Jyotsna Pattabiraman – helping Indians eat healthy, lose weight and ‘Grow Fit’Sharika Nair
It feels great when we get positive feedback from our clientele – those who are happy to have had a weight loss of 5kg, those who used to feel tired and sluggish through the day and now feel very energetic, users who have been able to get in control lifestyle diseases like diabetes and hypertension. We have even have had a client who reported a marked reduction in his epileptic seizures and another client who used to be overweight and is now training for the ironman triathlon.
says Jyotsna Pattabiraman, Founder and CEO, Grow Fit. Founded in September 2015, Grow Fit is a mobile health companion that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help its users achieve their peak wellness. Grow Fit takes care of both physical and mental health with separate apps for each category – Grow Fit aimed at users who wish to manage their weight by eating a nutritious, balanced diet and Grow Self for mental health.
Grow Fit in a nutshell
The Grow Fit apps have an easy-to-use, one-to-one chat-based coaching programme that connect users all over India to experts in physical and mental health. Users can seek advice on topics related to sleep, skin and hair, nutrition and exercise. They can also download diet charts that will help them eat better. In addition to the nutrition advice and customised diet plans, Grow Fit also offers fresh, packaged meals that help users improve their health, with dramatic measurable results. Jyotsna says,
Our menus are based on a lot of painstaking research and hence our results are 10 times better than industry standards.
The executive team at Grow Fit includes a doctor as well as a team of nutritionists, food technologists, counsellors, and product experts.
Jyotsna started her career at Cybercash (later acquired by Paypal) and has occupied senior positions at companies like Oracle, eBay and Yahoo in Silicon Valley during their growth phases. She also worked with companies like Kleiner Perkins and Menlo Ventures in the US, before moving back to India in 2008.
In Bengaluru, Jyotsna has helped build businesses like OnMobile and Knowlarity. A Stanford alumna, Jyotsna is also a Melton Fellow and has served on the Board of Directors of the Melton Foundation twice. She lives in the city with her husband (also an entrepreneur), their son, and their beloved Labrador. She says,
My personal experience on returning to India and realising how unfit many among my family and friends were just because they were not eating right inspired me to start Grow Fit.
A report by the PwC-FICCI suggests that the healthy foods, beverages, and health supplements segment comprise a Rs 14,500-15,000-crore market in the country. It is no surprise that there are a lot of players in this segment and the numbers keep increasing. Mumbai-based Snackible, Grubit, myDaily and Bengaluru-based Nutritown, iTiffin are some of the well-known players in this segment.
Jyotsna also has a lot of faith in the kind of difference Grow Self can make in the lives of today’s youth. Hundreds of young people are facing psychiatric problems but due to the stigma associated with mental illness, there is a sizeable population that is hesitating to seek clinical help or therapy.
While the Mental Health Care Bill passes a little later than I would have liked, it is definitely a step in the right direction. The mentally-ill have been treated as second-class citizens for long and now they have the right to receive treatment at government institutions. While most of the focus in the press has been on suicide, it's important to provide help before it is too late.
Why do Indians need help?
According to WHO, over six million lives are lost in India every year due to lifestyle diseases, and around 300 million people are living with or are at risk of contracting them. The economic burden of lifestyle diseases in India is estimated to be over $4.58 trillion by 2030, according to the World Economic Forum.
Research shows that in many cases, nutrition support is critical to preventing the onset of chronic diseases. What is interesting is that 60 percent of Grow Fit’s users come from Tier-II and III cities, so it looks like there is an increasing awareness of health and nutrition in these places. Jyotsna has noticed a surge in users of the Grow Fit app in Lucknow and Medak.
The growth figures
Jyotsna is excited about the growth numbers. She shares, “Our chat subscription revenue has been doubling month on month. As far as the food subscription is concerned, the number of orders has grown by 5x since March. It is very unusual for a premium product to grow this fast.”
Their packaged foods are in trials and samples have been sent across the country for trial use.
“There has been 1,00,000 installations of the app since last November (Android and iOS together) and more than 60,000 diet charts have been downloaded,” she explains. They are planning on a mobile web option for those users who do not want to download the app.
Starting off with three nutritionists, Grow Fit now has 20. The total core team size is 26, with many experts associating with them as and when needed.
The issue in India is that lifestyle disease treatment is very silo-ised. So we are doing a lot of comprehensive original research on a host of lifestyle diseases. This research is our intellectual property and we are using these findings to streamline our approach.
The venture is backed by Krishnan Ganesh and Meena Ganesh’s well-known entrepreneurship platform GrowthStory, which has promoted ventures like FreshMenu, Portea, Big Basket and Bluestone.
Fresh and healthy meals a click away
Grow Fit had initially started with generic, calorie-controlled meals but came out with a more impactful menu based on their trials. Jyotsna says,
Often when people want to lose weight, they cut down on oil and butter, which is not a great idea. What is more problematic is carbs and sugar. We recommend a high-protein diet with high fibre content.
Vegetarians often have a deficient protein intake. What is considered high protein like daal (lentils) is more starch and less protein. And many vegetarians do not like consuming dairy products. So the Grow Fit teams include a lot of millets and by subscribing to the Grow Fit meals, customers do not have to face the stress of planning their meals every day.
Grow Fit has two meal plans – the Lean Machine programme, which promises dramatic weight loss, and the Stay Fit programme, which helps in a more gradual weight loss. As of now, the fresh meals are available only in Bengaluru.
Jyotsna plans to launch packaged food like flours and health supplements across India once the trials are complete. Unlike the regular multi-grain atta brands available in the market, the Grow Fit promises use of nutrient-rich grains like amaranth and quinoa. These are very filling and so one can easily reduce the quantity while using the same.