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'I Want To Impact 1 Billion Lives'

May 28, 2024 16:09 IST
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'I tell those in their 20s that age is on their side and they should start exercising early.'

'Just like investing in good stocks, if they start early, they will get the multiplier effects of being healthy, fit and strong later in life.'

IMAGE: Omkar Chincholkar. Photograph: Kind courtesy Omkar Chincholkar/

N R Narayana Murthy, co-founder, Infosys, wanted India's IT professionals to work 70 hours a week. A recent report by Onsurity and Knowledge Chamber of Commerce and Industry discovered that due to working for long hours, about 43% of Indian IT professionals experienced health problems related to their work.

The study also says that more than half of IT professionals in India work an average of 52.5 hours per week while the national average is 47.7 hours per week.

What is concerning is that 55% of them said that they suffer from acidity, back and neck pain, bad sleep cycles, muscle stiffness, eyesight-related issues, weight gain, digestive problems and headaches due to working late hours.

It is against this background that the start-up by an engineer becomes significant. In its 5 years of existence, it has trained 7,500 people and they are from the age of 7 to 95.

Omkar Chincholkar founded Omfit, an online personal training and nutrition coaching app with the sole vision of making people fit.

"So many people get up at 2 am and have Netflix cravings. What is more important is being aware of what you eat. Your body does not want a pizza or an ice cream at 2 am. It is your mind that wants these things. So, getting your body and mind in alignment by being more aware helps people a lot," 29-year-old Pune-based Omkar tells's Shobha Warrier.

He became a fitness coach even when he was an engineering student

As I was always a sports person, fitness was very important to me. As my mother also was in the same field organising treks, etc, my interest in fitness grew.

My journey as a fitness coach started when I was in my first year of engineering.

I was brought up by a single mother and grandparents and my mother had to borrow money to run the family. As the financial situation of my family was not great, I had to work to pay my college fees.

That was how I became a personal trainer at the age of 19, and my first earning was Rs 3,500 per month. I started by paying off the debt every month. So, you can say my career did not start from zero but from minus.

When I was in the second year of engineering, I did a course in personal fitness training. It was during the training that I realised personal training was very scientific involving the structure of the human body.

My day used to start at 5 am and I used to train people till 8 am. I would be in college from 8 am to 4 pm. From 5 pm to 10 pm, I again worked as a trainer. I worked hard and was making Rs 20,000 to Rs 25,000 a month.

I also completed my engineering in electronics with a first class.

The very first client wanted to reduce weight.

My very first client was a friend of mine who was overweight. I told him if he didn't lose weight in three months of training, I would give back the money he had spent.

I designed a programme that was focussed on strength training, cardio related training, along with a nutrition programme designed for him. And he lost 10% of his body fat and got a 6-pack abs after 3-4 months.

And my career exploded from there.

Seeing him, more and more people started coming to me for training.

A certification programme I did helped me create programmes according to the needs of the person and based on his body structure.

Medicines are not the only solution to better health; it certainly is a part of the solution, I don't deny that.

But a change in lifestyle can create wonders.

In the meantime, I also did a one-and-a-half-year Master Trainer's course which required 100% marks to pass.

He didn't want to work as an electronics engineer but a fitness trainer.

Though my college project partner and I got job offers from a start up after seeing our project, I had to reject the offer as I was sure that I would not be an Electronics engineer but a fitness trainer.

In 2017 when I passed out, I was already earning Rs 50,000-Rs 60,000 a month as a fitness trainer.

I thoroughly enjoyed training people on their fitness, and I knew I would not get the same kind of satisfaction if I worked as an engineer.

IMAGE: Omkar Chincholkar with wife Divita. Photograph: Kind courtesy Omfit

Becoming an entrepreneur was not in the plans still he became an entrepreneur.

I was working alone all the time as a trainer.

But in 2017, there were a lot of enquiries from people who wanted to start a fitness and nutrition programme with me. I found it just impossible to take care of the needs of all those people.

So, in the second half of 2017, I started building a team and by 2018, I launched Omfit.

My entrepreneurial journey started with a lot of mistakes as I was clueless on how to run a company, how to pay the salary and how to manage money.

I started with zero capital. I did not raise any capital or loan; the money I earned by freelancing was used to pay the salary of the receptionist. I opened an office from the money I was earning as a fitness trainer.

That was when Divita, who was my friend and college mate, started helping me with the accounts while she was working elsewhere. She was also trained in entrepreneurship and management at IIM, Bangalore

Unfortunately, she was diagnosed with Benign Intracranial Hypertension at that time. And it was because of her poor lifestyle practices like not sleeping well, eating junk food and doing no exercise. It was a very serious health condition, and she was prescribed 16 medicines by her doctor.

Under the fitness and nutrition programme, I designed for her, she recovered well and now she takes only one medicine instead of 16. Her doctors are also happy with her progress.

Once she recovered, she joined me as a co-founder. Now, she is my wife.

