A lot of Cure.Fit’s business has now shifted to digital: Naresh Krishnaswamy

With gyms shut due to COVID-19 and the resultant nation-wide lockdown, and parks and jogging tracks out of bounds currently, people are increasingly turning to digital to maintain a fitness schedule.

Cure.Fit is one of the biggest health and fitness start-ups in India, which has grown tremendously over the years. Cure.Fit was founded in 2016 by Mukesh Bansal, Co-founder of fashion retailer Myntra, and Ankit Nagori, former Chief Business Officer at Flipkart.

Cult.Live, the live classes platform from Cure.Fit, has been leveraged tremendously by the company, with celebrity fitness icons like Mandira Bedi and Jonty Rhodes being roped in to provide masterclasses to the users. Along with physical and mental health solutions, Cure.Fit also provides nutrition solutions, tele-medical solutions and recently added the delivery of a wide range of grocery essentials in its portfolio.

In conversation with Adgully, Naresh Krishnaswamy, Growth & Marketing Head, Cure.Fit, talks at length about the various offerings of the platforms, growing the business during the time of COVID-19 crisis and lockdown, as well the future focus of the company.

Could you take us through Cure.Fit’s growth journey?

We look at ourselves as an end-to-end healthcare company. Before the lockdown, we were into 5 businesses. One was the physical fitness gym business, which was the complete cult business with few other businesses within it. The other is our mental health offering, with Yoga as a big part of it. We used to run meditation classes. Also, there were therapists onboard with whom one could have a one-on-one therapy session. Our third business was Eat.Fit, our food delivery business across the app and Zomato, where we would offer healthy food options to people. We would also offer snacks, juices, groceries and protein supplements through this platform. The fourth business was the Care.Fit business. We have 8 care centers across Bangalore, where we have a panel of doctors and people could come in for their health checkups. The last business we had was Cult.Gear, where we manufactured our equipment via Cult.Sport and sold apparel, gear and footwear through our app.

Now in these current lockdown times, the Cult.Fitness centers are shut. Although the Care.Fit centers are still open, people don’t walk in right now. The business has pivoted quite a bit.

On the fitness side now, we run live classes on our platform over video. While people are taking the class, the camera is registering your movement and giving you an energy score. Users use this score to push themselves. You also get a rank amongst the complete class.

Besides this we have also started personal training over video, where a trainer is assigned and the class is over a video call.

On the mental health side, we are running yoga and other classes just like the fitness classes through live sessions and video calls. Besides this, we have therapists who conduct therapy sessions on video.

Our Care.Fit business has completely pivoted to tele-consultation by our doctors. We have signed several additional doctors in these times because even the doctors can’t conduct their practice in the clinics. Users can take up an appointment via the app and then the doctor consults the user via video.

Our Food delivery business has continued, while we do see a slight drop due to some kitchens shutting down. That business is still running at 70 per cent of its earlier capacity. Besides this, we have also launched nutrition offerings online.  You can take up an appointment with a nutritionist via video call. There are several recipe videos available online, which you can follow. We are also going to launch cooking sessions with Chefs on our platform. We have also added a lot of staples like Rice and Milk to our delivery business. A lot of our business has now shifted to digital, where now all offerings are available.

What kind of download numbers have you seen on the app stores, especially in the lockdown period?

We have seen a 3-3.5x growth in the number of downloads since the lockdown began. We had about 75,000-80,000 users working out at our physical centers every day. Now, we have almost 300,000 people working out through our live classes, which are growing daily.

Tell us about your market share and who do you count as your key competitors?

Before the lockdown, our market share was close to 25 per cent for the Cult fitness centres in the cities we function in. Our real competition right now are channels on YouTube and Instagram, where several people are putting up fitness videos. These videos get a lot of traction. While there are other global apps, it is these social media channels that count as our biggest competitors. However, our offerings and the options available to the user are much more vast as compared to these channels.

Are the Cult.Live classes available for later viewing?

Not as if now. However, there are several other videos available on the app that can be viewed as per the convenience of the viewer. Soon these live classes, too, will be available for later viewing.

Are you planning further expansion to the Cult.Live model?

We have masterclasses hosted by fitness icons like Mandira Bedi and Jonty Rhodes. We will be launching similar fitness products, where 3-4 people can train with a single trainer. However, our big focus right now is to further grow existing products and offerings.

Could you tell us more about the tele-medicine platform and how it exactly works?

Many people from our team are from the medical industry. They help us reach out to these professionals who always love to come on board with us. The scale of the plan here is to acquire more doctors and ramp up the scale of demand.

On the pharmacy side, we have teamed up with one of the key providers. How it works is: the user has a video consultation with the doctor, where even the prescription is provided. This prescription can be uploaded anywhere on various medical platforms who can then deliver the required medicine. We also partner with medicine delivery players to provide our user with the right medication.

In these times, mental health is has also become extremely important. What is the surge that you are seeing on your mental health platform?

We are seeing similar growth just as the fitness side of the business. People do require meditation and therapy as everyone is restricted to their homes. People do use this service to address their anxiety and other mental issues. Also, mental health has always been a taboo in our country. A platform like this makes the user feel much safer and easier to adopt.

Given the current market, how have you revised your business objectives and plans for the next few months?

Right now, we are addressing the fact that digital is the way forward for the next 6-8 weeks at least. If the lockdown continues further, all efforts will go behind scaling our digital products and driving more digital usage on the platform. If the lockdown is lifted before that, we know how to restart our fitness centers and other activities over time. We will then divide the focus between digital and offline offerings. However, right now it is very clear to see that digital is the way forward. While these times are tough, the digital shift has revealed how people still consume these services. A lot of people have shifted to digital health. Even after our offline centers open, digital is going to be the large focus for us.

How will you sustain this surge once the lockdown is lifted?

People love our digital offerings and are using it extensively. We feel people will continue to use these offerings even after the lockdown period is over, when they can’t be present at the physical centers. However, we also expect people to use both our physical centers as well as the digital offerings, making it a mix of the location and kind of workout. All the numbers of the platforms are up, including user base and downloads. During this lockdown, people might get used to these online classes and enjoy it so much that they will have no reason to stop.

What is your marketing strategy to get through these times?

We definitely plan to double our digital offerings and use various digital platforms to continue the messaging that people should get on with their fitness regime even from home. Even though people don’t have access to these physical services, they have the digital options to maintain their fitness. That’s our key marketing messaging. While our spends are still the same, our communication is completely digital.

How is the Cult.Live platform with celebrity masterclasses working out for you?

Quite well, actually. These celebrities are known for their fitness and we are seeing 30-40 per cent users leveraging the celebrity masterclass offering. These masterclasses have helped us acquire many new users too.


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