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Meet Vishal Gondal, the dot-com entrepreneur making strides in health-tech

Topics GOQii

Vishal Gondal, Founder, GOQii
What would you do if you had $100 million? This was the dilemma Vishal Gondal faced after he sold his gaming company to The Walt Disney Co in 2012.

Gondal is among a breed of successful entrepreneurs of the dot-com era, having run Indiagames, a mobile games publisher, for more than 16 years. Indiagames, now known as UTV Indiagames, had a revenue of $11 million in 2012-13, with sales in India and South East Asia.

Making wealth for himself, Gondal dabbled among entrepreneurs and new ventures even as he stayed on at Disney for a year to oversee the transition. During this time, he was looking for the next opportunity to place his bet. And by 2014, he had firmed up his plans when he decided to zero in on healthcare.

“I realised that the biggest impact India needs is in health. Ninety-seven per cent of people don’t trust healthcare,” he says over the phone from Mumbai, where he is based.

With a population of 1.3 billion in India, the healthcare infrastructure in the country is both inadequate and expensive. At the same time, people have become self-starters, learning from an abundance of online health content and tracking health vitals through wearables for a better lifestyle.

A game developer since his teens, Gondal has a deep understanding of software and hardware and wanted to create global product company out of India. Thus was born GOQii, which established itself as a leading player in fitness wearables.

It is competing in a crowded market place against the likes of Fitbit, Xiaomi’s fitness trackers and Apple smart watch, but GOQii’s offering is squarely aimed at the mass-market budget-user segment, which comprises the bulk of the population.

Creating a device company in the era of software makes Gondal an outlier. But his vision for the enterprise goes beyond just selling fitness trackers. He is creating an ecosystem for health-focussed consumers that combines health data, advice, diet tips, personalised coaching, disease predictions and e-commerce.

The fitness band is just the starting point -- an entry of sorts to the app-based smartphone platform that covers end-to-end the health needs of the users.

In five years, GOQii has signed in around four million customers (the company does not share the number of trackers sold). It has scaled to a company of 130 people with offices in Shenzen, where the hardware is made, and Melno Park.

The bands have also gotten smarter. A new version, that was rolled out recently, can perform ECG or electrocardiogram. All GOQii models can monitor health stats like heart-rate to sleep-time, daily steps, which they relay back to a smartphone app for actionable insights.

But it is not the device but the platform where Gondal is making a larger play. The GOQii platform is for anyone who wants a healthy lifestyle. “GOQii is a simple model. We want consumers to take their health in their own hands, and we do this with guidance, data and motivation. We have coaches, doctors, experts, content and video. There is an entire platform that can guide you based on your own data and own personal health,” he says.

Gondal believes that personalised preventive healthcare will trump expensive hospital treatments. People are conscious of their lifestyles, what they eat, mental health and their general well-being, and are making use of modern technology for a better life. They want to track their health to keep away from diseases, he adds.

Recently, Google bought Fitbit for a staggering $2.1 billion, an example Gondal quotes to emphasise how software behemoths are hungry for health data and the endless possibilities of cutting-edge services that can be delivered on top of it.

As Gondal is busy fighting global tech multinationals with GOQii, he is backed by a host of venture capital firms and well-known investors such as New Enterprise Associates, DSG Consumer Partners, Edelweiss, Cheetah Mobile, Ratan Tata and Vijay Shekhar Sharma.

Along the way, Gondal himself has put a huge bet in the Indian start-up ecosystem, having invested in about 20 companies. His peers regard him as a hands-on manager with a liking for speaking plainly and honestly.

He is an outlier In another sense too. As a teenager, he built video games using his home computer, and even developed some of early titles at Indiagames, which he started after dropping out of the college in the third year. He lives and works out of Chembur in Mumbai, where he grew up.

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