Prash Jaitley is the man who brought his own water pistol to the last Hipsters, Hackers and Hustlers Co-founder dating and speed pitching event at Google Campus. To explain, at these colourful networking events, entrepreneurs are given 30 seconds to pitch their ideas to an audience of developers, founders, investors, and business angels, before being chased off the stage by super-soaker brandishing members of the HHH team.
Prash had taken a soaking the first time he pitched, so at the following event he made sure he came prepared. It’s these kind of thought processes that ensures Prash stands out from the crowd. Always entertaining, often amusing, occasionally controversial, Prash’s oft repeated mantra runs something like this: you may be in the same business sector as me, and that is fine, I will just have to make sure I execute better than you do!
In public, Prash is immaculately dressed, direct, excitable, outspoken, and now super-fit (we’ll talk about that in a minute), his passion for business brings him out of himself.
Aged 31, he has been an entrepreneur since he was 18, “it’s in the blood”, he says. His family have always been businesspeople. He began his career at Simply Cartridge Ltd, E-tailing printing accessories online; sensing the potential of e-commerce, he became involved in the acquisition of Kashless.com, a web marketplace for people to list free stuff. It is now a financial blog providing personal finance advice, whose vast user database had previously attracted $9m of Venture Capital funding.
Prash, who also has a vested interest in a portfolio of residential and commercial properties with a high net worth individual, says he is in business for 2 reasons: firstly, to make sure the creation, distribution and marketing of products is “well executed” , and secondly, most importantly, “to affect a change in people’s lives”. He is speaking from personal experience on both counts, and FITPLX his new project, allows him to do both. He believes it’s his most exciting project to date, “one that can motivate people to make real life changes”.
2 years ago, when his first child was born, Prash weighed in at a relatively hefty 12 stones. One day, at home in the presence of 3 generations of the Jaitley family; himself, his father, and his baby, he realised that he wanted to prolong this kind of domestic bliss for as long as he could, and that meant getting in shape, and encouraging his family to do the same.
Knowing that his family were genetically vulnerable to diabetes, he began to exercise, slimming down to 9 and a half stones in just a few months. “You wouldn’t have recognised me 2 years ago”, he tells me, “I had all the motivation I needed, and my generation have so many digital tools to help us but keeping the weight off would be a challenge. For my father it was altogether different. He’s a technophobe, and his generation traditionally don’t take exercising as seriously. I decided I wanted to change that.” FITPLX was born.
“One day my father decided he wanted to buy his grandchild some new toys, so I said to him, ‘Dad, I’ll pay for the toys, if you’ll take a short walk around the block every day this month.’ and, being a businessman, he didn’t want to miss the chance to get one over on me. So off he went!” And the first Fitplx challenge began.
In a nutshell, this is the principle behind FITPLX. Rewards for fitness. An online platform allows you to choose a reward, you connect your smartphone or wearable device to the FITPLX app, and hey presto, when you hit your exercise targets, the prize is yours.
“I thought, if it works for me and my family, it could work for anyone”, Prash explains: “usually, when I have a new idea, I quickly write a business plan and file it away, ready to use when the time is right, but as soon as this one was written I knew I would act on it straightaway.”
By coincidence, Prash found a business partner almost immediately; now his CTO, the head of a 40 strong developer team, based in India, from the same State, Gujarat, where Prash’s family once lived. It was immediately apparent that they would make a powerful alliance, as his business partner has a strong background in app development, working with some of the largest Mobile phone operators in Asia and Europe, that combined with Prash’s vast business experience and their combined contact list this venture is set to be something special.
“We’re looking to launch in April. We want to make sure everything is perfect for launch day.”
The rewards will be donated by long term affiliate partners who will use the site to develop relationships with customers based around incentivising them to exercise more. “Obviously the first stage is to get as many people on board as we can”, Prash explains, “but we are already looking beyond that. By building up a database of personal health and fitness data we can understand how best to help people reach their fitness goals. In our office we are constantly brainstorming crazy and wonderful ideas that could end up making it to market, for example, a user may visit one of our strategic partner’s stores, only to receive a message or email advising them that there is another store 1 km down the road, and providing them with detailed information as to how the extra kilometre will contribute to their daily, weekly or monthly fitness score.”
It’s an original idea with a potentially vast and relatively untapped market, to reward people with real rewards and set goals they can really achieve, supported by sophisticated mobile advertising partners that are looking to develop responsible relationships with their customers. Nowhere is the market bigger than in Asia, but the UK mobile market, too, could be said to be ripe for disruption.
“Normally you’ll see products developed in the Eastern markets which are ultimately targeting the West”, says Prash, we’re doing it the other way around, we’re looking to build traction over here, and then we’ll look at Asia and elsewhere. We’re certainly disruptive in that sense”.
Prash’s message has the ring of truth to it. “this business is about changing people’s lives”, he repeats, “we’re not playing games, we’re a game changer, we’re bringing major organisations on board, using marketing and good business sense to basically give people real progressive motivation”. We briefly discuss the irony of using a mobile device, usually the scourge of best laid fitness plans and quality family time, to save families from lethargy and inactivity. Prash already has me thinking along the same lines as he is.
So when you next bump into the smartly dressed guy at Google Campus, checking his wearable step counter, plastic squirter tucked under his arm, remember, appearances can be deceptive. This guy is on a mission to make us live longer and stay healthy. And this time it’s personal.