- As the whole country became more health-conscious and ‘immunity’ became the talk of town after COVID, Indian
healthtech startupCure.Fit added 1.5 million users post-pandemic. Naresh Krishnaswamy, Growth & Marketing Head, Cure.Fitspeaks to us about fitness industry’s future, Cure.fit’s growth trajectory, changing consumer sentiment, and goals for 2021.
According to Valuates Report, the Global Fitness App Market size is expected to grow from $3,312.58 Million in 2019 to $13,016.77 Million by the end of 2025 at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 25.61%.
As the demand for healthier living records a drastic rise, Cure.fit is aiming to occupy 50% of the offline fitness market in a few years. After the pandemic, Cure.fit added 1.5 million and out of these 1.5 million, 1 million users joined the platform during the lockdown in April and May.
Elaborating on the growth trajectory during lockdown, Naresh Krishnaswamy, Growth & Marketing Head, Cure.Fit said, “The spike came in a very big way, in the two, three months post lockdown. We used to have about 250,000 paid subscribers on Cult and within a matter of two months, we were able to get 1 million completely new customers to try the digital products, which was quite heartening to see. And we launched a paid version of the product only in May. So this 1 million base that tried our product was free, and eventually, we've managed to acquire about 100,000 paid subscribers on specifically our
Transition from lockdown to unlock
Cure.fit was quick to realise that digital was here to stay and focused on improving its app to woo its users. It launched 10-12 new online services during the lockdown period to help its users transition from offline to online.
Sharing how the lockdown impacted its business, Krishnaswamy said, “We always had this vision that at some point, digital fitness will become important, but the first implication was making that product live immediately. Later, there was a good shift over to lots of forms of digital health like fitness class online, consulting doctors, nutritionist. So the next thing, we launched a huge bunch of products in the April-May timeframe to leverage the fact that people now don't have access to many of these services offline, and will want to consume them digitally. We had to reimagine all of us services, whether it's mental wellness, primary care or fitness. We realised that digital is going to grow massively. We also did a lot of marketing around that time with celebrity classes and some television ads, etc. ”
While the offline fitness industry hit a major roadblock during the lockdown, Cure.fit started planning for its comeback. It focused on improving its strategy for offline services and once the country started walking again, Cure.fit sped up the pace at which the industry is evolving.
“We decided to focus squarely on two things. One, our offline fitness business: how do we preserve it? And second, once we are allowed to reopen, how do we grow faster? And how do we take advantage of industry as well, because right now a lot of people will have concerns on physical centers, safety, quality, etc. So we felt that was a great opportunity for us as a brand to expand physical centers once the time is right because there'll be a lot of customers wanting to join in and looking for better quality of service. While the fitness business has taken a temporary sabbatical, we potentially can come back a lot stronger, which is something that we are seeing as well because we have grown so much in a short time,”said Krishnaswamy.
However, consumer demographics adopting digital services were different than offline. More women felt safer to use digital services and boomers used yoga and doctor consultation services. So, Cure.Fit also pivoted its marketing strategy to speak to a wider set of audience and its media plan did not change much as it has always been a digital-heavy company.
On how the demographics have changed after lockdown and new surge in users, Krishnaswamy said, “With digital products, to acquire customers from everywhere around the country, we had to change our marketing strategy to target a wider audience base. Young people are more comfortable with gyms and with digital, any walk in age could consult a doctor or do a yoga workout. So, there's a bit of a change in what kind of segments of customers we see -- whether it is age, city, gender, income groups. Our gyms are fairly expensive, like 18,000 rupees a year and digital products are a lot cheaper, which has given us more access to other economic segments of customers as well.”
Now that gyms have opened up, Krishnaswamy told us that around 35% of customers are coming back to gym. However, smallers gyms that don’t have the resources for following government protocol and winning consumers with a marketing campaign, are still struggling. Fitness enthusiasts are, therefore, choosing the gyms they can trust.
“I think one thing is clear is that a lot of people are waiting to come back to the physical centers. And the reason being, they are missing working out with the equipment with a social group. There are, of course, a good number of people that want to come back, but are just waiting for the right time. So broadly, you can assume that about 30-35% of people have come back. There is a section of the population that is just saying that they'll wait for the vaccine. We didn't expect anything different. We also spoke to a lot of local gyms, they are not seeing as much recovery as Cult and that is because of our ability to communicate safety to users and fine equipment. So, we have been seeing a good influx of new users for offline gyms as well because they trust us,” said Krishnaswamy.
In the future, Cult.fit is going to focus on improving its online group classes, polish its hybrid model and consolidate local gyms under its network.
It is aiming to aggregate demand for all its gyms by giving its members access to different kinds of equipment and training across the city they live in through one pass. The model is in process and soon to be launched in Bangalore.
Explaining its consolidation plan, Krishnaswamy said, “At Cult, we want to now participate in the overall offline fitness business. We have predominantly been doing group classes, and disrupted the gym model with that but we want to get into gyms as well because there's a segment of people who want to do machine-based workouts. So, we are tying up with a lot of gyms. We are going to create a one membership card, which gives you access to all the good quality gyms in your city. For example, you buy a membership in Bangalore, you'll have 14-15 options in the same city you can go to. As a user, you may decide to attend a few gyms that have good equipment one day and go to another gym that offers great Zumba classes. It just gives users a tremendous amount of choice and freedom.”
Cure.fit will also resume its expansion plan later next year once the world starts inching towards normalcy or demand comes back to 50%. Meanwhile, it is focusing on improving the quality of online workouts and investing in technology to identify different body types and body movements as users workout.
Throwing some light on the company's tech model, Krishnaswamy said, “In our digital product, with the user's permission, the camera turns on and it can detect your movements and give you an Energy Score. We are investing behind that. In the future, if you're working out in front of a screen, with your permission, our software can calculate what number of reps you've done, or it can correct your posture, etc.”
As we enter 2021, Cure.fit’s focus will be on reviving its business and winning in the offline fitness business and gym aggregation. It aims to onboard 300-400 gyms by the end of next year into its network.
Sharing the company’s vision, Krishnaswamy said, “We want to stay in a dominant market share of all kinds of fitness. So our ambition is to gain 50% market share of all forms of fitness in the next few years. That will happen if we expand our current Cult centers and aggregate a large number of gyms on our platform. That means a big change from what we've been doing so far, which is focusing only on online to now focusing on gyms as well. Also, I think it's not enough to just partner with gyms. We are working very closely with these gyms to improve their safety and quality of housekeeping, trainer and equipment, etc.”