KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 17 — So many of us want to eat healthy, exercise more and get fit. So much so that it’s a billion-dollar industry worldwide.
Yet we still struggle, not only to adhere to our routines and habits, but to make sense of it all.
This is a problem that YT Kuan, the 31-year-old founder of Oomph Asia, is most interested in solving. His business targets a specific market segment of nutrition and fitness enthusiasts, but what does it offer his customers?
Imagine a one-stop shop where you could get fitness advice, a diet and workout plan consultation, as well as ready-to-eat meals that are aligned with your health goals.
Sounds great. The question remains, however: Will this work?
What Kuan, who had studied international business in Melbourne but whose passions were always fitness and entrepreneurship, is counting on is the juxtaposition of different value-adds.
His own contribution is an example of what best-selling author Scott Adams (the creator of Dilbert), calls a “talent stack” where, rather than becoming the best at one specific thing, one could become very good at two or more things.
Which, where Kuan and Oomph Asia are concerned, is a Venn diagram of the aforementioned fitness and nutrition expertise as well as appropriate value-add products (i.e. convenient healthy foods).
Founded in 2016, Oomph Asia had already undergone one pivot. While it began as a fitness café (i.e. Oomph Café), Kuan had overhauled the business model in 2018 to encompass freshly-prepared, travel- and diet-friendly meals.
The idea of a “fitness concept” café was well received when it first opened, according to Kuan, though not without its challenges. He notes, “It was not only because of a big difference in the Malaysian culture towards fitness, it is also the entire health knowledge and education system that we practise during school.”
This is no surprise given it was while studying International Business in Australia that he gained most of his knowledge about fitness and health transformation. He reiterated, “The Australian culture was a very big eye opener to me and it has also changed me personally as well.”
Though it was a tough decision to realign his plans, Kuan ultimately set aside his original café model and repositioned his business towards travel-friendly, ready-to-eat meals. These were then known as Grab & Go Packs – convenient, vacuum-sealed meal packages that require no cooking.
Kuan says, “As an athlete myself, I knew it could be hard to find healthy meals with the right macronutrient count when travelling. Whether it’s during the flight or when we reach our travel destination, we want to make dieting as accessible as possible – hence we came up with Grab & Go Packs.”
Over time, however, Kuan saw that his business was still struggling to connect with new customers; most of his loyal base were already hardcore devotees of health and fitness. He had to go further than merely preaching to the choir if Oomph was to survive in its original incarnation.
Was another pivot necessary, or inevitable, even?
Then came the Covid-19 pandemic early last year. Kuan ruefully observes: “The lockdown in 2020 was a complete killing moment to Oomph, and I believe to most of the small businesses in the market.”
Beyond a superficial change in strategy, Kuan quickly realised a more substantial shift in the way he operated was critical. It was clear: a second business pivot was required.
For Oomph’s new direction, he turned to his customers for inspiration: “One of the main reasons I decided to convert my business into an e-commerce platform is because of our supporters, those who have been with Oomph for years. They wanted us to continue our service and help even more people to achieve their fitness goals, albeit in a simple and reasonable way.”
The choice, Kuan decided, was to integrate his existing business model into an online platform or close it down completely and change the entire concept and business strategy in order to survive in the increasingly difficult marketplace.
“Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I had no choice but to fully convert my business from a typical café into an e-commerce fitness platform, with me as a consultant,” he says. “Clients can book an appointment with me. Through either Zoom or Meet-up session, I will begin a conversation with my client to have a better understanding of his or her fitness goals.”
Banking on years of fitness industry knowledge as well as testimonials from clients who had successfully reached their goals with his help, Kuan came up with a step-by-step 30-day fitness programme.
He shares, “This programme includes a diet plan and home workouts that can help every individual achieve their fitness goals either to lose weight or gain weight… at home. Achieving such results doesn’t necessarily have to happen in the gym.”
To amplify his diet-and-workout plan (and perhaps to allow Oomph to stand out from numerous other online fitness consultants with their diet-and-workout plans), Kuan has developed new food products – further streamlining his earlier Grab & Go Packs – to better complement his clients’ fitness goals.
He shares, “I came out with a very delicious Chicken Breast Patty that will help everyone to be on track during the 30 days program. No MSG, no preservatives, no skin and no bones.”
Of course, however it’s marketed, chicken breast does have a reputation, deservedly or otherwise for being a tad bland. Revered by bodybuilders, but perhaps less so by gourmands.
Kuan is aware of this and has adapted accordingly: “Oomph’s chicken patties taste better than regular chicken breasts; the texture of the meat is softer as it’s minced. For those who want to add some flavour to their diet, Oomph also has its own Nyonya sauce to make your fitness journey an enjoyable experience.”
This is perhaps Kuan’s way of creating a bridge from the Oomph of old, where regulars would drop by for their nutritious lunch bentos, to the revamped Oomph of today, with healthy food products that they could continue enjoying while keeping to their macronutrient counts.
To keep up with the changing times, Oomph is currently offering a special promotion to support the nation’s ongoing Covid-19 vaccination drive. Kuan says, “Get yourself vaccinated and receive a special promo code from us. Just screenshot and message us your MySejahtera vaccination status page and we’ll send you the promo code to purchase products from our website.”
Perhaps there’s no one answer to the question that we led with: How to make sense of it all? Yet we can all take it one step at a time, to eat healthier, to exercise more and get fitter. To add a little oomph! back to our lives.