Upping the Ante!
Kokoro is a Japanese term which, though difficult to translate in English, literally means a unity or synchronisation of the mind, body and spirit! In today’s fast moving world, a person needs to be both mentally and physically fit to cope up with the rapid changes we are facing every single day. Education makes a person complete and now it has become a norm to travel to whichever corner of the world required, in search of a person’s dream. It definitely is not an easy task to identify the right country and educational institution to pursue your dreams. However, when there is a tried and tested companion to help you make your choice, with a wealth of over twenty years of experience, it would be of invaluable help; and that is exactly what Vaasantosh Venkatesan and his company Planet Education bring to the table! Tailoring a fitness routine to suit your individual self, taking into account your personal, lifestyle and career-oriented constraints into consideration and whipping you into shape with that extra care, is fitness coach Haresshvar Sakthivelu – who has an excellent track record in this field. When these two youngsters come together and turn entrepreneurs with a nutrition supplement company named Level Up Nutrition, you can expect it to reach great heights!
Photography: Nithin Barath
Styling: Pansy Raja
Hair and Makeup: Vurve Signature Salon
Location: Savera Hotel
Haresshvar Sakthivelu is a fitness consultant who has been in the industry for over 10 years and has had a very good track record of training over 1200 people. Having had an entrepreneurial streak from his childhood itself, he has now gotten together with his friend Santosh and recently launched a new company called Level Up Nutrition.
How did you get into the field of fitness?
About 10 years back, I was around 120 Kgs and I used to be a very obese kid even when I was just passing out of school. I had a huge history of facing bullying because of my weight. It was something that I always wanted to do something about but never had the opportunity to. I got to the gym for the first time during the holidays after completing my 12th standard. As I started working out and losing weight, people started noticing and they started appreciating me for becoming fitter. This became a huge motivation for carrying on and that is when I started thinking of what next! That eventually has led to where I am right now!
What according to you is fitness?
Fitness can be different for a lot of people. Some people might think of mental fitness while some others can think of flexibility as the ultimate fitness or even being able to do any sort of work at any time as being their ultimate fitness goal. For me, fitness doesn’t have a single facet to it! It is a combination of different aspects. A person cannot deem themselves to be fit if they match up in only one aspect. A person might have a great physique but if they cannot run fast or bend enough for something, that is not ultimate fitness. Being totally fit includes being physically and mentally fit and also being able to do whatever tasks you want to… It actually means, being in complete control of yourself!
How many people have you trained so far?
I started my coaching, nearly two years ago. In this period, I have trained about 1000-1200 people. I’ve had a success rate of atleast 50-60%! I wouldn’t state that the remaining people were not successful in their transformations. They might have begun their programmes but could not have been able to continue it at that point of time. They could have had a change in their career, switched jobs, changed cities or even gone abroad for studies or work. There might have been some lifestyle change that did not allow them to continue their fitness journey. However, at the end of the day, I have noticed that if the client is consistent and open with their communication, their success is almost always a guarantee!
What has been your most challenging transformation story among the people you have trained?
There was one young man, named Mr. Venkatesh. He had been obese from childhood and people had bullied him and hurt him on a psychological level, which had broken down his self confidence. As a coach, it doesn’t matter how good your client looks when he is even afraid of showing his physique to the world. When we started training together, he was totally down on confidence. Over a period of four-and-a-half months, we worked not just on his physique but also on driving him to believing that he could lose weight. Making him believe that was a huge challenge. He was skeptical as he had already tried a lot of things but hadn’t lost weight and I had to first make him believe that I could help him and he could achieve it. Right now, he is a totally different person. In the period of around four and odd months, he has lost 34 Kgs and he feels himself to be a completely new person. He is more confident and far happier; his entire lifestyle has changed. We are still working together and his goal is to now build more muscle and we are working towards that!
What makes you stand apart from the other fitness trainers?
