Shiti Rastogi Manghani is an Electronics' Engineer who is making waves with her at-home fitness brand, Breathe Happy. Breathe Happy started life as an online yoga and mindfulness platform, enabling people to exercise at home in a fun and encouraging way. They are now working on personalising the experience, and have also won an Innovate UK grant to develop an AI-capable personalised and remote wellbeing programme for older adults who have been adversely affected by COVID-19.
Shiti has also been nominated for WomenTech Global Awards and AccelerateHER awards. Breathe Happy joined the SimDH programme in late 2020, but are also currently collaborating with the National Innovation Centre for Ageing, as well as Nottingham University.
Why Breathe Happy is innovative
Before the 2020 pandemic, at-home exercising was quite an under-stimulating experience. Gyms came with a financial incentive not to waste your investment, with a community delivered through classes and trainers, and can be safer options for people who need to take greater care with their form whilst working out. Many also find being around others with the same goals to be motivating.
But since the coronavirus lockdowns, is the gym dead? Digital exercise platform, Pelation, doubled its revenue in 2020 in the year leading to June 2020 - taking in a huge £1.3bn. In January 2021 - before the third lockdown - PureGym reported that 76% of their members were keeping their memberships active. Whilst many people are counting down the days until they can hit a treadmill previously covered in someone else's sweat, other members of the public are not so sure.
One 29-year old told the BBC:
"You could tell that staff at the gym had put in all the measures to make you feel comfortable and were taking the situation seriously, but it was more the actual members that were not keeping up."
Whilst enabling users to exercise safely from their home and be connected to world-class instructors, Breathe Happy are finding "user friendly ways of using Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to deliver world-class remote wellbeing programmes for the UK."
We spoke to Shiti about her innovation and experience as a woman in the Healthtech industry.
I am an Electronics Engineer who is passionate about finding out what makes people buy & consume stuff – called consumer behaviour. After I finished my MBA, my work took me across 11 countries to study consumer behaviour with big brands like WSJ (Wall Street Journal) & PepsiCo. My latest venture marries my understanding of consumer behaviour in healthcare with the technology of Computer Vision & Machine Learning.
Describe your innovation in a sentence?
The idea is to make at-home fitness as fun, interactive & motivating as in-studio or in-gym. With our models, we hope to make a personalised fitness experience right in your living room using just your laptop or phone.
How did you discover the issue thatyour innovation addresses?
My career started from India but took me to US, India, Germany, Portugal, Italy & Spain and finally to UK. In these 13 years of living out of suitcase, one thing kept me sane - my practice of home/hotel-workouts. However, because of my habit of doing trainer-led workouts, it was getting increasingly difficult to find good teachers and good internet connection at the same time. Even when it all somehow worked, the experience never came close to in-person workouts. I was already part of so many groups and communities locally, internationally and in India, and soon realized that it was not just my problem.
While I researched the background and feasibility talking to all these people for half a year, I finally took the big leap and left my job to work full time on Breathe Happy in November 2019. What started as a small Whatsapp group is now a 5000+ community. On International Yoga day we partnered with United Nations. We got backed and endorsed by leading bodies including Medcity and Bethnal Green Ventures. We just won Innovate UK project. We are growing our team. The desire to make a difference is an infectious thing. The journey has just begun and we are loving every bit of it - even the sweat and tears.
The biggest challenge has been b the need for product development with customer growth. We have been in an enviable position of having growing traction from day one! However, it also meant our energies getting split between servicing the need of this user base effectively and developing the next level of our product.
Access to academics is a great plus, we are exploring possibilities of working with some Data Science students which is going to be a win-win for us as well for the students. They will be coming to work with us at a time when we are all set to launch and building our own proprietary datasets.
I have spent a decade working across US, UK, Europe and India in various roles, launching products and led global teams. I even managed business with revenues of £175 million. But the highlight has got to me the last one year sprint of founding Breathe Happy. I am driven by mission to use tech4good. In a span of year, we’ve built a loyal user base from scratch, seen our logo next to United Nations, built partnerships with national players, won InnovateUK project and even featured in top50 in UK. This journey has led me to even be nominated for some awards like WomenTech Global Awards as well as AccelerateHER.
Enable posture correction like never before, at scale. It is not a solved problem in tech. It is even more difficult for occluded postures. We are not only developing our own tech but also our own database to train these models on. Our first such study is going live soon and we couldn’t be more excited!
It’s important to enjoy what you do, but not necessarily to only to do what you enjoy...Work in days, think in weeks, plan for months, dream in years. Finally, two types of people are essential in life: F and F - Ferment and Fuel. Identify people who will listen to you, let you ferment your ideas, and people who will fuel you - inspire and motive you. Choose wisely.
How would you describe your experience as a woman in business or a woman in STEM?
My founding journey overlapped with the once-in-a-lifetime event of a global pandemic! So things just got extra spicy with my startup-journey. One of the most challenging bit for any founder is networking (for recruiting, fundraising, customer growth etc) especially when the internal compass pulls them away towards product and tech. I need to solve for balance between them.
Innovation helps you unlock new doors. Taking the example of media, we could now reach at never-before speed, in a variety of formats tailored to the needs of different populations. Innovations even disrupted the way news was sourced and not just how it was distributed.
The speed of change is the most fascinating bit about technology. It is hard to digest the fact that the phones in our back pocket carry more computing power than the rockets that carried man to moon!
The last 100 years have changed the face of human history in a way that previous 10,000 years didn’t. And now, our wildest fantasies can not even begin to capture what’s going to happen in the next 50 years - that’s the bit I love about tech!