Fit Tech People
Anantharaman Pattabiraman

When you’re undertaking fitness activities, unless you’re on a stationary bike, in most cases it’s not safe or necessary to be tied to a screen, especially a small screen


What was your background before co-founding Auro?
I was an algorithmic trader for Goldman Sachs, where I spent 11 years before starting Auro. Since childhood, sports and fitness have been my passion and I’ve played all kinds of sports including cricket, football and badminton.

How did the idea for Auro come about?
While I was at Goldman Sachs, I really struggled to find as much time for team sport and instead took a keen interest in running. I was looking for a coach and I struggled to find a good one that would work around my ridiculous schedule. I had been exposed to the boutique fitness class concepts in London and I wanted to bring the boutique style of training and motivation to people like myself, who need it on demand.

I wanted to build a consumer-focused product that would bring best-in-class training and technology and deliver this at scale with personalisation.

How did you and Karthik Narayanan come together to co-found Auro?
Karthik and I are distant cousins and we have known each other since childhood, having been in the same school as well. He had gone on to work for a bunch of great tech companies including Qualcomm and Samsung so I knew he would be the right partner for me in this venture.

What exactly is Auro?
Auro is a connected fitness/wellness app. We provide on-demand classes in 11+ categories for fitness or wellness for the home, gym or outdoors, with new classes every week. The classes are led by experts in their field – you can train with ex-Olympian Ben at home using body weight or go for a guided run with our triathlon coach Lucy, or just find your zen with Michael in a meditation class.

Music is such a key aspect of a fitness class and most products just make you listen to stock music. We work with our trainers to make killer playlists, similar to a boutique studio class, but if you don’t like our music then you can overlay your own from Spotify, Apple or Amazon music.

We also connect with 20+ devices so you can track all your metrics in real time and really understand your progress with Auro.

Why did you choose to create fitness instruction without a screen?
When you’re undertaking fitness activities, unless you’re on a stationary bike, in most cases it’s not safe or necessary to be tied to a screen, especially a small screen.

When you run, do burpees, meditate or even do yoga, it’s not a great experience to keep squinting at a tiny screen. Even when you do yoga in a studio, chances are you will never see the coach unless you’re at the front.

We do understand that for many users, particularly those that are new to fitness or new to a particular discipline, they will need some visual assistance, so all of our posture-based classes offer video guides which are designed to help users to master the moves before they jump into the class. However our belief is that once you start the class, your trainer should be able to guide you completely, solely through vocal instruction.

Our mantra for users is ‘stop squinting, start sweating’!

How has Auro evolved and grown since you launched in 2017?
We launched the product in 2017 as a video livestreaming product and then we relaunched in 2018 as an audio product. Since 2018, we’ve grown to 170,000+ users in 50+ countries.

We have large diversity in our userbase, be it age, sex, geography or income. We’re reaching a wide base of users and I’m so happy to see that we’re helping so many different people.

We started out with just running classes but now we have nearly 700 classes across 11 categories, with everything from walking, to strength training, to meditation, to sleep.

How do you keep the content fresh and interesting?
We’re recording content every other day and there are new classes being released every week – that’s one of the key value propositions for our members. There’s always fresh content to look forward to.

Since we started we’ve significantly expanded our offering based on requests from our customers – recently we added stair climber workouts for the gym, stress relief and sleep classes for those dealing with the effects of the pandemic, and pilates classes for those with bad backs from sitting on a chair all day at home.

Tell us about Auro’s newest features and upgrades. Why were these priorities?
Last year, we added running tracking for all our outdoor runs so users can track their pace, distance, route and time splits all from inside the app. So when you are doing a threshold run, you can actually see in real time what that threshold pace is and see it improve as you progress.

We have also added integration with Apple and Amazon music so users can overlay their own playlists from these services with the voice of the coach.

These were both driven by requests from our consumers – requests play quite a significant role in terms of shaping new product features and class content for our business.

What technologies do you use to personalise and optimise the service for individual users?
We use recommender algorithms that take user data, their preferences, their previous consumption and consumption of other users with similar goals to personalise the content and programming for the users.

We are also seeing an increasing percentage of users using wearables to track their workout metrics and we’re working on some big upgrades that will allow us to use their wearable data to further personalise the workouts to the fitness level and goals of users.

What’s the average length of time that users continue their membership for?
Ninety per cent of our users stick around for at least a year, with a significant percentage of them staying with us for longer. We’re still quite a young company but if the response from our existing users is any indication, our retention numbers are very, very good.

What are your plans for Auro?
There are 60 million gym members in Europe and 100m+ others who are physically active so the opportunity is massive. We want to grow our subscriber base by 10 times over the next two years. As ambitious as that sounds, I believe that’s totally possible.

COVID-19 has accelerated the growth of digital substantially and today’s consumer is much more conscious of their health and overall wellbeing. I believe there will be multiple winners in this category.

