Interview with Johanna Gallo, Co-Founder at afitgo

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The busy life that most of us are living has forced us to adopt an unhealthy lifestyle where we don’t get enough time for ourselves. A life characterized by eating at odd hours, not drinking enough water, not enough sleep and obviously no time to exercise. The studies suggest that we should have at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily and since most of us are busy in office for long hours, devoting even 30 minutes to our well-being has become quite difficult. Such a scenario demands people to be more interested and aware towards fitness and exercises. afitgo is a startup which is built around the same issue.

afitgo is an app that acts as your complete fitness partner to help you achieve your fitness goals. It not only provides the exercises and videos but it gives a personalized training plan for each individual, which keeps on evolving as you move forward with them. A user can find tips, check exercises, track the progress and also get a direct communication channel with gyms, personal trainers and fitness communities. The USP of the app is that it keeps a person interested and involved by connecting him with the fitness community.

We tried to learn a little more about this fitness startup from Johanna Gallo, the founder at afitgo.

Give us a snapshot of your professional journey till now.

I’m from Spain and after completing my Master’s in Computer Engineering and my MBA I started my professional career between there and Argentina. I worked in big multinationals, such as Airbus. But after some time I decided that I wanted something else. I spent some time thinking what to do, and then I took the decision to move to India.

Here in India I have worked in the product teams of companies like MakeMyTrip and OLX, but almost one year back I decided to move on to pursue my dream and start my own venture.

When & how did the entrepreneurial bug bite you?

To be honest, I have always wanted to start a company solving a real problem for somebody, that has been my ultimate goal always. I have started many “small ventures” with friends, even family… but I think the right time was now, because of many reasons: the learnings that I have from my past “failures”, the ecosystem around me and ultimately the country.

I believe India is the country of opportunities, where many things are still to be done. India has inspired me to do what I am doing.

I want to solve a real problem. I believe there is a lack of conscious about what is being active and doing physical activities in an efficient (and funny) way. I want to help India to be active and healthy.

What were the early days at afitgo like?

The first days were very exciting, but very demanding too. In afitgo we are three co-founders, two coming from the fitness ecosystem and me from a product-tech background. Also we are very lucky to have a great advisor collaborating with us from day zero, coming from tech+product side from a “big startup” in India.

We spent the first days, even months, in ideation. The possibilities around fitness in India are huge, we wanted to really help people and also create value. Our discussions were around different topics: fitness industry, technology and products.

Then, when our mission and vision was clear, the other journey began: creating POCs and testing with users.

Can you please describe what a typical day at office is like?

At afitgo we have a very open culture and also we love what we do, either coding, content creation or product management. This reflects in the way we work. Sometimes our days are 24 hours long and on others we just take a step back to see what is happening around.

Anyway we try to follow Agile principles and methodology.

Every day we dedicate some time in the morning to check how things are going and what should be our next steps. Everybody knows what his/her responsibilities are.

Also we spend some time every day discussing topics around technology and fitness. I believe that keeping up to date and keeping up the passion to explore new things is crucial.

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Can you tell us about the technology stack used at afitgo?

On the user facing tech, we have Android and iOS apps and a Control Panel.

On Android we have a native Android app in Java and for iOS, we have gone with a hybrid app and chose to build it with Ionic framework which leverages AngularJS and Cordova to make beautiful hybrid applications, also our control panel is built with AngularJS.

We also use NodeJS and MongoDB to build our own analytics & data stack which is very critical for us.

Is there any technology that you’re personally betting on to help you scale up?

We use different technologies and tools for our backend, for analytics, etc. The most important thing for us is not to be heavily dependant on one of them in particular, but focus more on the service, data… that we really need.

We’re relying on AngularJS and Cordova for our web apps and hybrid apps, even though the next major version of AngularJS is imminent in a few months, we believe we’ll be ready for this tradition in time. Also, building hybrid app opens the horizon for us to later port the app to other platforms and possibly on mobile web as well.

How are you using Business Intelligence and analytics at your company?

Analytics is a key part of afitgo as we offer innovative products and we need to tack how the market reacts.

Something that is clear for us is that using many advanced tools is not relevant, the key is to have the clear metrics, what we want to analyze and extract from data, and then use the most appropriate tools to help you with that.

