It’s no secret that Chinese people are hard-workers. On the bright side, this culture contributes greatly to the country’s quick economic rise, but it also results in nationwide health problem given the lengthening working hours. In a country where extreme productivity practice like 996 prevails, however, employers, especially corporates, are paying increasing attention the health and wellness of their employees. The reasoning behind this is a no-brainer: healthy and happy staff makes for a more productive workforce.

For most people, keeping fit is more of a lifestyle choice. Most of the current startups like social fitness app Keep go after individual customers. But Shanghai-based startup SPIRIT thinks we can find a balance between work and life through employee engagement, sports, platform competition and the adoption of wearable technologies.

And this is not only for the benefit of individual employees but for their employers as well. SPIRIT is currently developing a smart platform that can follow and guide corporate employees through their wellness journey, and, in some cases, intuitively understand what and when they need to work physically in order to be more productive.

“We take the best of a fitness service, team building company, a wellness company, an HR company, and we put them into one online platform,” said Jordan Campbell founder and CEO of the startup.

As one of the first companies to target this fledgling industry in China, SPIRIT is tapping into the China market with two approaches. For in-office engagement packages, the platform sends offline trainers on a once or twice weekly basis. A variety of in-house training courses are offered from body strength & stretch, circuit training, Yoga, Pilates and dance fitness. This is all managed through a unique digital platform that enables corporates to access their employee physical wellbeing and milestone data.

Given that the training mostly takes place in the workplace, the SPIRIT’s overhead isn’t high. “From a cash perspective, we have already become cash positive in a month as a result of the companies paying upfront,” the CEO noted.

Wellness event by Spirit (Image credit: Spirit)

The other model includes team building and Corporate Olympics. The platform creates opportunities for corporates and sponsors to network and compete. “We provide customer sports and team building events for corporates. In addition, our Corporate Olympics in October will welcome all the corporate members for a whole day of fitness and training against each other. They are battling for pride,” Jordan said.

Revenue from sponsors of such tournaments is another major source. The aforementioned online platform will enhance the user experience, allowing corporates to measure their performance against their competition, and also internally, whilst setting internal HR incentive and reward systems based on said data.

Read more: Top 7 fitness apps in China in 2017

The startup is already working with naked Hub, Mercedes Benz, Volkswagen and has reached strategic partnerships with Reebok, Shanghai Wow, ofo and Shanghai Sunrise.

Although the office fitness industry is off to a slow start in China, Jordan is bullish on the market prospects given a rising awareness. “Chinese corporate wellness market is going to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 9.1 percent to 2024 and we are jumping on that bandwagon.”

In the long-term, SPIRIT is also planning to implement wearable technology into its platform, bringing the sports competition among corporates to daily life. The HR directors can monitor their employees give them incentive programs as a result.

“The big vision here isn’t just about fitness and sports, but to connect all these corporates together so they can compete in a friendly and networking way,” said Jordan.

Starting a business in China isn’t easy and the task is even more challenging for expat entrepreneurs, who have to defend local competitors that are better funded and connected.

“In China, we do have our first-mover advantages, but I also realized in China first-mover advantage should actually be called the first-scaler advantage, the first person to scale. With our partnerships, we are ahead of the game already. We want to scale very quickly,” said Jordan, who bootstrapped his first startup Verve, an event agency, after working for Bacardi for six years in Shanghai.

Avatar photo

Emma Lee

Emma Lee (Li Xin) was TechNode's e-commerce and new retail reporter until June 2022, when she moved to Sixth Tone to cover technology and consumption. Get in touch with her via or Twitter.

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.