India tries to beat the pandemic, the health-startup way!

© Pratik Bhakta India tries to beat the pandemic, the health-startup way! As the long-standing

a woman sitting in a room: India tries to beat the pandemic, the health-startup way!

© Pratik Bhakta
India tries to beat the pandemic, the health-startup way!

As the long-standing COVID-19 pandemic shows no signs of abating, healthy living has assumed massive significance the world over. Now, Indian health tech startups are reaping the benefits of growing awareness among Indians as more take to working out at home. Digital platforms are not only seeing increased traction but are also generating good revenues looking for profitability in this space.

Pune-based Fittr is growing at a monthly rate of 30 percent with more people working out actively. Sharing its revenue figures, Chief Executive Officer Jitendra Chouksey said the company had recorded $800,000 in revenue in August, and was looking to clock $900,000 in September.

“We have helped coaches make money through the pandemic, on an average every full-time coach gets a commission of Rs 1.5 lakh through sessions conducted by us,” said Chouksey.

The platform offers its services free of cost, only personal training sessions are charged. Currently, 55% of the charges are taken by the coaches and 45% is taken by the platform. Fittr works on the idea of nudging its users to adopt a healthy living and stick to a healthy routine so they can stay fit.

Another Bengaluru-based fitness platform, Healthifyme, has reported a revenue run rate of $15 million in August. Revenue run rate is what the company would make in a year, if it were to make the same revenue for the next twelve months. It has set a target to achieve $20 million of run rate by January.

Massive demand outside India

Interestingly, there’s also a lot of traction from outside India, which is one of the major revenue streams for these businesses. Industry insiders pointed out while Indians are becoming increasingly fitness-conscious, global users tend to pay more for fitness. This has opened up massive revenue opportunities for these businesses.

Healthifyme, for instance, said it gets 20 percent of its revenues from overseas clients. Since April the platform has increased its paid user base to 1 lakh. Much of it is driven by awareness among consumers to stay fit and fight the pandemic.

Similarly, Fittr is also getting around 30 percent of its users from outside India, with 18% coming from the United States followed by around 6% from the United Kingdom and Australia. A small portion also comes from the Middle East and Europe, Chouksey said.

“These users are mostly non-resident Indians. We do have a few American and Australian coaches as well,” he added. Fittr in total has a base of 225 coaches and nutritionists, with 75 being onboarded over the last couple of months.

Healthy Living

Consumers are driven to these platforms by the need to invest in health and ensure that co-morbidities such as hypertension, obesity, diabetes and other related lifestyle diseases can be controlled. Fitness experts have pointed out since COVID-19 is turning out to be less fatal for healthy humans, many people are choosing a healthy lifestyle and working out regularly.

Further, with gymnasiums becoming risky places to venture into, many regulars are also looking for options online.

“People work out, but hardly get results, our attempt is to bring a behavioural change in people, alter their lifestyle. This gives them results,” said Chouksey. Fittr in fact has a money-back challenge – If its users don’t get results, they’re refunded the full amount.

“But less than 3 percent have asked us to return their money,” he said.

Healthifyme is also reorienting itself to the changing dynamics of the world. In a recent statement, the company said that in late 2019 it had launched Smart Plans, which has helped them turn around the business.

Since it has a ‘Do it Yourself’ approach and is attractively priced, many youngsters are adopting the product, said Tushar Vashisht, chief executive of Healthifyme.

HealthifyMe’s ‘Smart’ and ‘Coach’ plans have demonstrated empirical results – an average customer loses about 4.5 kg of weight and 80 percent of them see a measurable reduction in lifestyle disease indicators, the company said.

Fitness becomes core

As fitness assumes a central point of major national debate, startups are hoping to leverage this growing interest to expand their business. Now the big question is whether players will grow online or will they expand their physical footprint as well.

Interestingly, for players like Cure Fit, one of the largest in this segment, the physical branch network has taken a severe beating owing to the pandemic. The company is now looking to restart a few of its physical centres, but the maximum business is coming from online live shows.

Cult Fit, which is the fitness service offered by the Bengaluru-based startup, has used celebrity trainers, and a wide range of live classes of different types to get users to the platform through the pandemic.

Even Fittr is on track to bring in online group classes. Chouksey said that the backend development work is underway for this offering, and he believes he will be able to reduce the prices of his plans and drive up adoption.

Another fitness platform, StepSetGo, recently won recognition in the Atmanirbhar app challenge hosted by the central government as well. What needs to be seen now if these startups manage to leverage this enthusiasm around fitness to build lean, fit and profit-making businesses out of it.

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