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Ravi Krishnan, CEO & Co-Founder, Stepathlon Lifestyle

“Stepathlon brings about significant positive impact on physical activity levels, which in turn can reverse the alarming effects of increasingly sedentary lifestyles. By wearing a pedometer (a step counting device), one can measure the amount of activity he or she does and with this awareness, can embark on a journey to improved health and quality of life.”

April 03, 2013 2:37 IST | India Infoline News Service

Ravi Krishnan, CEO & Co-Founder, Stepathlon Lifestyle, The former Managing Director of IMG South Asia, Ravi Krishnan was part of a four-member team that set up IMG's operations in India in 1995. During his 16 year tenure at IMG, Ravi has played a key role in the creation, commercialisation and operations of some landmark properties in the field of sports and lifestyle including Sahara Cup (Cricket), Chennai Open (Tennis), Lakme Fashion Week, Avantha Masters (Golf) and Indian Premier League (Cricket). Ravi is a lawyer by training from Australia's prestigious Monash University. His demonstrated capability of nurturing organisations and projects from the 'start-up' to successful steady state will play a vital role in the growth of SLPL – a new entrepreneurial venture that aims to make health and fitness a part of daily life. An avid sport and fitness enthusiast, Ravi competed in the Australian Open (Tennis) at the junior level and played in Victoria's District Cricket Competition.


Stepathlon Lifestyle Pvt. Ltd. (SLPL) is a global wellness company, founded by Ravi Krishnan and Shane Bilsborough. SLPL creates an ecosystem that promotes corporate health, fitness and productivity by increasing daily activity, through a unique initiative called Stepathlon. Stepathlon is a pedometer - based, mass participation event for companies across all industries and countries. It encourages activity in a simple, inclusive, fun and relevant manner to complement hectic lifestyles. Stepathlon aims to break the 'cycle of sedentary behaviour' and transform the sedentary into active, and the active into more active. Stepathlon is based on an internationally successful model co-founded by Shane Bilsborough, an eminent fitness expert and author, who is now partnering with Ravi Krishnan, former Managing Director of IMG South Asia, to spearhead SLPL. Ravi's strategic vision, business acumen and demonstrated capability of building an organisation from its start-up phase, along with Shane's domain expertise and extensive background in nutrition and health combines to ensure Stepathlon delivers a happier, healthier and a more productive workforce.


Replying to Anil Mascarenhas of IIFL, Ravi Krishnan says, “Stepathlon brings about significant positive impact on physical activity levels, which in turn can reverse the alarming effects of increasingly sedentary lifestyles. By wearing a pedometer (a step counting device), one can measure the amount of activity he or she does and with this awareness, can embark on a journey to improved health and quality of life.”


Briefly explain to us what Stepathlon Lifestyle is all about. What is your business model?

Stepathlon Lifestyle Pvt. Ltd. SLPL is a global health and wellness company that I co-founded along with my partner, Shane Bilsborough, in April 2012. SLPL creates an ecosystem that promotes corporate health, fitness and productivity by increasing daily activity, through a unique initiative called Stepathlon.


Stepathlon is a unique, pedometer-based, mass participation event which takes place over 100 consecutive days and motivates individuals, in a team based format, to achieve the 10,000 steps a day benchmark, which deems an individual as “active” by global health authorities.


Stepathlon is principally a B2B event, in which a company enters employees in multiples of 5 (that form a team) to participate in Stepathlon. The participation cost for each employee is Rs. 2,250 + sales tax per employee (i.e. Rs. 11,250 + sales tax for each team of 5)


This year, we will extend participation to family and friends of Stepathletes, to join the global movement towards a happier and healthier lifestyle. Each Stepathlete will have the ability to include a ‘family and friends’ team that will race around a ‘virtual’ world concurrently with the B2B event.


Stepathlon brings about significant positive impact on physical activity levels, which in turn can reverse the alarming effects of increasingly sedentary lifestyles. By wearing a pedometer (a step counting device), one can measure the amount of activity he or she does and with this awareness, can embark on a journey to improved health and quality of life.


What brought you together with Shane Bilsborough to start this company?

My partner, Shane Bilsborough, is an international nutrition and fitness expert who has authored three international bestsellers. Shane has a Master’s in Nutrition and has held senior advisory roles with many major global entities, having given corporate health and wellness seminars to some of the largest companies across the globe. Shane was a long jump and triple jump champion who earned 23 medals in the Victorian and Australian Championships at both junior and senior level. I have known Shane for over 3 decades, having trained with him, as teenagers, on the track when I competed in the Australian Open (Tennis) at the junior level.


