The Alchemist

Entrepreneur. Idol. Guide. These are just a few of the titles that Mr. Jitendra Chouksey, founder of SQUATS (Systematic Quantitative Unified Aesthetic Training System) has been given since he started an online community on Facebook which soon turned into a revolutionary fitness system. On a mission to change the way fitness & wellness is seen in the world, the engineer turned entrepreneur has been featured in Menshealth, Krunch, Silicon India and been called The Idol of the New Generations Bodybuilders’. His fitness booklet, ‘Get Shredded’ has been downloaded over 100,000 times. His company has administered 35,000+ transformations, and accounted for 200+ tonnes of fat loss. But apart from titles and achievements, who is JC? What is he like as a person? Here’s his story.

 How would you describe yourself in three words?

JC: Passionate, hardworker, and.. A dreamer.

Have you faced any major difficulties in relation to S.Q.U.A.T.S. up till now? How did you deal with them?

JC:  I think in any company, be it a business, or a small or large project- one of the biggest challenges you’re going to face is when you’re dealing with people. We had similar kinds of challenges and faced a lot of difficulties while dealing with people initially, when we formed the company. A lot of people who wrongly entered the company left abruptly, creating a dent that was really difficult to fill in, but somehow we survived because we had the right intent, and I had a good team. After that I’ve been really careful in selecting the right kind of people. It’s not just about skills. It’s about people who value ethics and morals and integrity more than people, they’re the kind of people to make part of a company. You can’t buy loyalty. I really look for good people with pure intent in their hearts and minds. As long as we can find them, I try to get them in, I’m really good at convincing people, so.. (laughs). So yeah that was one of the major problems I faced, but I now try to leave all my personal problems behind once I come here to office and connect with everyone at a personal level, and try to understand their problems. Sometimes that’s all it takes for a person to do their best, you just have to be a little more caring & understanding.

Personality plays a very important part in entrepreneurship, especially fields such as this. How far do you think your personality has gotten you?

JC: I think it works both ways. Sometimes your personality is what makes you stand out in a particular field, and sometimes it’s the field that molds your personality in a particular manner. For me, I think my personality changed because I got into entrepreneurship, and not the other way around. I was never this guy, but when I started SQUATS I realized that it’s changing me from inside out. So while personality plays an important role, you don’t need to have a particular personality when you start things. It can just develop and you won’t even realize. As long as you keep doing the right things, you become the person you need to be.

How long did it take you to write “Get Shredded”? After the experience you’ve had with S.Q.U.A.T.S., is there anything you’d like to add to it?

JC: It took me roughly around two weeks, because I was on leave from the office because of a back injury and had quite some time. Once I started it, it felt really nice and natural, and I wanted to finish it off really quickly. With SQUATS we’re trying to revamp the wellness industry, which globally is around $3.4 trillion, and in India it’s just $20 billion. The pharma industry is globally $1 trillion, and $40 billion in India. There’s a huge potential for the wellness industry. Even with the $20 billion, it doesn’t seem like it’s there. If it’s such a big industry, where are the jobs? Where are the market leaders? We’re trying to regulate the entire wellness industry. SQUATS was the first step, we have now created an identity and are now venturing into different things that will regulate the other stuff and not become a competition. Going forward, we’re trying to do the exact same thing which companies like zomato and ola did with small businesses. They connected small businesses to the end user in a regulated manner. Basically, helping smaller businesses to grow is what we want to do. For instance, People look at the small picture where they want their gyms to be profitable, but they miss the bigger picture, where their policies are actually pushing people away. We want to push people towards the gyms by making it more attractive. If you remove the fear of memberships from the minds of the people, naturally more people will join the gym, thereby making it more profitable for the gyms. Similar such problems exists in all associated verticals in wellness and we’re trying to find solutions to all of them one by one.

A lot of people hit a fitness slump in a long-term fitness plan, wherein they lose motivation. How would you recommend getting out of a situation like this?

JC: I can’t completely blame the people. I would blame the people they idolize, the system, society as a whole- they do not place too much importance on fitness and wellness but on food. I think it’s a collective failure, wherein everyone from parents, governments to hospitals and teachers need to take this responsibility and fix this. I think we’re just trying to make people aware of where they’re going wrong so we can fix it. Most of the times, people don’t understand that they’re doing something wrong. I’ve travelled to a few places. In the U.S., there’s a lot of segregation. In New York, there’s a lot of people who are obese, but at the same time, downtown Chicago.. What a fit city! That state probably has the most fit people in the world, while in Dubai you don’t find many unfit people. It’s a matter of culture. It becomes a whole systemic failure, and not an individual’s problem. Let’s be honest, even if you were to go on a diet, your relatives, your parents would poke fun at you and tell you to just eat and enjoy life. This is what we’re trying to fix. We’re trying to make fitness ‘cool’. Once it becomes cool, people will follow it like they follow fashion.

