“I was good friends with one of the founders. We used to go to the same gym. We would book each other into classes.”
“We were talking, and he said ‘Do you want to come and join my business?” And from that, Antonia became his first employee and helped out in Singapore. “It seemed natural to come to Hong Kong because I grew up here and have a network.”
Alex joined a short time later. “I went on a hike with Rob, our founder. He told me about the concept, and I was super-interested. I was looking for something new. A week after, I met Antonia.”
A great team
For Alex and Antonia, there is one main reason for their success when so many others have shut down; They work as one great team.
The original members were friends and friends of friends. “We were based in a lot of places: in Singapore or Shanghai or wherever,” Antonia tells me.
“Having a talented, passionate person in each location meant we could more easily expand into new cities.”
“Everyone in the team has the right mindset,” she says. “We’re gung-ho and very hands-on. It’s this spirit that helped us quickly build great networks; personal, through social media, press meetings and partner presentations. ”
Working it out
For both Antonia and Alex, the goal is providing a fantastic customer experience. “We need to do it right,” Antonia says, “When we set up, we took time to create the best website and apps.”
“We’d do beta testing, iron out all the bugs and then test again. Only when we got the feedback that the app was great did we launch it,” she explains.
“And we pride ourselves on efficient customer service,” Alex continues. “People often email a company and don’t get a reply for days. We reply within a couple of hours. It matters.”
Running in cycles
Like any business, there are challenges. “Business runs in cycles,” Antonia tells me. “For example, people may cancel when the Christmas holidays are coming up.”
Alex adds, “We get a lot of new clients in January. And before the summer, people want to get in shape, so we see a surge then.”
For the two women, it means keeping momentum. “The market in Hong Kong is saturated,” Antonia says. “It can be tricky to see big growth in a month. But overall, things are going well.”
Building business muscle
GuavaPass disrupted the fitness market, and they’re fighting fit to push business to new limits in the coming months.
“Right now we’re working on some new software. It’s amazing,” says Antonia. “As well as class bookings, we’re developing Guava Connect.”
If you use ‘Eventbrite’, you’ll understand their new product. Guava Connect aims to make their partners’ lives easier. “It means gyms and fitness centres can sell and take payment through our new system.”
Currently, the software is in the early testing stage. The company is planning to offer the service to all its studio partners. “We want to offer them a flawless and efficient solution,” Alex tells me.
Evolution of wellness
Taking the pain out of bookings and payments is one area of innovation, another is in the sharing economy.
The company recently opened its first co-wellness space in Singapore. With yoga studios, functional training rooms and other lab spaces, the centre has become popular with office workers and locals,
“It sparked us into taking a more meaningful role in wellness. We have people doing teaching and training; nutritionists, a national Tai Kwon Do champion, specialist yoga instructors, boxing instructors. It’s a fantastic place.”
Moving to theDesk One Hysan Avenue
The company moves into their new private office at One Hysan Avenue in December. “We’re super-excited about moving back to Causeway Bay,” Antonia smiles.
“We looked at many places. They were so expensive. We found one but with no windows. It was too depressing,” Alex laughs.
The two women imagine holding open training events and lunchtime sessions in the neighbourhood. “Causeway Bay is great for us. You have everything in one area, not only shopping. Many people are there at all times. We held an event there recently and drew a big crowd,” Alex says.
For us at theDesk, we’re super-excited to welcome GuavaPass to our beautiful new co-working and events space.
They’ll join the many other companies who have already reserved offices and desks. With a bright, calm interior and a prime location, the workspace is undoubtedly fit for purpose.
Let’s hope GuavaPass can get the community into shape.
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