GuavaPass: The success story behind Singapore's homegrown fitness app

GuavaPass: The success story behind Singapore's homegrown fitness app


Text: Janice Sim

GuavaPass' first employee (now Chief of Staff) shares how the homegrown fitness app came to be

Even if you don't get out much, you should already know what GuavaPass is. It is only, the most talked about fitness app on our shores — especially since it was birthed right here in Singapore. 

It's barely been three years since GuavaPass became a common buzzword amongst the fitness community on our shores, but it has since expanded; or should we say, snowballed massively across 12 global markets across Asia and the Middle East. With a simple monthly subscription, you can get unlimited access to a huge community of fitness studios and gyms. An all-you-can-eat buffet, if cardio, push-ups and heart palpitating exercises are what you're after. Not that big of a junkie? There are varying numbers of fixed classes that you can sign up for instead. 

But how did they accomplish all that in a blink of an eye? To celebrate its third birthday this month, we visited the GuavaPass headquarters in Singapore (and it was every bit as swanky as we imagined it to be) to chat with Emma Harris, Chief of Staff, as well as the first ever employee to be hired at GuavaPass. After all, if there's anyone that can answer our burning questions, she'd be one of them. 

Tell us more about your current role.
It has evolved a lot over the last few years. Right now, I'm the Chief of Staff — it's a new title at tech companies but what it basically means is that I'm involved in almost every aspect of the business. A key stakeholder in product, growth, marketing, strategy, studio relationships, customer experience etc. I also oversee all special projects like GuavaLabs and Still Boxing, which is a physical gym that we have.

Why was Singapore the place to start?
Firstly, the founders Rob Pachter and Jeff Liu are both based here. Secondly, I think the government in Singapore is really supportive of new businesses. And now that we're in 12 different global markets, it's easy to see that Singapore is one of the countries with a better awareness about living a healthy lifestyle and working out. It is really well-received here. 


What was the initial process of starting GuavaPass like? What was the main challenge for you guys? 
When there's just an idea, there's no sort of framework or body in place. So the biggest challenge is staying focused and figuring out how each aspect of the business can be built, without being overwhelmed by it. We had to build up our team, our studio partners, our pool of customers, technological features — each of these pillars had to be established. We worked hard and definitely hired the right people, which has brought us to a place of growth over the last three years.

What do you think are the traits that make GuavaPass a successful business model? 
The dedication of the team and the support of our studio partners have made our success possible. We are the only membership in the world that offers unlimited membership (i.e. unlimited classes), and that's been really successful for us because it gives people variety and value. 

With so many gym and fitness studio partners on board, how are you discerning of the places that you guys work with?
We have now acquired almost 2,500 studio partners across the 12 different markets, which is unbelievable when you think that just three years ago, we had zero. To curate this important list, our team members try out classes at every single studio partner before we decide if a partnership is going to happen. We have two to four people working on this in every local market.

How important is customer experience at GuavaPass? And what are the steps taken to enhance it?
It's one of the most important metrics we have to look at. We ask for customer feedback all the time — you get a notification in our app after every completed class where it asks you to rate a class. You can also type in feedback there.

We have also recently rolled out an exciting new feature on the app, which allows users to either set their profiles to public or private. If it's the former, their friends will be able to view the classes that they have booked for the day. They'll then be able to arrange to go to a workout together at 12 noon while conversing at the same time. We're now a social experience, and I think that's what really sets GuavaPass apart.


What do you love most about your job?
The beauty of GuavaPass is that it's also part of our job to stay close to the product — and that involves going for workout classes. That's really how I destress, to be honest. Whether it's a yoga class where I'm just focusing on breathing, or a high-intensity training or bootcamp class; that's my meditation everyday. 

Dream job, indeed. What do you think the future of fitness looks like?
It's bright. Like I mentioned before, when we started three years ago in Singapore, there was awareness. But it was still on the rise so there were still emphasis on big box gyms and going into the gym and having a solo experience. It wasn't necessarily sexy; it was kind of a get-in, get-out routine. And now we are seeing trends that are very boutique fitness-oriented. We have seen a rise in indoor cycling and boxing classes, and I can't wait to see what other types of innovative classes will be coming in. 

To celebrate their third birthday this August, GuavaPass is offering a range of free classes every day this month to all members and non-members. Click here for the full line-up.