Who are some fitness idols that you look up to?

JC: I think Akshay Kumar is really fit. I’ve met him, and he’s really amazing. At 55, he works out for almost 3-4 hours a day. It’s crazy, he can beat most of the young guys. His fitness regime is not highlighted as much as it should be. Other stars look muscular, they look good. But fitness and wellness is not just about looking good, it’s about feeling good. It’s about being more functional every day. He’s one of the guys I look up to. Vidyut Jamwal is also someone I admire.

New fitness trends develop every day. Do you believe in trying new ways, or do you prefer to stick to the tried and tested?

JC: While it’s always good to stick to the tried and tested, if we don’t experiment, we can’t learn new things. I always say that ‘if you feel like doing it, just do it’. You’ll either succeed, or you’ll learn. Even if it’s a fad. Fads don’t last long, but they teach you about what’s wrong. Sometimes knowing whats wrong is as important as knowing what’s right. People need to keep on experimenting, because it’s hard to just stick to one thing. Plus, we as human beings are anyway no less curious than cats (laughs).

Almost a year ago, SQUATS raised 3 lacs to support one of the members’ kidney transplant, which is extremely impressive. How was that managed? Would you say this describes the nature of the community you have created?

JC: It was not something we thought about, we just did it. The lady personally came to me and told me the condition was very critical. I didn’t realize that we would be able to help her so much, it just happened. I’m just glad that we as a community could help that much. She raised a lot of money and it’s a good thing that the person we raised the money for survived, because of the whole community. I wouldn’t want to take any credit- she simply sent me a message and asked if I could put it up on the group, and I did. And everybody contributed, including SQUATS mentors, and maximum from the SQUATS community itself. It’s just the way people are, and hats off to them. When your body is fit, your mind is fit, and then you start to think about the world’s problems. When you do that, you realize your problems are very small.

You have been given the title of ‘The New Idol of the New Generation’s Bodybuilders’. How do you feel about that?

JC: (smiles) I don’t think I’m a bodybuilder.. I really don’t know what to say about that. I’m not really at the position where people would look up to me, but I’m hoping that in the future I can be at that place where I can inspire people, and make people say ‘that’s a good guy’. I want to be seen as they guy who wants to solve problems. This is exactly what me, SQUATS and everybody here have strived to do in the last three years. We find a problem, we look for a solution. And that is what’s gotten us this far.

You have experienced immense success in your endeavors. How has that influenced your work ethic?

JC: I think I’m much more aware and responsible. I value people a lot more now than before. Previously my world revolved around me and my family, but now my family is growing. Once you become an entrepreneur you have a lot of people working with you and they have their families and friends. So you see, the responsibility keeps getting bigger, even as you start finding more solutions. That makes you stronger. It’s like progressive overload- previously you were lifting lesser weight, and now you’re lifting more. As you lift more weight, you get stronger. I feel more enabled, and I feel like I am evolving into a better human being with a purpose.

How have your family and friends reacted to your success and ideas?

JC: I’m blessed with the kind of friends who are always supportive. I was working at an MNC, and when I discussed this idea with my friends and family members, everybody supported it. Obviously nobody suspected that it would become such a big success. It really became a challenge when I decided to quit my job, but I had luckily already made the decision, SQUATS had already started doing well. Although it was a little surprising for everyone and lot of people told me not to quit my job and see for a while how things pan out, I knew what I had to do, and so they just supported it.

Do you actively communicate with a majority of your customers?

JC: Yes, I do. It becomes a medium to understand where the problems are and to fill in the gaps. When you feel connected to the customers they also trust that there is somebody listening to them at the end of the day. I get a lot of mails thanking me and also at the same time raising issues, and I make it a point to resolve any complaints that I get. I think it’s good to go out of your way and create an additional connect with the people, it goes a long way when you’re trying to create a brand that you wish would become a market leader in the future.

S.Q.U.A.T.S. was started through Facebook. Would you say having a strong presence on social media in this generation is a key requirement for successful organizations?

