A belly dance instructor, a fitness enthusiast, a traveller and a blogger, Chitra Balachandran does it all and does it all in style. She is the founder of one of one of the most successful health and lifestyle blog of India, Bombay Bellyrina.
“The challenges I’ve faced are what most people do – lack of motivation, body image issues, self-doubt. But facing these have helped me try to make the journey easier.” – Chitra
Chitra recollects her journey, “My journey started quite by chance, with TwitterGetsFitter. On 15th Nov 2016, I woke up realising that I had only 45 days left in the year, and had once again ignored my fitness resolutions. I knew I wasn’t alone, so I tweeted to my followers to ask if anyone wanted to buddy up and keep ourselves motivated for 45 days of fitness. Before I knew it, I had nearly 100 people signed up for what is now one of India’s most active online communities!”
Chitra is more a ‘preach what you practice’ kind of a blogger. She believes in sharing her experiences. Chitra shares with us, “I’m currently trying out to keto diet myself because a lot of participants have been curious about it. So I’m using myself as a guinea pig, and chronicling my experiences.”
Chitra is an active participant in social media as well. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and Facebook. However, when asked about her favourite of the lot she asserts, “My favourite so far has been Twitter. It has allowed me to unleash my collection of bad puns upon the world, and actually be loved for it! It’s also where I have been lucky to meet some amazing people who are now dear friends. Moreover, it’s where TwitterGetsFitter started, so there’s definitely some magic there!”
According to Chitra, Indian mass consciousness in around health has vastly improved over the last couple of years and she feels that it has got a lot to do with how the widespread usage of usage of digital media has grown. “The contribution of digital media is immense! From YouTube videos to people posting their fitness journeys, to body positivity advocates, and even sharing ideas and workout plans… there’s so much more valuable information readily available regarding health & nutrition today than there was a decade ago. For all the flak that social media gets, I think this is one of the most amazing changes it’s fueling in today’s society”, comments Chitra.
“Instead of having to refer a zillion medical journals and research studies, consumers can find a lot of information far more easily. Which is not to say we always get it right, but it does give you a real-person perspective.” – Chitra
One of the biggest challenges that an influencer working in the health and fitness domain faces is the lack of trust factor from the consumers. Chitra confirms the fact ad shares how she tries to build that missing trust factor with her followers, “I know that there is a great deal of scepticism when it comes to fitness profiles on social media. ‘Is that image PhotoShopped?, ‘Did she really get those results from just this exercise routine’, or is ‘she doing more and hiding it from us?’, etc. I promised myself and my followers early on that I would not lie to them because I would not want to be lied to. So they see me panting and puffing during my workout videos, they see me fall flat on my face attempting certain moves, and they see my progress for what it truly is — slow, but steady. I haven’t gone from couch potato to fitness model overnight. It has been almost a year, and while I have definitely shown progress, it hasn’t been dramatic. And I want people to know that. Some bodies lose weight and gain muscle faster than others, and that’s okay. With every fitness post I do, I try to talk to my audience, rather than simply at them. I want them to know that I’m facing the same struggle they are and that I need motivation as much as they do.”
“I think to have non-traditional celebrities endorse a product or service is far more powerful than a Bollywood star. I’m a firm believer in seeing real-people responses and perspectives.” – Chitra
Chitra feels that influencer marketing is completely dependent on the collaborative integrity on parts of both the brand and the set of influencers. “If a brand will pay an influencer only if the review is a glowing one, or if influencers will happily write those brilliant reviews for a generous sum, the purpose has been defeated. Especially when dealing with health & fitness, I think integrity is paramount, because you’re dealing with other people’s health.”
“I always try to be honest, as far as brand collaborations go. For instance, even if I’m promoting an energy drink that can help boost stamina when working out, I will mention that the sugar content is something to be wary of. I make it a point to mention to the brand at the get-go, that I will offer an unbiased opinion, and that they need to be prepared for that to go either way”, asserts Chitra very strongly.
On being asked about the role of influencer marketing platforms like Greenroom Chira shares, “Influencer marketing agencies play a big role in connecting brands to relevant influencers. They’re like marketing matchmakers! The ones who truly do their homework and value the importance of relevance, are a real asset to have on your side.”
Tips for budding health bloggers: “Be true to yourselves, and to your audience. Remember that health is not something to be taken lightly, and the content you share could really affect someone. And please, PLEASE, don’t try to find or promote quick-fixes and magic potions! You have a responsibility to your audience, always be conscious of that.” – Chitra
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