We reconnected in 2011, soon after I left IMG, and Shane introduced me to the concept he had devised and successfully implemented out of Australia. I thought the timing and relevance of the concept was ideal for the Indian market, given the increasing pace of ubranisation in India and the fact that our lifestyle today is conducive to minimal incidental movement wherever humanly possible.


I found Stepathlon a compelling entrepreneurial opportunity for me to utilise 16 years of learning and experience, gained at IMG, in a program that can include and benefit many people and organisations. My experience and relationships with corporate India juxtaposed with Shane’s domain expertise allows us to combine efficiently and effectively. As the head of a private equity firm neatly put it “you have an opportunity to do well by doing good”.


What kind of participation have you seen so far?

In the first year of Stepathlon, we witnessed participation of over 21,000 corporate employees from 143 companies across 132 cities and 19 countries. We received participation from small, medium and large companies from various industries. For instance, from the Banking sector we had companies like HDFC Bank, Deutsche Bank, Citibank, HSBC and Yes Bank. Other notable companies that participated included companies from Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd, Godrej Group, Tata Group, Hindustan Unilever, P+G, Sony Entertainment and various other companies. Furthermore, Stepathletes, irrespective of age, gender, designation, location and fitness levels, enjoyed the company led 100 day health and wellness/ employee engagement platform.


Which are the verticals where the ‘Stepathlon Revolution’ is taking place?

Stepathlon is an industry agnostic health and wellness platform, in which companies of all sizes from any industry can participate.


In Stepathlon 2012, we had 143 companies that participated, which were broken down into 12 industry categories including Not for Profit organisations. We saw significant participation levels from the Banking, Financial Services, Entertainment and Media, FMCG, Infrastructure and Engineering, Manufacturing, Professional Services, Real Estate, Retail and Lifestyle, Travel and Hospitality and Technology verticals.


Appended below are the “Most Active” companies from Stepathlon 2012 on a category basis:


Professional Services- DHL Logistics


Banking- HDFC Bank Ltd


FMCG- Hindustan Unilever Ltd


Financial Services- Aditya Birla Financial Services Group


Travel & Hospitality- The Park Hotels


Real Estate- Godrej Properties Ltd


Technology- Capgemini India Pvt Ltd


Infrastructure & Engineering- Sesa Goa Ltd


Entertainment & Media- Tata Sky Ltd


Retail & Lifestyle- Titan Industries Ltd


Manufacturing- Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd


What element of fun and activity do you bring about in the banking sector?

Many companies in the Banking sector reported Stepathlon having catalysed behavioral change and increased activity levels given the healthy competition Stepathlon created within their organizations. The Banking vertical contributed to 22% of our total participation in Stepathlon 2012. Various companies reported their employees making minor behavioral modifications within their work environment, such as having walking meetings, going for short pre-work/ post-lunch walks, taking the stairs and not the elevator.


Furthermore, employees reported similar behavioral adjustments in their personal environments. 72% of Stepathletes reported spending more “active” time with their family and friends than before as well as 50% of Stepathletes increasing the number of days they exercised each week and 40% of Stepathletes increasing their duration of exercise each day.


For example:


Deutsche bank-

Carried out 2 ‘Step Out with Leader’ days with the COO at both Mumbai office locations

Showcased and awarded leading teams every 25 days for their activity during that quarter


HDFC Bank

Initiated a ‘Walk to Work day’ with Senior Leaders across their participating locations

Over 50 HDFC Stepathletes participated in the Mumbai ‘Step out with the Leaders’


IDFC

Ran a competition to award the person who lost the most weight across the 100 days of Stepathlon 2012

Carried out 5 Walkathons with their Employees and Clients


Share some anecdotes that you have from HDFC Bank Ltd which emerged as the ‘Most Active Company’ in Stepathlon 2012.

HDFC Bank institutionalized Stepathlon 2012 across all their locations. Every office desktop had a screensaver and wallpaper for the duration of the event to create buzz and motivation amongst employees. They profiled the company leaderboard every 10 days to create internal competition and provided a progress report in their fortnightly internal publications.

Some branches organized activities before work that included meeting 15 minutes away from the work premises and doing a ‘Walk to Work’ event. Their senior management got involved and motivated their employees across the 100 days of Stepathlon and provided health food options and information on nutrition and diet in their cafeterias.


