After being diagnosed with a rare joint inflammation disease called Armenian Arthritis in 2004, Gita Sjahrir ’00 had to take hourly medications and spent most of her twenties in a wheelchair.
Sjahrir gradually regained her health through daily exercises, ultimately diving into the Indonesian fitness industry with the goal of bringing the same benefits to others.
Currently, Sjahrir is the Co-Founder of RIDE, a boutique fitness gym company that focuses on indoor cycling machines. RIDE is the first boutique studio company to receive venture capital funding in Southeast Asia, according to Sjahrir. [a][b][c]
“For me, I want to give people the same feeling of loving their body and being empowered in it, just realizing that being active and moving is a great part of life. I am using my company as a vehicle to give that impact,” said Sjahrir.
When Sjahrir began indoor cycling exercises as part of her recovery, she became an avid supporter of the machine. She founded RIDE to spread the freedom and the impacts of indoor cycling.
Sjahrir said, “When I first got [Armenian Arthritis], I went in coma, needed a wheelchair, and a lot of medication afterwards; however, as I started to exercise again and try out new things, I got to fall in love with indoor cycling [and]…the empowering effect that being fit gives to an individual. As a person who had a lot of health issues, being able to be fit now, exercise daily, and live my life to the fullest is such a privilege.”
In 2015, RIDE opened their first studios in locations throughout the city of Jakarta, Indonesia. The company will continue expansion with a new venue in Seattle this year.
After graduating from Andover in 2000, Sjahrir attended the University of Chicago, where she received a BA in political science, and attended the Wharton Business School in 2008. According to Sjahrir, the financial crisis of 2008 taught her that following one’s passion is best in times of uncertainty.
“Unfortunately, the time when I just graduated from business school was also the economic crash. This was the time when the big banks and companies were all closing. This was a turning point for me to acknowledge that no job is safe, and it can be lost any given day. I feel like I learned that if there is no such thing as a safe job, maybe I should follow what I really love and make the best out of it,” continued Sjahrir.
Instead of creating RIDE in New York, where she learned to spin, Sjahrir decided to launch her boutique fitness gym in Indonesia, a country with a less-competitive market and a growing need for fitness and exercise facilities.
“I thought, ‘What is the one country where I can make the biggest social positive impact that I can?’ That came to Indonesia. Its fitness market is still very small, though it is a country where over 50 percent of the people are age 35 and under. Whenever you have a really young market, and are getting richer, they are searching for ways to both physically and mentally better themselves,” said Sjahrir.
Due to the growing impact that RIDE has on the current Indonesian market, Sjahrir was recently invited as a guest speaker to the World FIT Summit, a conference between all major large-scale and boutique gyms.
“They really wanted to hear the perspective of creating a boutique fitness or an off-scale fitness product in this early market. This kind of experience is just still rare right now. Unlike the U.S., there are a lot of players in the market, but they are still very small. But we are the only ones who are soughting after a vibrant growth to our brand, such as hundred outlets or creating digital channels,” said Sjahrir.
In the future, Sjahrir plans on launching additional wellness products and an increased variety of fitness plans.
Sjahrir said, “We started off as an indoor-cycling brand, but we are currently in the process of launching our boot camp, meditation, and other methods. We are continuously rolling out wellness products. We are also coming up with small studios that are very cheap, only three dollars, that is supposed to target customers of all financial situations.”