Diane Chia Of GuavaPass Has Discovered The Secret To Productivity, And It’s Hanging Out And Getting Fit

By Jessica Liew

Asia’s leading fitness pass app has launched in its 11th global city of Kuala Lumpur, and its general manager is on a mission to help professionals achieve work-life balance.

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As the general manager for China and Malaysia of Asia’s biggest fitness app, GuavaPass, Diane Chia holds a dream career where working out is all in a day’s job.

Diane made the switch from corporate to the startup space in 2015, specialising in China’s thriving real estate sector. Sporty, goal-driven and energetic, she was the perfect fit to the visionary team, and grow GuavaPass she did, from Beijing to Shanghai, and now, her hometown Malaysia, its 11th global city to date.

“I oversee everything from operations, customer service, events, marketing and studio acquisitions,” shared the bronzed and toned beauty – a far cry from the rigid, real estate world and routine she clocked in for 6 years. 

Eager for a glimpse into Diane’s hard-hitting life, we got to know her plans for turning GuavaPass into the new social movement, how fitness and hard work can co-exist, and that working out holds the secret to productivity, among others. 

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Above  Diane oversees GuavaPass China and Malaysia, as general manager. Photo courtesy of: Diane Chia

How does a typical day like for you?

Mornings start with workouts at an existing studio partner, followed by customer service, responding to requests, closing contracts, then a lunch meeting with media, studio or ‘perk partners’ – our healthy lifestyle associates – and also event planning with a variety of partners for our monthly events. Evenings are spent testing classes at potential studio partners.

What was the challenge of switching from real estate to tech?

It’s really different: Real estate working hours are standard, comprised lots of hierarchy and levels, and predominantly male – switching to this fitness/tech industry has given me a refreshing flexibility on working hours, partners and people I work with. Everyone’s extremely energetic and intent on establishing win-win partnerships.

Did you have to learn tech lingo?

Having never been in the tech space, I had lots of different things to learn and get acquainted with, from our own studio dashboard, switching between third party payment vendors, different backends and different tools to ensure business runs smooth.

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Above  Although a HIIT girl at heart, Diane Chia mixes it up with yoga and Pilates, too. Photo courtesy of: Diane Chia

What did GuavaPass teach you about yourself?

I learned that you’re a lot more capable than you think you are. Having to do almost everything yourself, to think on your feet all the time, you realise that, “I can do this” even when things are not turning out the way they should. You also find you could be a lot fitter than you thought and prioritising health makes you more productive and efficient.

 What challenges does GuavaPass face in the Malaysian market?

It’s essentially encouraging people to try different studios around the city. Getting around and navigating traffic is an issue, similar to Bangkok and Manila. The inconvenience of jumping from studio to studio can impact their experience. Second, the market is still in its infancy in terms of fitness and healthy eating, so I’d like to see it speed up a lot more quickly. 

Why does GuavaPass stand apart from the other fitness apps?

We are the only one in 11 cities and offer the unlimited model. We also have a GuavaPerks program, which gives members access to discounts for anything healthy lifestyle related, but most importantly, we pride ourselves on building a community. Through fostering like-minded people who love fitness and who want to do it as do as a group, we encourage Malaysians to lead a healthy lifestyle.

How do you measure the success of GuavaPass?

Lots of competitors in this space have tried and left. We are the last big player in Asia at the moment, in part to the time spent curating and choosing the right partners to work with, and building a community. We’ve been around since April 2015 and given our recent launch in Malaysia, it shows our steady growth and an exciting future. 

What exciting offerings can the fitness community expect from GuavaPass?

When our GuavaPerks page is live in Malaysia, users are entitled to discounts at places they’ve never been to, or to frequent more often.

We hope to do collaborations with existing partners, do community nights, ‘network-out’ type events at studio locations, and build partnerships with likeminded brands to bring our community together.

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Above  Corporate fitness programs are are great way for companies to give back to employees and brings everyone together over fitness activities. It is becoming more popular, overseas. Photo: Courtesy of GuavaPass

What’s the most memorable feedback you’ve gotten from a GuavaPass member?

It’s when they talk about having image issues in the past – anorexia or bulimia or body confidence – and how GuavaPass found their fittest, strongest and most balanced selves. One of our team members is a real-life example – after being with us for 2 years, she found her calling to be a full-time trainer. For someone struggling with body issues for the longest time, she’s now at her fittest, happiest and most confident. That purpose is what we hope to give back to the community.

In 5 years’ time, GuavaPass would be…

The top fitness provider, globally (laughs). While that is the goal, it’s more about the community we build and impact, and giving back to the cities we’re in. If a majority of people could refer to our GuavaPass events on a daily basis, as its own buzzword, that would mean so much in our mission to build a holistic community.

A workout that best describes you is…

HIIT! I’m an energiser bunny, always on the go and I like to switch it up. HIIT uses both body weights and equipment through circuit type training, in short periods of time. That delivers a burst of energy, effectively burning the most amounts of calories. That describes me best.

Where are your favourite workout haunts in KL?

I love Firestation Fit, because there are 2 locations and a variety of classes. I can do a bit of cycling and boxing. For down time too I do yoga and Pilates at Organica and Omology, which I tried and loved. You’ll probably see me at KOA, HIIT2fit and Ministry of Burn.

Favourite fitness blogger/influencer?

Kayle Itsines. She shows that there are no excuses for working out as her routines utilise body weight and can be done indoors. There are also fitness influencers like the Victoria's Secret models, who are so fit and sculpt. It’s not about starving, but muscle toning.

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Above  The end goal for GuavaPass is to build a holistic and healthy community. Photo: Courtesy of Diane Chia

It’s finding that 1 hour or even 30 mins and giving it your everything. Wake up half an hour earlier, take half an hour off lunch to exercise. Visit a boutique studio a twice a week. A workout buddy makes you more accountable, too.

You’ve been there and done that: How can fitness help someone make good business decisions at work?

The greatest leaders often attribute meditating and exercising as key to success. If you prioritise your health, workout and spend time clearing the mind, you’ll find space to do business productively and effectively. If a company ensures everybody exercises and eats well, they will be more alert and productive, with less sick days. With the overall days in the office and hours they’re putting in, efficiency increases. Fitness, eating well, and having a headspace and mindfulness is key to being successful. 

What are the pros of corporate fitness programs?

We organise GuavaPass sessions every week for LinkedIn Hong Kong and observed how it’s a great way for companies to give back to employees, bring everyone together whilst keeping fit. Given the convenience factor of the program: exercise variety, food, without spending extra time and money, people are more receptive.

What desk-friendly habits can busy people can take for a midday boost?

Meditation practitioners and experts will say you can meditate anywhere and anytime. A lot of corporates offer mini corners or meeting rooms for quiet time. You could also use an app or learn to do breath counts. One minute of meditation will change your day. Find your quiet by stepping away to the pantry or looking out a window. Tune in to the soothing sounds of waves and rainforests. Do a little bit of stretching. At the end, do what’s best for you.

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