Team ‘East India Company’ from HDFC Bank Ltd was the ‘Most Active Team’ in Stepathlon 2012. The team was the first to cross the finish line in the 100 day race and covered a staggering 12,628 kilometers over the 100-day race. The team shared extremely positive experiences over the course of Stepathlon, which brought about a positive change in their behavioral pattern inside and outside their workplace. Stepathlon’s activity driven concept made them much healthier and active, both physically and mentally. Below are a few quotes from HDFC Bank employees:


“I was lucky to be part of this amazing event and I had the most wonderful teammates who constantly encouraged me and inspired me..” - Chumki Sharma , HDFC Bank Ltd


Apart from increasing our own step counts we should also be encouraging our friends, colleagues and family members who have not joined the Stepathlon, to keep walking - thereby increasing its reach and start building a healthier community and nation” - Pravin Mahawar, HDFC Bank Ltd


“Thanks to the 100 days of Stepathlon, I got more conscious about my health and well-being and ended up losing 10 KGs and feel a lot better” - Priyo  Sahu, HDFC Bank Ltd


Gulzar Singh of HDFC Bank Ltd’s top team, East India Company, made some simple changes in his daily routine as follows:


He converted his backyard into a jogger’s lawn wherein he walked for an hour with his wife post dinner every day


A usual day at work for Gulzar involves different branch visits and interdepartmental visits as well. Gulzar walked to all branches within the vicinity of 30-45 mins (both ways).


Given his job function required air travel, he used the opportunity to take long strolls in and out of airports and sometimes even within the aircraft


He organized a band, made up of HDFC employees in his location, to play music on their office’s terrace periodically to help employees within his office increase their steps in a fun manner by dancing


He made a habit of getting off 1 km away from his final destination and making his way there on foot


Daily SMS’s on nutrition and activity as well as team progress reports and targets were shared amongst team members on a daily basis


What are some of the major social and health benefits seen?

We received many stories of weight loss, reduced blood pressure, stress etc. It was also gratifying to hear that participating company leaders received kudos from their staff for investing in their health and well being and the fact that they recognize the importance of investing in their most valuable asset, their human capital.


Below are a few post-event survey results that I believe are a clear testament to the ‘Win-Win’ that Stepathlon creates for companies and individuals:


46% of Stepathletes took less sick days (during the 100-day period of Stepathlon versus the previous 100-day period)


60% of Stepathletes reported increased engagement at their workplace


58% of Stepathletes reported greater teamwork within their company


78% Stepathletes reported there has been an increase in communication within their workplace/company


58% of Stepathletes improved their quality of sleep


45% of Stepathletes experienced lower levels of stress


61% of Stepathletes reported increased energy levels


90% of Stepathletes are taking more responsibility for their health and well being


17% of Stepathletes who smoked prior to Stepathlon quit smoking


72% of Stepathletes walk more with friends and family


What impact has Stepathlon had on Employee Engagement and productivity?

According to the survey conducted after the completion of Stepathlon, 60% of Stepathletes experienced increased engagement at their workplace. The average increase in Employee Engagement was reported to be 34%. 

61% of Stepathletes reported that they were more productive at work post Stepathlon. The average increase in Productivity was 31%.


Various companies formed teams in formats that got employees from different locations and/or functions together. This fostered a ‘one company’ feeling amongst employees and bringing geographically or otherwise diverse company’s together, improving company morale and greater camaraderie amongst employees.


Explain to us the process of participation in Stepathlon. How do teams compete?

Companies of all sizes and across all industries can enter as many teams as they choose, each comprising 5 Stepathletes. Each Stepathlete wears a pedometer (a step-counting device) and enters their daily steps into the Stepathlon course website. These steps are converted into kilometers and their team’s position is mapped on Stepathlon’s highly engaging and interactive online platform. The language of Stepathlon is ‘steps’. Teams compete both internally and against teams from other companies, in a race across 48 different locations on Stepathlon’s unique map of the “virtual world”. Teams compete to be the “Fittest Team” and “Fittest Company” under categories such as company, industry and city.


Each Stepathlete can monitor his/her team position on the overall Stepathlon Leader board as well as his/her Company specific leaderboard, as they continue to track their activity over the 100 days.


Would you say employee medical bills would reduce with Stepathlon? Any evidences?

Global research indicates that medical bills do reduce by instituting wellness programs and preventative measures in the workplace, including participating in mass participation events like Step8athlon. Further, in a Global survey conducted by Wolters Kluwer, it was reported that “Unplanned, or unscheduled, absence costs employers 8.7 percent of payroll.”


In markets where wellness initiatives have been more widely accepted like Australia, UK and USA, employers receive medical rebates and/or concessions for employees that participate in health & wellness initiatives like Stepathlon. For example, Grand Hyatt Melbourne (Stepathlon 2012 participating company) received a financial rebate grant of AUD 30 for each employee that participated in Stepathlon from the Victoria Government and Worksafe.