To be honest, most of the fitness trainers that I see, especially the online trainers, do not understand the basics of coaching. In India, I find that nearly 80% of the online coaches, do not have the basic qualifications to train or be a coach. It is not restricted to online coaches alone. Even in the local gyms, people who have participated in just a single competition or those who have just some simple fitness regimes, call themselves trainers. These people can maybe train a teenage kid who doesn’t have much else to do by working out for a number of hours a day or get them to follow some strict diet. What about somebody who is diabetic or somebody who is working in different shifts or for example a single mother who has to juggle work, her kid and at the same time work-out too? Coaching is not just about writing a diet chart or a workout chart. It is more about understanding the psychology of the person you are training and then making sure that you form a plan that suits their lifestyle and psychology and at the same time keeping them accountable. This is where I belive I have been successful with my clients. If you act like a dictator and get worked up with them for taking a cheat meal or straying off the diet chart as they had to go out with their family, they would find it difficult to stick with you. They would not continue following the program for long too and eventually feel that it is their fault for not being able to progress. A good trainer should know the flexibility to give them some slack where possible but keep them strict where needed.
What are the basic things that a person should look at before embarking on a fitness transformation journey?
The first and foremost thing is that, a person should be able to embrace the concept of change. Initially, the idea of change is enticing but when it actually starts happening, people are afraid to come out of their comfort zones. Before somebody begins their journey, the first question I ask is, if they would be able to spend some time on a daily basis to take care of their fitness. It might be having to cook some specific food or some other basic stuff. As long as they’re willing to make a change in their lives, they are good to begin their transformation journey!
When and how did you think of turning into an entrepreneur?
I’ve always had an entrepreneurial streak in me. Even as a kid, I used to put up some small events and games for my apartment children and made some pocket money out of it. Even in college, I used to work as a part-time photographer to make some money out of it. As a person, as a body builder, I have noticed that we Indians spend a lot of money and make a lot of sacrifices to get the dream physique that we want. However, almost all the supplements and other fitness products in the market do not have even half of what they claim to, on their labels. It is sad that despite putting in a lot of hard work – days and months of training, it is disheartening to find that we are not able to achieve our goals due to the miscalculations of what we see on the supplements’ labels. This made me want to bring in a superior quality product and also a variety of other products that are not available in India. I’ve worked with quite a number of coaches abroad, who take extra care to ensure that the internal health of whoever their client is, doesn’t get spoiled.
How has your journey been so far?
It has been quite an exciting journey. There have been both ups and downs. There have been many sleepless nights and some days where we have had to put in double the amount of work and also sacrifice a lot of things like time with family and friends. Actually, to be honest, I don’t think I have a great social life, at the moment. However, it makes all these worthwhile when we realise that we are bringing about an actual change to the fitness industry in India as a whole. We are creating a positive impact in a lot of people’s lives!
What has been the best feedback you have received so far?
I had trained a couple and the lady had PCOD (Poly Cystic Ovarian Disorder), unfortunately. They had been struggling for quite a few years to have a child and had also spent quite a sum of money, on various medications. One of the doctors I knew, referred them to me and the couple worked really hard and they put in a lot of effort without giving up. At the end of six months, they had gotten fit and the couple conceived. It was not just them but even all their family members who were happy and spoke to me over the phone and expressed their happiness. Getting the couple to achieve proper fitness levels and ensure their goal, that too after many doctors had given up on them, is one of the most profound compliments I could have ever gotten.
How did you come up with the name Level Up for your company?
I have always wanted to do something in the field of fitness, especially taking it to the masses. One day, my friend Santosh and me were sitting and having a casual chat about what to name the company and how to brand it. We were discussing various stuff and that is when we realised we were simply trying to take the lives of people to the next level and enhance it in all aspects. We did not want to restrict our products to just people who went to the gym but make it useful for everybody who wanted to work better, sleep better and enjoy their lives better. It was while thinking of all this that the name Level Up just popped into our heads.
What other products do you plan to bring about through Level Up?
Right now, we have one of the best tasting Whey Proteins in India. This has been reviewed by our customers and their honest reviews have been posted on our website too. We have been getting a lot of positive reviews not just on the taste but also on the quality of our product. Apart from the Whey Protein, we also have a pre-workout product, which we call Fired Up. It is a thermogenic fat burning pre-workout product. These are the two main nutritional products we have currently and we also have a protein brownies. We have a whole range of products coming up that are intended to help people who are dieting, enjoy some tasty food. We are bringing out products for people’s liver support and kidney support. We are also bringing out a product to help people sleep better or rather help the quality of their sleep to be better. Some people in the IT field are only able to sleep for 3 or 4 hours a day but we are trying to ensure that by using our products, this period of 3-4 hours is as good as getting 6 or 8 hours. We also have a product that will help people increase the way their body uses all the fuel that they gain from eating a lot of food and reduce their body storing up a lot of fat. Almost all our products are targetted at increasing the wellbeing and health of the users.