IMAGE: Omkar with his Omfit team. Photograph: Kind courtesy Omfit

From 30 to 7500!

When we started Omfit in 2018, we had 30 clients and now we have crossed training 7.500 people.

At Omfit, we are a team of 28 people to train our clients and most of our trainers are from Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. We first train all our coaches, and a team of doctors also take classes for them on medical terminology and medical conditions.

We also work with doctors. For example, if someone has diabetes, we connect the person to a diabetologist first.

80% of the fitness training is given online and people from all over India and also from the US and Europe take training from us.

Depending on the programme, we charge from Rs 500 to Rs 15,00 per hour. And we don't do a crash course, we prefer lifestyle building gradually.

What he tells IT professionals.

Majority of our clients are from the IT background between the ages of 40 and 50.

We first analyse their relationship with food. Many of those working in the IT industry indulge in stress eating.

When I visited the IT companies, I have noticed packets of chips on their table, and they eat to pass time. Then, there are a lot of sugary drinks in the cafeteria.

And these people eat to escape stress. What happens is, when you eat is these extremely tasty food, dopamine, a neuro-transmitter, gets released in the brain and they get pleasure. But they don't understand that after every two hours, they will need a dopamine spike.

So, we explain to them what exactly is happening to their body and the need to replace these foods with healthier options.

Those in the IT industry sit for 13 hours a day. So, they need exercises for their lower back like stretches, yoga and strength training.

This will help them tackle stress because a constant pain or inflammation in the body causes stress.

We tell them to take a blood test as only through a blood test, you will know what is happening internally. You will see that many people who are not overweight also suffer from many issues which come to light only if you do a blood test.

That's why I tell all the techies that even if they are active, even if they play sports, get a blood test done to know what is happening inside the body.

I tell them to look at what they eat.

So many people get up at 2 am and have Netflix cravings. What is more important is being aware of what you eat. Your body does not want a pizza or an ice cream at 2 am. It is your mind that wants these things. So, getting your body and mind in alignment by being more aware helps people a lot.

As fitness and nutrition coaches, we never make our customers feel guilty. When they feel guilty, they feel stressed, and the vicious cycle starts.

When the coach guides them to be self-motivated, they adhere to the rules. So, you have to make them independent in their journey to a healthy lifestyle.

Advice to those in their 20s

I tell those in their 20s that age is on their side and they should start exercising early.

Just like investing in good stocks, if they start early, they will get the multiplier effects of being healthy, fit and strong later in life.

We have seen a huge boost in productivity and confidence among people who are fit.

As body and mind are connected, a physically fit person has better mental health as well.

Instead of indulging in smoking and drinking, they can keep themselves fit by exercising and eating healthy food.

IMAGE: 68-year-old Lorraine M in training with Omkar. Photograph: Kind courtesy Omfit

A 68-year-old who is an inspiration to all.

When 64-year-old Lorraine M joined our programme, she had joint pain, and she felt her strength was going down with old age. She just wanted to be fit.

She had also seen how her overweight son with diabetes became lean and muscular, and how he was able to control diabetes. She was inspired to join us after seeing the changes in her son's life.

She started by lifting a 1 kg dumb bell. She trained with us for three years and at 67, her strength and fitness level improved so much that in the Asian powerlifting championship, she won 8 gold medals!

Now at 68, she is an international power lifter representing the country. You should also understand that she had never competed in any sport till then.

She does not just strength training, but does cardio, yoga, flexibility work outs and also walks.

IMAGE: "We have fitness programmes designed specifically for senior citizens." Photograph: Kind courtesy Omfit

Exercises for senior citizens

We have fitness programmes designed specifically for senior citizens. It all started because of my grandparents. While my 81-year-old grandmother holds the plank for 1 minute, my 84-year-old grandfather has the grip strength of almost 50 kilos.

When I saw the benefits in them, I designed special programmes for senior citizens.

Many senior citizens are scared to go to the gym. So, we have coaches who make them do very safe exercises. I would tell them it is safe to exercise at any age. There are simple exercises for senior citizens to start with to be fit.

A lot of them are afraid of exercises, and they only do walking. Though walking is great, along with that, they should do exercises to improve their balance and strength. So, we train them to improve their balance first and also to improve their grip strength.

You must have seen that many senior citizens fall and after the fall, their health nosedives.

IMAGE: "Our oldest customer is 95 years old." Photograph: Kind courtesy Omfit

Senior citizens need to understand that even in the last decade of their lives, they should be agile and vertical, and not horizontal.

What we have designed for them is a combination of cardio, yoga, strength training and exercises for mobility and balance.

The best results are among the senior citizens as they are the most motivated and do not miss a single class.

And our oldest customer is 95 years old.

Dream for Omfit

We have so far trained more than 7,500 people and our vision is to impact 1 billion lives.

This is the only dream I have, and there is no Plan B for me.

Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/

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