46% of Stepathletes reported taking less sick days during Stepathlon 2012 than in the previous 3 months. Overall, the average sick days decreased from 1.4 prior to Stepathlon to 0.2 during Stepathlon. At the end of Stepathlon 2012, 90% of corporate employees reported taking greater responsibility for their health and wellbeing, by increasing physical activity levels, improving nutrition habits (which included increases in vegetable, fruit and water consumption), etc. When all this is rolled together, medical bills as well as the number of sick days each corporate employee takes are bound to reduce.


In India, companies have tended to focus on illness, not on wellness. The insurance market is not yet ready to give credit for preventative measures instituted by companies. With time, policy change and greater awareness of the positive effects wellness programs have on corporate employees, this will and must change.


Which are the countries that you cover? Could you cite some noticeable differences in India versus other countries?

We are a global event that caters to employees of companies in all countries. This aligns with our philosophy that Stepathlon is for “Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime”. In 2012, we had Stepathletes from India and 19 other countries. We will continue to welcome employees from companies and locations, wherever they may be.

 

Given the number of activities that are slowly coming up as part of corporate participation, what makes you confident of Stepathlon’s success.

Employees in this fast paced era have intense work schedules and long hours that take a toll on both body and mind, leaving them with little time to invest in their own health and fitness. Stepathlon provides a simple, fun and relevant solution to maintain and establish a healthier and happier life, by mitigating both time and space constraints. It creates an opportunity for employees that do not have a regimented exercise schedule to invest in their health and wellbeing, simply by focusing on the 10,000 steps a day benchmark.


At a company level, Stepathlon provides companies a 100-day employee engagement and wellness platform that promotes the fact that regular moderate exercise can have a significant positive impact on employee health, leading to increased bottom lines.


Key aspects of Stepathlon that increase my confidence in the success of Stepathlon are the following:

Unique: Stepathlon is a unique concept that can instill positive change in an individual’s lifestyle with the use of a self-quantification device (pedometer) using an information rich platform that gamifies the experience of physical activity in an inclusive manner without boundaries


Relevant and Fun: Stepathlon leads to permanent lifestyle changes via a non-intrusive process that is actually fun and creates healthy competition within a company and between companies.


Employee Engagement: Research shows that individuals are more likely to stick with exercise in a team based format than on their own. Stepathlon provides companies the opportunity to create healthy competition within their company in teams of 5 in a way that also fosters increased levels of communication and engagement amongst different departments and/or geographical locations. This healthy competition extends from within teams of 5, to being between teams in your office, teams in your organization, as well as with teams in other companies and as a collective group against one another at a company level.


Community of like-minded individuals: Stepathlon’s platform provides employees within their company an opportunity to connect on an interpersonal level with regards to health and wellness and come together on a topic outside of work that fosters greater teamwork, communication and employee engagement. Stepathlon provides its community with awareness that can be incorporated into one’s daily life with regards to medical, health and wellness tips and a simple form of action that can be continued well after the event is over. As one of our Stepathletes from Sony said, “I have met many people involved in Stepathlon from Sony, but also from various other companies. It feels like one big family tree!”


Inclusive: Stepathlon brings a geographically or otherwise diverse company together onto one platform, improving company morale and camaraderie amongst employees. Stepathlon allows busy company executives that are constantly on the move the opportunity to lead by example without having to be in one place at one time, while being role models and in a sense, healthchangers, for their employees


Simplicity: The simplicity of the program in terms of implementation at a company as well as the fact that it promotes the simplest form of activity, walking, makes Stepathlon universally applicable to all employees at a company, irrespective of age, gender, designation, location, fitness levels and physical abilities. Stepathlon provides individuals with a simple quantifiable target of 10,000 steps daily that they need to achieve.


What is your business model?

Currently, Stepathlon is a B2B event, in which a company does a deal with Stepathlon and enters employees in multiples of 5 (that form a team) to participate. The participation cost for each employee is Rs. 2,250 + sales tax per employee (Rs. 11,250 + sales tax for each team of 5)


This year, we will extend participation to family and friends of Stepathletes, to join the global movement towards a happier and healthier lifestyle. Each Stepathlete will have the ability to include a ‘family and friends’ team that will race around a ‘virtual’ world concurrently with the B2B event.


Stepathlon brings about significant positive impact on physical activity levels, which in turn can reverse the alarming effects of increasingly sedentary lifestyles. By wearing a pedometer (a step counting device), one can measure the amount of activity he or she does and with this awareness, can embark on a journey to improved health and quality of life.


How big is your team?

The company currently comprises 12 team members.  During Stepathlon 2012, a team focused on sales and marketing while another team focused on IT and logistics. The domain expertise of Shane combines cohesively with a team handpicked by me, which includes expertise in sports management/marketing, media and advertising make up our sales and marketing team.


Any plans to bring in an investor?

My partner, Shane, and I have invested in the business and have three external investors.


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