Holistic fitness firms take start-up centerstage after food, fintech

After the boom in e-commerce, foodtech and fintech, the fitness segment is witness to a massive spurt in new-age firms.

Serial entrepreneurs have been innovating business models and high-tech solutions aimed at capturing the wellness mood of the current generation.

Myntra founder Mukesh Bansal is one of the latest high profile entrepreneurs to have jumped onto the fitness bandwagon with his two-year-old It addresses fitness through a combination of engagement, coaching and delivery through offline and online channels.

“The present market situation works in our favour as it has a lot of potential,” says Samir Kapoor, co-founder and MD, MultiFit.

The fitness sector is valued at more than $16.6 billion in the country, growing at a compounded annual rate of 20–25%. But compared to a market penetration of over 16% in the UK and 18% in the USA, the fitness sector has a minuscule penetration of only 0.3% in India, giving ample opportunities to introduce novel solutions and chalk out large-scale expansion.

With rising chronic ailments like diabetes, obesity and heart diseases coupled with increased stress levels, everyone is becoming health and fitness conscious, say experts, “opening up a new business opportunity for entrepreneurs with an eye for innovation.’’

Entrepreneurs like Kapoor have brought forth enterprises that emphasise on strength and conditioning, rehab training, sports-specific training, mobility and flexibility training, etc.

“This diversity helps us have something for everyone. We offer a combination of traditional exercise practices with a modern-day twist as it challenges the conventional imagery of a gym being solely for the use of traditional equipment with narrow fitness goals. The crux of our operating model is customer engagement and community building,” says Kapoor.

Mumbai-based TrainMe, which deploys fitness trainers at the door-step, operates through a complex algorithm which combines elements of muscle building, stamina and weight loss to develop an effective routine for users. TrainMe’s fitness regime also comes equipped with Kynamax, a technique that is deployed to train on-the-move city dwellers, says the start-up’s founder Ramesh Gajaria.

“Fitness is predicted to outperform the wellness and preventive healthcare segment. TrainMe is witnessing 20% quarter-on-quarter growth,” says Gajaria.    

Sunjay Ghai, CEO, Revofit, says the venture has been looking at a growth rate of over 35% month-on-month through multiple features such as the digital shop and food business. “The rate of growth is huge but it’s a nascent phase for the start-up. We are focused on growth within India and apart from the metroes, we are strengthening our presence in Tier-II and -III towns.”

The perceived market potential is attracting investors towards fitness start-ups.

Recently, FMCG major Marico picked up a 22.5% stake in Revofit, which has an artificial intelligence (AI)-driven engine for a personalised fitness experience through guided workouts with celeb fitness trainers and the tracking and management of nutritional intake. Another fitness start-up HealthifyMe also received funding this year, about $12 million in a series B round from Sistema Asia Fund, Samsung Next, amongst others. HealthifyMe plans to leverage the investment to consolidate its AI capabilities, expand in India and establish itself in emerging markets. Revofit, meanwhile, plans to use the Marico capital infusion to expand its cloud kitchen infrastructure and launch digital applications.

Fitness start-ups, riding on investor goodwill and market opportunity, are keen to expand in an aggressive manner. Gajaria says TrainMe plans to strengthen its base in Mumbai and venture into Bangalore, Delhi and Pune. “In the next five years, we expect over 1 lakh active customers.”

MultiFit has 27 fitness studios in India and will launch studios in newer markets like Hyderabad and Indore shortly, says Kapoor. “Our primary plans for innovation entail developing customer-oriented technology to increase scalability and improve overall customer experience.”

According to Ghai, Revofit will add three more cloud kitchens to its existing bouquet of three and will introduce 25 innovative fitness/wellness products. “We are also launching our ready-to-eat keto meals which will be calorie counted and chef curated to remove pain points that people have in their fitness journey.”

Despite all the scope, challenges do exist in the sector. Besides high rentals (for fitness studios/kitchens) and allied operational costs, the intense competition in the sector can cause smaller ventures to either fall prey to acquisitions or face shutdowns, say experts.


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