Start-ups in race to pick a big slice of India's wellness market

Four wellness-focused start-ups talk to Pavan Lall about their business models, fund-raising plans and new growth areas
Even as, led by Mukesh Bansal, looks to tap the food market with a focus on health and nutrition, California-based GOQii is using smart technology to build a preventive healthcare platform in India. Meanwhile, there’s a scramble by other ventures that are looking to explore niches that look to augment the fitness requirements and habits of a country with almost 650 million youths under the age of 25. Four wellness-focused start-ups talk to Pavan Lall about their business models, fund-raising plans and new growth areas

Consolidating gym memberships across cities
What do you call a discovery platform that gives you access to hundreds of gyms and fitness studios across metro cities so that you never have to miss a workout because you were “traveling on work”? If you ask Neha Motwani, the answer is Fitternity, an online aggregator that drives both transactions and searches for fitness centres, related services and facilities. Fitternity, which Motwani set up in 2014, gives members the option to work out across multiple locations of different franchises. It also gets all the operators as well as potential members in a fragmented sector on one platform. This is something all tech start-ups see as “data gold.” 

The Andheri-based Fitternity was started with $1 million in seed funding from the TV Mohandas Pai-led Exfinity Venture Partners. That was followed up by $2 million funding from the Patni Family Office and lastly an additional $4 million from Nikhil Vohra's Sixth Sense Ventures. Fitternity’s revenue model is built on users buying subscription. Presently, Motwani claims she has a total user base of 1,000,000 subscribers and 200,000 current subscribers, and an annual turnover of Rs 114 crore.

Putting the fizz into fitness
Nutraceutical player Fullife Healthcare company recently raised approximately $9 million from investors Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, Kotak Investment Advisers, and Sixth Sense in exchange for 45 per cent equity. The company had set up its business with a view to making unique healthcare and nutritional products for both exports and the Indian market. The firm had also, in the past, acquired Swiss company Novelty Pharma and back home set up an effervescent manufacturing plant to boost its B2B business in India. It has close to 175 employees and runs a manufacturing and R&D unit in Khopoli. 

In 2015, the company launched a branded product called Fast & Up which is into sports nutrition. Fast & Up is also the official nutrition partner for the Tata Marathon. More recently, the company launched a women-focused beauty nutrition label called ChicNutrix. Shilpa Khanna, the company’s chief financial officer and head of the ChicNutrix business says that revenue is around Rs 90 crore a year.

The road to good health
Having raised $2.5 million in seed funding from Spiral Ventures and Amand Ventures, Nirog Street, an Ayurvedic doctor’s community platform, was founded in 2015 by Ram Kumar an IT professional. 

“We work with doctors and help them with marketing and sales as well as building their technology capability,” he says. He adds, “The tech specifically helps them to streamline their supply chain for both medicines as well as patient records.”

Kumar is also looking to raise another $10 million in second-round funding. What are the challenges for Nirog Street? “People trust ayurveda but don’t have the same trust in ayurvedic doctors and medicines because of the presence of non-qualified doctors and bad quality medicines,” he says. He adds, “One of the most unorganised sectors, technology adoption is lowest in this sector, and what we hope to do is work to transform this into a proper healthcare system.”

Nirog Street aims to make the transformation by engaging ayurveda doctors and clinics digitally. Kumar aims to partner 150 ayurvedic medicine manufacturers and brands next year. 

A personalised digital assistant with diet and fitness tips
Founder Tushar Vashisht says his company Healthifyme, which was launched in 2012, strives to achieve healthier goals for 
individuals through a free app, and by connecting with nutritionists and trainers. It has artificial intelligence (AI)-based plans and services. 

Today, Vashisht says the company generates around Rs 8.25 crore a month and has one lakh paying customers. It has raised around $30 million in funding. The company is headquartered in Singapore and has its administrative offices in Bangalore with 140 employees. It includes nutritionists, fitness trainers and yoga instructors.

Don’t expect to meet them as all personalised services are virtual, he says. The company has also launched in Malaysia and Singapore. It generates around Rs 7 crore a year from those two countries, annually. Recently, Healthifyme partnered Swiggy to share diet plans. Vashisht, a computer science graduate from the University of Pennsylvania, also worked for Blackrock and Deutsche Bank. 

Key challenges, he says, include access to top-level AI talent which is not cheap nor in abundance. This meant he had to hire talent in Europe which was expensive. 

“Also, scaling internationally for a consumer company that has local strengths is also a challenge,” Vashisht says. His business doubled every year for the last three years, and at an operating level, he expects to turn profitable this year.


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