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How Two Seasoned Entrepreneurs Are Changing The Fitness Industry In India

Apart from being among India’s e-commerce gurus, Mukesh Bansal and Ankit Nagori have one more thing in common – their love of fitness. So after witnessing the immense potential in the country’s fitness sector, Bansal and Nagori created Cure.Fit, a technology-powered healthcare and wellness platform.

Since late 2006, Indian startups have taken a deep dive into healthcare. Companies like Practo redefined healthcare norms in India using technology, while the likes of Portea, AddressHealth, Niramai and Sigtuple Labs have advanced innovation in medical care. Cure.Fit aims to use technology extensively across its core functions that focus on four business units covering exercise (Cult.Fit), food (Eat.Fit), mental wellness (Mind.Fit) and preventive care (Care.Fit).

“Maintaining health should be a habit not a chore,” says Nagori. “Long-term effects can be achieved with small changes everyday. Instead of chalking up unsustainable diets and tough exercise regimes, we wanted to develop a platform that will encourage people to incorporate small but significant changes to their lifestyles and eating habits.”

While Cure.Fit is encouraging healthy lifestyles by providing exciting workout formats and palatable healthy food options, the long-term goal is to also focus on diagnostics and primary care for lifestyle diseases and chronic pain management. “Technology forms the core of this experience that ties together the pillars of good health,” Bansal says.

Despite their interest in fitness, neither Bansal nor Nagori actually had any prior experience in the industry. Before starting Cure.Fit, Bansal was the CEO of online fashion platform Myntra. Following its acquisition by Flipkart, Bansal was appointed head of commerce at the e-commerce giant.

Nagori, on the other hand, rose through the ranks at Flipkart as one of its most promising executives, becoming chief business officer before parting ways with the company in 2016. “Mukesh and I understand how to build products using technology as a foundation,” he explains. “Added to that is our commitment to developing a strong consumer-facing brand. Our keenness in fitness has allowed us to see the vast business potential that existed in the sector, which no one had capitalised on yet the way we had envisioned.”

Debunking Health and Dietary Myths

Unlike a conventional gym, Cult.Fit centres do not rely upon machines. Instead, there are group classes focused on functional training, such as kickboxing, crossfit and high-intensity interval training (HIIT). In addition, there are cardio and core development-focused classes like football, running, Zumba and yoga. Customers can book any class they want on the Cure.Fit app, opting for the level of intensity they think is most suitable. Now, there are 70 Cult.Fit centres across India’s major metros, like Bangalore, Gurgaon and Hyderabad, with 400 trainers. On average, the platform registers 10,000 workouts a day and there are more than 60,000 regular members.

A similar approach is being adopted with Eat.Fit, the food unit of Cure.Fit. Bansal says, “Eat.Fit is currently performing better than our fitness platform, and we have more than 12,000 orders being generated every day. I believe food is even more important than fitness, and the USP of Eat.Fit is to prepare everyday food but healthier.” Eat.Fit is whipping up staple urban Indian food such as rotis (wheat pancakes), biryani (flavoured rice), dal (lentils) and seasonal vegetables – sans fattening agents like maida, white sugar, white rice, butter and oil. For those who do intense workouts, special dishes that are high on fibre and protein as well as health drinks and natural protein shakes are available. “A lot of R&D goes into decoding popular dishes to ensure flavour without compromising on nutrition.”adds Bansal. 

Strategic Acquisitions and Brand Evangelists

In a bid to rope in the right talent and reach their goal faster, Nagori and Bansal decided to acquire like-minded ventures in the beginning – an unprecedented move in the industry. “We approached some early stage ventures, which had some great entrepreneurs and ideal business DNAs that tied in seamlessly to our larger goal,” explains Bansal. “This was a cost-effective strategy.” Some of the company’s acquisitions include Kristy’s Kitchen, A1000Yoga, The Tribe Fitness, Opinio and Serenity.

In addition to acquiring specific ventures with scalable business models, Cure.Fit has roped in Indian actors, sportsmen and former models, who are equally invested in fitness and are termed brand evangelists for Cure.Fit. Bollywood actors Hrithik Roshan and Tiger Shroff endorse two popular forms of workouts called HRX and Prowl, respectively, while former model turned competitive runner Milind Soman lends his expertise to Cure.Fit’s running programme.

Tech Defines The Future

A long-term, multi-pronged business plan put forth by the two seasoned entrepreneurs has attracted the attention of some big league investors, such as Kalaari Capital, Accel Partners and IDG Ventures, which combined to invest nearly $15 million in Cure.Fit in July 2017. A year later, Cure.Fit closed $120 million in Series C funding led by existing investors as well as Oaktree Capital and Chiratae Ventures, bringing the total amount of funds raised to date to $170 million.

So what lies ahead? Nagori and Bansal are already working on it. “We are releasing an AI-powered engine next month that will work as a personalised health coach, planning a user’s fitness regime, food consumption, sleep patterns and monitoring his progress,” Bansal says.

In addition to strengthening its technology offerings, Cure.Fit has earmarked plans to expand into cities like Mumbai and Pune, and some cities in Southeast and Southwest Asia. By 2020, Cure.Fit aims to be in 12 Indian cities and 4 cities overseas and have a million-strong user base.

CREDIT: Forbes

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