Mukesh Bansal says the purpose of cure.fit’s digital pivot was to ensure people continue to work on themselves and their well-being in these challenging times
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Despite the numerous pitfalls of the Covid-19 pandemic, 2020 saw a rise in newer approaches to lifestyle, an example being the increased focus on health care and physical and mental well-being that dominated social media discussions. When the country was locked down and people were stuck indoors, many took to online health care apps to stay fit.
Gympik’s ‘Covid-19 Fitness Behaviour Survey’ revealed that the lockdown drove a massive surge in demand for virtual classes for yoga (87 percent) and high-intensity interval training cardio workouts such as Zumba (72 percent), aerobics (67 percent) and pilates (22 percent). Moreover, 84 percent of fitness enthusiasts tried live-streaming fitness classes during the lockdown —which stood at 29 percent in 2019.
Cashing in on the trend was the unicorn startup cure.fit that started online classes and fitness sessions by trainers and celebrities. “Due to the pandemic, we had to close our centres and scale down the offline business... it was challenging for us. It was then that we pivoted to digital by introducing live classes by Cult trainers and celebrity trainers, online personal training and a library of DIY content. Such features offered our members the convenience to work out from wherever they were at a cost far less than what they would have paid for offline services. Among the many interesting modifications, we gamified our live classes through energy trackers and class rankings to make them engaging and motivating,” says Mukesh Bansal, co-founder, cure.fit.
The startup covers a wide array of businesses, including exercise and sports gear (cult.fit), food (eat.fit), mental wellness (mind.fit), and preventive care (care.fit). Accelerated by the success of the app during the pandemic, cure.fit has become one of India’s most visited health platforms offering unique workout sessions, meditation and yoga classes, food deliveries, consultation services and fitness gear. cure.fit gained more than 1.5 million new users, and has clocked revenue of ₹10 crore per month since April, taking its total funding to $400 million.
“While we always envisioned us being a digital company, the pandemic fast-tracked the process for us. From being only a minuscule chunk of our revenue, our digital services today constitute the majority of our revenue and operations... we expect this trend to continue even as things start going getting back to normal,” says Bansal.
During the pandemic, cure.fit claims to have conducted 3,500 to 4,000 online personal training sessions daily. “Warlier our gyms saw a majority of IT professionals and white-collar workers... the online model has helped us penetrate into Tier II and Tier III cities like never before,” says Shamik Sharma, head of technology at cure.fit. “And most of the subscribers are millennials.”
The Fitness Behaviour Survey points out that the younger audiences led this charge in demand for virtual fitness. Consumers aged between 25 and 34 were the most willing to adopt digital fitness solutions, with female users (60 percent) being more open to virtual classes than male users (40 percent). “We’ve also seen greater participation by women through these online classes which isn’t surprising since a lot of women in India aren’t comfortable with the male domination in physical gyms. Online classes and sessions enable them to work out from the comfort and safety of their homes,” says Sharma.
With the success of interactive workout experiences, the company plans to keep innovating. “We are working towards making technology more assistive for our members when they are working out, giving them better insights into their movements, goals and progress,” says Bansal.
As the lockdown restrictions eased, cure.fit restarted its on-ground gyms. Since September, people are slowly coming back, but there is a stark difference from pre-Covid levels. Given the new normal, cure.fit plans to continue with a multi-dimensional approach. “The success of the pivot made us take an omnichannel approach, so we will continue to operate both online and offline. We’ll grow the physical presence in tandem with the demand for it while online presence will continue to rise,” says Sharma, adding that the business will reach a healthy balance between online and offline by 2022. The company aims to onboard 300 to 400 gyms by the end of 2021 into its network.
cure.fit’s ‘reimagined gyms’ run at 50 percent capacity with 55 to 60 percent equipment utilisation and offer a few new features. “Our recently launched Cult Pass marks our foray into gym-based workouts as we are giving access to people to work out at not just the Cult centres but even at the best gyms in their city. This is just an example of the ambition we hold to become the one-stop solution for all things health and wellness,” says Bansal.
The company has grown nearly five times since the digital pivot that has guided its expansion into the US, where it has begun offering online fitness and therapy sessions. “It’s too early to say how that market will eventually expand... we’re still in the pilot stage, but so far we are seeing great results,” says Sharma.
Sharma says while the offline fitness market is bigger abroad, for the online fitness model, India may leapfrog the rest of the world. “There are a lot of things that we learn from India that can be applied globally, so we’re constantly working on advancements that would be effective not only in India but also the rest of the world.”
“Since inception, we have received a lot of love and appreciation. People seem to have connected with the idea of holistic health and well-being along with our mantra to ‘Be Better Everyday’. We work towards being the one-stop-shop for eve rything fitness and health. The purpose of the digital pivot and introduction of multiple services online was to be a platform where even during these challenging times, people continue to work on themselves and their well-being,” says Bansal.
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(This story appears in the 15 January, 2021 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)