JC: A key point of an online community is people feel close and safe within it. I think a key ingredient to success is who you are working with. For example, I cannot take this company to the next level without the right kind of people, in the same way people cannot take their weight loss journey in the right direction without the right kind of people around them. It does not necessarily have to be friends or family, but people who are on a similar journey, so you can discuss, you can talk, you can communicate your feelings and express yourself. Once you can do that, you don’t feel lonely. The journey gets more exciting. That’s the main reason that social media has become so big, and even the reason for SQUATS growing so much. Previously it was just me and others from different parts of the world talking to people, but now we’ve all come together and formed a community, and suddenly we are talking health and wellness. It’s an amazing feeling because we are all helping each other, and we’ve all got each others’ backs.

  1. You want to make SQUATS a global leader but without advertising and marketing. Why is that?

JC:  When we started, we didn’t have the funds for advertising and it was all just word of mouth. Luckily for us that worked out very well. Over the years, I realised that in terms of fitness, advertising has actually really burned the customers. Advertising just doesn’t work when it comes to fitness, it’s like advertising a doctor. You don’t need to advertise a doctor- you know from experience whether s/he is good or bad. Wellness is the same way, rather than advertising people should rely on experience, and I feel the person who does not advertise can sustain longer. People may disagree with my philosophy, but this is what I believe.

Apart from yourself, who has been the biggest contributor to the success of S.Q.U.A.T.S.?

JC: The initial six members who stuck by me from the start- Bala, Nadir, Ekanki, Anupam, Akshay, and of course- Rohit, who is also the CEO of SQUATS, and the directors- Sonal and Jyoti. We are five directors, and we’ve all taken SQUATS to a different level and do so every single day. I’m the guy who goes by his gut, but they are the brains behind it.

Are your friends and family also as enthusiastic about fitness as you are?

JC: Yes, they have to be (laughs). My friend Ali and Ankit, they started their workout journey by getting trained by me, and even today they’re continuing their journey and are extremely fit, and it’s amazing. Some people you just connect with, you’re on the same frequency. We talk about fitness all the time, and I have to stop them and say ‘ I don’t want to talk about fitness’. You’d be surprised, I don’t talk about fitness anywhere apart from SQUATS group and seminars.

What has been your favorite transformation story through the journey of S.Q.U.A.T.S. till now?

JC: It has to be Ali. The guy was 108kg and came down to 63kg, and got 6-pack abs. He’s maintaining his weight at 70kg even today. I don’t know if he still has abs (laughs) because he eats a lot and travels a lot, he’s on vacation every two months. I’m really proud of him for fighting all odds, he’s 42 years old and he has been through a lot. We have a really good equation, and I feel happy just looking at him. And yeah, every story in SQUATS, when you read it it feels like.. your own. Because you have been through the same stuff. As a kid I was also fat, so when people talk about how people tease them and make fun of them, it just brings in the sense that ‘yes, good you transformed! Good for you!’. Each journey, especially the fat to fit journeys are very close to me because I have been through the same.

Having achieved success at such a young age, what pointers would you give others who hope to accomplish as much as you have?

JC: Well, don’t try to achieve anything, just do things. I was not really looking for success, I was happy with my IT job. Sometimes you find things the best when you’re not looking for them. I wasn’t looking for success, maybe that’s why I found it. The intent should be right, and success will find you. Have a good intent and try to find solutions. Entrepreneurship is all about solutions. No matter how big or small the problems are.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

JC: I think I might turn into a monk or something (laughs). I don’t know why, I just sometimes have this crazy dream where I leave everything behind and just travel. (Interviewer: go to the Himalayas?) Going to the Himalayas sounds scary, I don’t want to do that. The way my mind has been evolving, it might just turn into something else. Like a journey to inner peace. But I don’t want to go, I like it better here; it all seems so bizzare but at the same time so possible. On a serious note, five years down the line, I think I may have created some more companies, solved some more problems and hopefully regulated the fitness industry.

What would you say is the Utopian society that should exist in the future through corrected wellness?

JC: The one that does not prioritize food. The one that meets and discusses about life, and what human beings should be doing on this planet, rather than just chilling. We have travelled so far, our journey goes back so long, and you can’t just end that journey with a glass of liquor in your hand in a nightclub on a Saturday. You can do that once in a while, but you should be well aware of where you have come from and where you have to go. Unless you know where you’re going you’re just lost. You’re no better than a piece of rock. Let’s be more than a piece of rock. And it’s not just me who is thinking that, there are so many people who are working tirelessly for well-being and keeping the world afloat- there’s scientists, researchers, politician, social workers- I’m just saying it needs to become a little more mainstream. Average people don’t think about these things because they think it’s not their job to think about it. They think it’s okay to live life just enjoying and thinking of themselves. That has to change. Everybody should come forwards and think about doing more for this world.