When Payal Kadakia was sitting at her office desk in New York City frustratingly searching for a suitable dance class to attend on her lunch break, an idea hit her. Instead of aimlessly scrolling through different websites trying to find a class at the right time, in close proximity and taught by a reputable trainer, 27-year-old Payal mused the possibility of building a one-stop destination platform for all these classes to be showcased in.
That was eight years ago, and now ClassPass is the leading membership to the world's largest fitness network. “I have to pinch myself sometimes,” Payal admits to Grazia while delicately sipping hot coffee in an upmarket Dubai hotel. “But I believe ClassPass tapped into a human behaviour change at the right time. People were craving this way of working out and this way of discovering fitness and staying active. On a human level, everyone wants to be curious and to discover. As kids we all do it – we’re encouraged by our parents to be involved in activities – so why do we have to stop as adults? ClassPass is a playground for adults.”
Let’s backtrack to Payal’s lightbulb moment, which all stemmed from her desire to attend a dance class. Has she always been so dedicated to exercise? “I never considered myself a fitness person,” Payal replies. “I’m small, petite and thought I didn’t belong in the fitness world. I danced as a way of holding on to my Indian heritage, as I was born and raised in the States but my parents emigrated from India to America in the '70s.”
“I was so passionate about dance and I was still fighting to keep it in my life, even with a full-time job. So many of my friends had given up on their loves like sport and music and I don’t believe in a life like that. So I thought to myself, what if I can build the technology that’s going to get everyone back into these amazing passions and ways of life that I think are really important,” Payal continues.
ClassPass provides access to classes including, but not limited to, yoga, strength training, barre, martial arts, Pilates, boxing and indoor cycling classes. What cities are next on the growing brand’s hit-list? “So many!” Payal exclaims. “Asia has a lot more potential – we’ve just launched in Hong Kong and Bangkok – and we’re pushing on in the Middle East. Kuwait and Saudi are further down the line goals for us.”
There can be little dispute that Payal is one inspirational lady. Her advice for budding female entrepreneurs? “Be driven by purpose. I’m not driven by fame or money, I just believe in what I’m doing. Start something you’re willing to go to the grave with because it takes years. As a woman I wanted to build a product that solves problems and makes our lives easier. Fellow females should start something that could make a real change in the world.” We couldn’t have put it better ourselves.
Photos: Supplied and iStock