Also we manage a lot of valuable data from which we can extract lots of insights. So Data mining and Big Data are day-to-day things for us.

How else does technology help your company stand apart from its rivals?

We’re building tools for people, which would make pursuing their fitness goals approachable and also for the professionals in the fitness industry.

We’re not just providing you with a bunch of exercises and some advice on fitness, it goes beyond that. We’re essentially building a community of people, who can all share their experiences, gloat about their progress and connect with people from their own gym community or the global community of fitness enthusiast. We believe, all this takes away the dullness that comes with your resolution to stay fit and working out regularly.

This makes afitgo very unique from other fitness apps which are mostly just a list of instructions or videos that you do in the confines of your home, get bored in a while and forget about your fitness goals. afitgo gives you a very personalized set of fitness plans, workouts and a way to directly interact with your fitness trainer if you’re part of a gym.

We have Android and iOS apps for the users to follow through their fitness goals and be active in the fitness community and along with this a control panel for the gym owners where they can keep track of people to see if they’re regular with their gym schedule, doing workouts etc. So, technology does help us fill the gap between the gym trainers and fitness enthusiasts and helps them train better.

What has been the biggest technical challenge you’ve faced while running afitgo?

All our fitness plans are curated by the afitgo fitness experts based on scientific measures; and for a user, as you progress through your plan, your workouts evolve and give you better recommendations based on where you are in terms of your plan progress.

We have created all these algorithms to provide the user with the best workout for the day, every day during the course of their fitness plan. This is the core of afitgo, to provide users with the best, result oriented plans, and for that we’ve our own algorithms which evolve as you keep doing workout everyday. It’s been somewhat of a challenge for us to come up with these set of exercise progressions for a variety of specific fitness goals and integrating it into our tech in a way that makes it seamless for the user to continue with their fitness goals without getting overwhelmed.

What are some of the attributes you look out for in prospective technology employees?

We have been very lucky to find great professionals who are extremely good and also passionate about what they do and the afitgo Vision.

But I firmly believe that the key is Passion’ and ‘Attitude’ is more important than ‘Aptitude’.

We want people that are in love with what they do, even if it is coding, design or sales.

If I ask my tech employees what is the latest thing you have read about technology they should be able to reply in seconds with excitement.  

How do you keep up to date with the latest happenings in the technology world?

For the most part, reading a lot of tech and products oriented blogs and pages from industry experts.

Apart from that, just tinkering with the new things in tech and exploring related technologies. For example, we’re looking into the upcoming version of AngularJS which is significantly different from the current one and we might build a prototype of our apps in it and see if we can use it just yet in our stack, though it’s still in beta.

Also, we keep having tech discussions among our team and inviting tech experts from startups and big companies for discussions. And when someone pitches a good solution with a cool new tech, we’re always open to integrating it, if it fits the bill.

What gets you excited about coming to work every day?

Our mission and vision, to be the reference for fitness in India, to be here in this country and at this moment when we have such a great opportunity.

We believe in the product we have made, it can really fill the gap between the gym goer community, the gym owners and people not conscious about fitness (yet).

We’re a small motivated team passionate about fitness and engineering. We have a fun environment and it’s always great working with people who are much more knowledgeable than you, it inspires you to do more and build a kickass product with this awesome team.

What sets afitgo engineering culture apart?

We’re at heart a technology company, at afitgo we move fast, break fast and fix fast. We try out ideas we think are good, quickly build them and don’t hesitate to scrape something if it turns out to be not so useful or user feedback is not what we expected. This requires us to have a very agile development cycle and push out features much faster, which means we’re always thinking of new ideas and keep testing them and get real time feedback.

We have an open culture here at afitgo. Engineers are not dictated to specificity on what they must work on, instead we have open discussions and the team is free to pitch in with their ideas. At afitgo we don’t micromanage the work our tech team churns out, everyone works with their own discretion keeping the larger goal in mind and so far it has worked wonders for us.

Which afitgo value resonates best with you?

Move fast, break fast and fix fast.

Any piece of advice for techies out there?

Do a lot of research, build something even if it’s just for fun and read a lot of code.

Keep hacking and contribute to open source, I can’t stress it enough, it’s good for you and for the wider open source community, even if it’s just a small contribution to the documentation or the code, it always helps.

 

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