Wearable technology has the potential to enhance our surroundings, improve our health, and change the way we interact with each other.
But while fitness trackers like the Fitbit and Jawbone Up aim to help us improve our health, they’re really not all that effective tools, GOQii founder Vishal Gondal tells Business Insider.
“I have used every possible fitness band,” Gondal says. “While these devices promised to help you get fit, in reality, they didn’t really work for most people.”
That’s why a lot of people stop using these devices after a few months, he says. In fact, one-third of people abandon their wearable tech devices within just six months, according to a report from January.
Enter GOQii, a fitness band that automatically transmits data to a personal health coach in India. A huge differentiating factor between GOQii and other fitness trackers is that the company gives away its band for free, and also allows you to communicate with your own pesonal coach.
“Forget about looking at the device as the center of the ecosystem,” Gondal says. “The device is not the ecosystem. The ecosystem is your coach.”
The band and accompanying app are just tools for communication, Gondal says. Some apps have leaderboards and try to name and shame you, but Gondal says that doesn’t work well. The real value, Gondal says, comes from a coach who is accountable and can help you actively manage your lifestyle.
These coaches, which will eventually be responsible for between 100 and 150 “players,” are based in Mumbai, India. There are other companies that offer remote fitness coaching, but RetroFit, for example, charges a minimum of $US250 per month. Outsourcing coaches is a lot of the reason why GOQii can keep its costs low.
GOQii tracks things like steps, distance, time, calories, active time and sleep. The GOQii then automatically shares that data with your coach, all of whom have been vetted by GOQii’s team of experts.
Why Gondal is the right person to fix the engagement issue in wearable tech
So if the GOQii band is free, how does the company make money? Well, it charges $US99 for six months’ worth of communication with your coach. For a full year, you’d pay about $US169. As part of the service, you can always contact your coach via chat, in addition to a scheduled monthly call with him or her.
Gondal founded his first company, game developer Indiagames, in 1999, at the ripe age of 16. In 2011, Gondal sold Indiagames to Disney for around $US100 million.
That’s why Gondal could be just the perfect person for the job: because gaming is all about sustained engagement. Indiagames was the top gaming company in India when he sold it; Gondal found a lot of success getting players to engage with his games and keep them coming back.
“Motivation is actually the holy grail when it comes to helping people make a change in lifestyle,” Gondal says.
Gondal got the idea two years ago when his trainer started looking at his Fitbit data to help him set goals.
GOQii’s end game
GOQii is more so going for a platform play, Gondal says. But the idea isn’t to make money off of the hardware.
That’s why GOQii would be more than willing to integrate with other devices like the Jawbone Up, Fitbit Flex, etc.
Even if you decided you don’t want to be part of the GOQii program, you can still keep the device at no extra charge.
GOQii’s end goal is about helping people become more charitable. For every 390 steps, GOQii “players” get one karma point. Those points all go toward a charity of the player’s choice.
GOQii is currently only available in India, but Gondal expects to launch in the US in December.
To date, GOQii has raised a few million dollars from Esther Dyson, Amit Singhal of Google, and Flextronics CEO Mike McNamara.
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