Auro provides users with audio instruction from Olympians and expert trainers Credit: © AURO
The app features training sessions in 11 categories, from running to meditation Credit: © AURO
Auro designs “killer playlists” for each session, or users can overlay their own music Credit: © Dmytro Zinkevych
 


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SELECTED ISSUE
Fit Tech
2021 issue 2

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Leisure Management - Anantharaman Pattabiraman

Fit Tech People

Anantharaman Pattabiraman


When you’re undertaking fitness activities, unless you’re on a stationary bike, in most cases it’s not safe or necessary to be tied to a screen, especially a small screen

Pattabiraman was an algorithmic trader at Goldman Sachs for 11 years © AURO
Auro provides users with audio instruction from Olympians and expert trainers © AURO
The app features training sessions in 11 categories, from running to meditation © AURO
Auro designs “killer playlists” for each session, or users can overlay their own music © Dmytro Zinkevych

What was your background before co-founding Auro?
I was an algorithmic trader for Goldman Sachs, where I spent 11 years before starting Auro. Since childhood, sports and fitness have been my passion and I’ve played all kinds of sports including cricket, football and badminton.

How did the idea for Auro come about?
While I was at Goldman Sachs, I really struggled to find as much time for team sport and instead took a keen interest in running. I was looking for a coach and I struggled to find a good one that would work around my ridiculous schedule. I had been exposed to the boutique fitness class concepts in London and I wanted to bring the boutique style of training and motivation to people like myself, who need it on demand.

I wanted to build a consumer-focused product that would bring best-in-class training and technology and deliver this at scale with personalisation.

How did you and Karthik Narayanan come together to co-found Auro?
Karthik and I are distant cousins and we have known each other since childhood, having been in the same school as well. He had gone on to work for a bunch of great tech companies including Qualcomm and Samsung so I knew he would be the right partner for me in this venture.

What exactly is Auro?
Auro is a connected fitness/wellness app. We provide on-demand classes in 11+ categories for fitness or wellness for the home, gym or outdoors, with new classes every week. The classes are led by experts in their field – you can train with ex-Olympian Ben at home using body weight or go for a guided run with our triathlon coach Lucy, or just find your zen with Michael in a meditation class.

Music is such a key aspect of a fitness class and most products just make you listen to stock music. We work with our trainers to make killer playlists, similar to a boutique studio class, but if you don’t like our music then you can overlay your own from Spotify, Apple or Amazon music.

We also connect with 20+ devices so you can track all your metrics in real time and really understand your progress with Auro.

Why did you choose to create fitness instruction without a screen?
When you’re undertaking fitness activities, unless you’re on a stationary bike, in most cases it’s not safe or necessary to be tied to a screen, especially a small screen.

When you run, do burpees, meditate or even do yoga, it’s not a great experience to keep squinting at a tiny screen. Even when you do yoga in a studio, chances are you will never see the coach unless you’re at the front.

We do understand that for many users, particularly those that are new to fitness or new to a particular discipline, they will need some visual assistance, so all of our posture-based classes offer video guides which are designed to help users to master the moves before they jump into the class. However our belief is that once you start the class, your trainer should be able to guide you completely, solely through vocal instruction.

Our mantra for users is ‘stop squinting, start sweating’!

How has Auro evolved and grown since you launched in 2017?
We launched the product in 2017 as a video livestreaming product and then we relaunched in 2018 as an audio product. Since 2018, we’ve grown to 170,000+ users in 50+ countries.

We have large diversity in our userbase, be it age, sex, geography or income. We’re reaching a wide base of users and I’m so happy to see that we’re helping so many different people.

We started out with just running classes but now we have nearly 700 classes across 11 categories, with everything from walking, to strength training, to meditation, to sleep.

How do you keep the content fresh and interesting?
We’re recording content every other day and there are new classes being released every week – that’s one of the key value propositions for our members. There’s always fresh content to look forward to.

Since we started we’ve significantly expanded our offering based on requests from our customers – recently we added stair climber workouts for the gym, stress relief and sleep classes for those dealing with the effects of the pandemic, and pilates classes for those with bad backs from sitting on a chair all day at home.

Tell us about Auro’s newest features and upgrades. Why were these priorities?
Last year, we added running tracking for all our outdoor runs so users can track their pace, distance, route and time splits all from inside the app. So when you are doing a threshold run, you can actually see in real time what that threshold pace is and see it improve as you progress.

We have also added integration with Apple and Amazon music so users can overlay their own playlists from these services with the voice of the coach.

These were both driven by requests from our consumers – requests play quite a significant role in terms of shaping new product features and class content for our business.

What technologies do you use to personalise and optimise the service for individual users?
We use recommender algorithms that take user data, their preferences, their previous consumption and consumption of other users with similar goals to personalise the content and programming for the users.

We are also seeing an increasing percentage of users using wearables to track their workout metrics and we’re working on some big upgrades that will allow us to use their wearable data to further personalise the workouts to the fitness level and goals of users.

What’s the average length of time that users continue their membership for?
Ninety per cent of our users stick around for at least a year, with a significant percentage of them staying with us for longer. We’re still quite a young company but if the response from our existing users is any indication, our retention numbers are very, very good.

What are your plans for Auro?
There are 60 million gym members in Europe and 100m+ others who are physically active so the opportunity is massive. We want to grow our subscriber base by 10 times over the next two years. As ambitious as that sounds, I believe that’s totally possible.

COVID-19 has accelerated the growth of digital substantially and today’s consumer is much more conscious of their health and overall wellbeing. I believe there will be multiple winners in this category.


Originally published in Fit Tech 2021 issue 2

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