GOQii ropes in ex-Google Search boss Amit Singhal as a board member

Amit Singhal, former boss at Google Search. Photo: Youtube
Tech-enabled marketplace for fitness coaches GOQii is planning to make an entry into the US market later this month, going head to head with giants such as FitBit and Jawbone. For this the company has roped in Amit Singhal, former head of Google’s search division as a member of its board.

GOQii, which was founded by Vishal Gondal, counts Singhal as one of its angel investors, who backed the company for its use of virtual intelligence backed by human motivation. Being a member of GOQii’s board is the first role Singhal has taken up after his 15-year stint at Google came to an end when he announced his retirement this February.

“The big difference that I saw between what (Gondal) was doing and what many others have tried is that there is a human element to the process,” said Singhal, in an interview with Re/Code.

The firm’s planned entry into the US comes at a time when FitBit, the global market leader, is planning to pivot to a services model. While the Silicon Valley company has no trouble selling its devices, getting people to use them regularly is the problem.

GOQii’s fitness platform tracks all the basic fitness parameters just as a FitBit or Jawbone, but what sets it apart is the virtual coach service it offers. The company certifies these trainers before allowing them to handle any of its users, and they help decipher what all the activity data means while also motivating the user to work out.

“The device is commoditised, just the design is the differentiator. Clearly with GOQii, our whole model of coaching being the important play and device being just a sideshow has really helped us penetrate the market,” said Vishal Gondal, co-founder and CEO of GOQii, in an earlier interview with Business Standard.

Singhal, who is credited with being the man behind Google’s search ranking algorithms, will bring his expertise in machine learning and data crunching to GOQii. The hope is to make the startups services a lot more predictive and therefore preventive, but retain the human element.

GOQii currently offers its services only in India and apart from plans to enter the US market, plans to launch its services in China soon. The company works on a subscription model, where users pay a monthly fee to get access to trainers; the fitness band and app come bundled along for free.

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