Fuelling for fitness
Vijayaraghavan Venugopal, CEO and co-founder of Aeronutrix Sports Products that launched its flagship brand Fast&Up in India in 2015, tells us how we can make a more healthy, fit India
Running has become mainstream but what needs to be done to see a more fit and healthy India? Vijayaraghavan Venugopal, CEO and co-founder of Aeronutrix Sports Products Private Limited, puts across an interesting thought. “In terms of running, a lot is happening here. India has almost 2,000 timed events and 2 million runners (approximately) are increasing every year. While it’s great to see people doing the half, full and ultra marathons, encouraging others to run 3, 5 and 10 km will ensure more participation and fewer drop-offs. It will be less daunting,” he says and can’t be possibly more right.
He, along with his co-founder, has been instrumental in building the Fast&Up brand in India. Offering sports and active nutrition, the brand began its journey in 2015 and has seen a phenomenal growth ever since, supplying its products to the Indian cricket team (IPL, Ranji Trophy etc), Pro Volleyball League, TN Premier League, Pune FC, IBC Pro Boxing I league, Pro Kabaddi League, Tata Mumbai Marathon and several other sporting events. “We have tied up with Procam for the next five years for all its IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) certified races in India,” he says.
One of the fastest amateur marathoners in the country, Vijayaraghavan has achieved the sub-3-hour target at several races in India and abroad. However, his tryst with running happened in Pune. “I was working in the city from 2011 to 2013. At that time, Pune Running group was taking shape. I became a part of the group on Facebook and signed up for a Last Sunday of the Month (LSOM) 10 km race in 2011. On one Sunday in January 2012, I had gone to Pune University to do a 5 km run but I found the place deserted. After enquiring I got to know that the runners had gone to participate in Mumbai Marathon. I decided then that I would go for the marathon next January,” says Vijayaraghavan. It was his first full marathon and since then the trailblazer has been making himself and the nation proud.
For the Hyderabad-based entrepreneur and marathoner, running and Fast&Up happened on a parallel track. “I put my several years of experience in the health care pharmaceutical sector in building Fast&UP. In 2015, we had a small launch in Mumbai where we called a few people from across India, including Pune. Till today, we have remained friends. We could connect because I was a runner too,” says Vijayaraghavan, adding, “I am not an extrovert but I had my heart and passion in the right place. In fact, the Fast&Up team is made of members who were into sports and had left their jobs to pursue this wholeheartedly.”
Fast&Up India caters to the nutritional needs of athletes and those who lead an active lifestyle, so the range of products include sports nutrition, energy gels, hydration drinks, proteins, multivitamins, supplements and so on. Talking about how their brand established a strong presence, Vijayaraghavan says, “People started using our products as a way of life, and have continued to do so. Also, we made a fundamental change by offering effervescent tablets. Earlier, people used to tear open a sachet and mix the contents with water. Fast&UP offers effervescent tablets which you put in a glass or bottle of water and consume. Then again, our hydration drinks Reload aren’t sugary. Initially, people used to complain that it doesn’t have sugar but then across the globe people started consuming drinks with less sugar. Reload fits the bill. We are setting a benchmark by sending some of our products to Swiss labs for tests. In future, we want to follow this process for all our products. However, we can’t be too ahead of the curve because global labs are making products with the latest technologies. Fast&Up makes sure that we supply good quality nutrition to our Indian consumers at an affordable price.” They are doing something right or else the Indian cricket team would not have replaced their imported energy drink with the indigenous Fast&Up product.
For Vijayaraghavan and his team, their job doesn’t end at supplying the products. “We also send our people to guide the process, so that Reload is mixed properly with water. This has become more important because paper cups are being used at most global marathons, including Procam events. Also, we constantly interact with athletes and running groups. We tell them about the importance of hydration, nutrition, supplements, physiotherapy and so on. When people get into running, initially, shoes, apparel, Garmin etc seem important. But the top priorities should include nutrition (daily food), supplements (if necessary), hydration (with electrolytes if needed). You need to try out different things, respect your body and see what works for you,” he concludes.