Bengaluru-based FeetApart brings a motivational gamification aspect to fitness.
Every time 31-year-old Sabha sees Facebook or Instagram pictures of her friends running marathons, she is inspired to put on her shoes and hit the jogging track. This tendency isn’t unique to Sabha — in today’s digital world, we know everything everyone is doing, and this knowledge brings with it certain aspirations. The motivation to keep at it, however, turns out to be pretty short-lived every time.
Thirty-eight-year-old Abhishek Roy, who has been participating in marathons for the past seven years, was keen on starting up in the health and fitness space, but the idea really took shape when 31-year-old Ashrith Gopalakrishna, his colleague at Qyuki Digital, suggested building a social network around it. Having observed how people soon give up on their fitness goals, the duo realised that just facilitating workouts was not enough — they would also have to integrate an element of motivation into their business, which they named FeetApart.
A personalised gamified wellness platform, FeetApart engages with and inspires users to form healthy habits and live fitter, healthier lifestyles. Being a social network, it allows users to associate with like-minded people. Together, they can set goals, meet up to form habits, challenge each other, and earn rewards.
The ideation days
Abhishek and Ashrith realised that they not only had similar ideas about wellness but also a shared love of inspiring people to get healthier. Abhishek says,
“Given the sedentary nature of our jobs and the associated stress, we clearly felt the need of a platform (not just an app) that motivates users to do a little more (physically) and get fitter. Also, since we were focused on companies, we realised organisations struggle with the lack of data about how engaged and active their employees are.”
FeetApart is integrated with most of the popular fitness apps and wearables. It automatically syncs data, letting users compete, compare, and challenge. It is meant to motivate a big community of people irrespective of the wearable or app they use.
The product as a framework can be used to run a variety of team competitions and individual contests around physical activity, social causes, and family. The platform takes into account a particular user's lifestyle interests, activity levels, and BMI to suggest content, activities, and goals regularly.
The platform uses social network dynamics, gamification, and personalisation. For organisations, the team runs a series of wellness programmes throughout the year using different themes and facets of wellness.
FeetApart is both a mobile (Android and iOS) and web app. “Personalisation via machine learning- based recommender systems is our strength. Ashrith and I built Qyuki’s recommender engine and we are leveraging that knowledge and experience in wellness and fitness,” says Abhishek.
As of now, FeetApart is B2B-focused, working with organisations towards employee wellness, but come June, the plan is to open it up for B2C communities as the dynamics of wellness and motivation are the same.
Developing the product
Since the founders come from a tech background, building the social network and personalisation wasn’t a problem, but acquiring customers was tough. The team initially wanted to focus on niche communities, which was why people with desk jobs, who don’t get too much exercise, seemed the perfect fit. The app was built with them in mind. They managed to rope in Ness Technologies and Vdopia as their clients.
One of the more popular aspects is a team competition among employees. People form teams of five or six members and they challenge each other on health activities which are tracked via wearable tech and smartphone apps.
The next version of the app, slated to release this month, will have data and analytics. This Abhishek helps give their clients data. Most HR and management need an ROI and although it's a far cry, the analytics helps to a great extent. “They ask for data that shows whether the company’s overall BMI levels have gone down. They want to know how it affects attrition, and what engagement levels are,” says Abhishek.
Team and traction
Until FeetApart received its angel funding in 2016, the team was made up of three. The venture now comprises 10 people. Abhishek says their one criterion for hiring is that they look for people who believe in healthy living.
“Being a wellness company, we believe in ‘practise what you preach’. Healthy living is one key KPI for all of us. So aligning to the idea is a given once the culture is right,” says Abhishek.
Abhishek has over 13 years of industry experience, primarily in software engineering, and has worked for AOL and Deem, besides Qyuki. Ashrith, on the other hand, has over nine years of work experience in software engineering.
In the early part of 2015, once they became operational, FeetApart was primarily paid pilots with some revenues and very good learnings and testimonials. Post funding, they have seen good traction and revenue growth with companies like Reliance, Sasken, and GE using the platform. Over the past four months, their revenue is said to have doubled. “We expect to break even in May this year. We have about 30,000 users on the platform and a B2B pipeline of about 3,00,000 users,” says Abhishek.
Market and future
The app has 1,000 to 5,000 downloads on the Google Playstore and has a 4.6 rating. Apart from FeetApart, there are a growing number of health and fitness apps. HealthifyMe, one of India’s leading health and fitness apps, had hit one million downloads on the Google PlayStore in December and also received an additional $1 million (Rs 6.7 crore) in funding from Dubai-based investor Neelesh Bhatnagar through his firm NB Ventures, which has been actively investing in Indian startups.
MyFitnessPal, which was acquired by Under Armour in 2015, is a well-known global player in this space. Closer home, in India, we have GOQii which raised a $13.4 million Series A funding led by NEA and then brought on board Ratan Tata as an investor in October 2016. Mukesh Bansal and Ankit Nagori’s CureFit raised $15 million from Accel, IDG, and Kalaari in July 2016. TrueWeight, which aims to help people lose weight through super foods, raised an undisclosed Series A round from Kalaari Capital in 2015.
Speaking of FeetApart’s differentiator, Abhishek says,
“Our biggest USP is the fact that our team is passionate about wellness and that makes a huge difference. We know the nuances of why something will work/not work, that exercising is hard, that by default people are lazy, etc. The other good part is the non-preachy approach to wellness, one that seamlessly fits into psychology and lifestyle.”
The team adds they intricately use social/community and gamification to get people motivated to do more. FeetApart is primarily a tech product. The team is now looking to raise their next funding round.
Apart from the continued focus on employee and corporate wellness, which is showing a lot of promise this year, the team plans to launch in open communities this year with a very strong companion aspect of the product that uses machine learning to enhance the journey of an individual using the power of his/her community and interests.
“We are introducing personalised online coaching early this year to assist users in their journey. We are introducing the mood feature as well in Q2 this year. This essentially helps users with personalised and contextual suggestions and helps organisations with real-time mood and morale analytics, essentially giving them a pulse of their entire workforce. On the distribution side, we plan to launch in the Middle East and APAC as well as partner with health insurance companies,” says Abhishek.