As India’s startup capital, Bengaluru is home to innovations and ideas that promise to create some of the most iconic companies that the country – and possibly the world – has ever seen. Unfortunately, life for many here is also characterised by long commutes, high-stress careers, zero work-life balance and endless working hours, which means that young professionals face more health risks than ever before. Ironically enough, people are also now more health-conscious than ever before. The demand for health and nutrition services is at a historic high, especially in urban pockets, and people are looking for convenient and flexible solutions to stay fit. Little wonder then, that fitness app HealthifyMe has more than doubled its user base in its home town of Bengaluru in the last six months.
Nikhil Moorjani, Director - Marketing & Strategic Alliances at HealthifyMe, attests that this is also because Bengaluru leads when it comes to the adoption of tech-based fitness and weight-loss solutions, and the city’s sizeable fitness-savvy population is driving its growth.
HealthifyMe is part of an emerging breed of startups addressing the need for fitness in the middle of a frenzied lifestyle. A fitness trainer, yoga guru and nutritionist all rolled into one, this app helps users track what they eat and how they exercise, via their smartphones. Available for free on Android and iOS, HealthifyMe is designed for busy, urban professionals or those looking for a less stressful way to stay fit. The popularity of the app can be gauged by the fact that Google included it in its list of “Best Apps for 2016”. The app recently crossed a million downloads across app stores.
Founded in 2012 in Bengaluru, the app is helping close to a million users achieve their fitness goals by tracking their meals, calorie intake, water consumption, and logging in their daily exercise. Customers availing the app’s subscription services receive access to a suite of qualified, in-house health professionals, nutritionists, trainers, and fitness coaches, customised diet and fitness plans and other features like photo-based meal tracking. The app syncs easily with all leading wearables, including FitBit, YUFit, and its own RIST to measure daily exercise.
From new mothers who want to shed post-pregnancy weight, people with lifestyle disorders, busy professionals, fitness enthusiasts, and those looking for rehabilitation after injuries and illness, the app has users from across the spectrum.
The average age of users of HealthifyMe’s users from Bengaluru is 30, says Nikhil, and adds that the app sees an equal interest in fitness and well-being across male and female users.
How it works
The app’s interface uses a combination of human and virtual features to help every kind of user reach his/her fitness goal. A bouquet of services - one-on-one consultations, personal guidance, real-time follow-up and feedback, group coaching, and access to an online support community - motivates users to stick to their regimens, change their health behaviour, and bounce back from the occasional binge. This is complemented by regular recipes, diet tips, workout plans, and success stories to keep its community of users on their feet.
Navigate cheat day with flair
Fitness is also as much about diet as it is about exercise. HealthifyMe coaches recognise that sticking to a diet can be physically and emotionally stressful. They see the occasional cheat day as something that gives users motivation to keep them going and support them to get back on track. Cheating offers real physiological benefits as well. According to Swetha Subbiah, a Bangalore-based advanced personal trainer, “Constant calorie-deprivation can cause the body to hold on to calories and conserve energy. Eating a high calorie, cheat meal occasionally fires your body’s metabolism and gives it the energy to continue exercising and dieting.”
But while a cheat meal can aid weight loss, unrestrained and unsupervised it could be the slippery slope towards an all-out gorge fest that derails your fitness regimen. A good cheat day option, Subbiah says, is one that, while high in calories, is wholesome and unprocessed rather than one that’s unhealthy and packed with empty calories.
While online searches throw up thousands of healthy recipes, HealthifyMe’s USP is that it factors in the Indian palate with an expansive database of Indian foods, their nutritional information and the in-app calorie counter, which help users plan nutritious meals of healthy portion sizes. So a HealthifyMe user will no longer have to rely on guesstimates and know exactly how many calories are there in a plate of idli-sambhar, a bowl of rajma-chawal or a portion of egg bhurji.
Nikhil also says that Bengaluru has an ever-increasing array of healthy foods to choose from in the form of farmers’ markets, organic and wellness stores with healthy ingredients, as well as niche options like salad delivery startups and health-centric restaurants at their doorstep. This means that the app’s users don’t have to compromise on taste and can actually navigate their cheat day with flair.
The power of the collective
While staying healthy seems like an individual endeavour, the makers of HealthifyMe recognise the importance of community in the journey. Through its corporate wellness and healthcare initiatives, HealthifyMe reaches out to more than 50,000 employees of over 10 corporates in Bengaluru, including Unilever, Philips, and Cognizant. Special-interest communities built around health and fitness, moderated by expert coaches, offer a sustainable fitness solution in corporate environments.
One huge challenge that startups face is reaching out to its potential customers. It is here that the startup’s alliance partnership with ICICI Bank has worked as a catalyst. HealthifyMe and ICICI Bank held a joint promotional campaign for the bank’s wealth customers which provided a boost to customer acquisition.
“Our solution works at scale with very little logistics involved. Because the entire experience is gamified, we have communities of employees looking to get fit who compete with each other and motivate each other towards their fitness goals,” says Nikhil.
HealthifyMe has also partnered with hospitals across the country such as Medanta, Sakra, Apollo ACODE and Manipal Hospitals and HealthifyMe’s experts provide customised nutrition, fitness counselling and follow-up advice to over 25,000 patients through the app even after they leave the hospital.
As it helps users set realistic milestones, overcome personal hurdles in achieving them, and get on the road to a healthier life, the startup is also navigating its own growth path. Since its recent round of Series A funding early this year, and a recent extended round of $1 million, the company has doubled its user base through its Swasth Bharat Campaign and hit 1 million app installs. It has plans to reach 5 million users and scale its team of experts by 10 times over the next year while continuing to invest in technology and product.
The competitive landscape is populated by other online health/fitness coaching apps such as Goqii, Orobind, and Fitso. However, the Indian wellness industry is a sunrise one, estimated to grow at a CAGR of 15-17 per cent to touch INR one trillion in the next three years, and spell an exciting phase of growth for innovative startups such as HealthifyMe.
How ICICI Bank’s startup-focused services can help such businesses
As an app-based business, HealthifyMe primarily earns revenues from premium subscribers who prefer digitally delivered fitness and nutrition plans, and primarily access them through smartphones or tablets. Again, the same people prefer to use simple and secure payment options when choosing their subscription plans.
A rapidly growing company needs an able partner for campaigns and collection solutions. ICICI Bank, with its vast customer base and a technology-friendly product suite, helps businesses to not only acquire customers but also automate their MIS and eliminate reconciliation issues. In addition, ICICI Bank provides customised solutions that integrate various revenue tracking and processing systems to avoid duplication and save manpower.
For instance, HealthifyMe heavily relies on subscription-based payments, which can be challenging and tedious when it comes to inducing regular payments from customers. To resolve any such issues, the company is working with ICICI Bank to integrate a NACH (National Automated Clearing House) solution so that subscriptions can be collected seamlessly.
Such solutions help young businesses redirect their cash in hand to more productive and profitable tasks such as product and tech innovation.
ICICI Bank also offers a full suite of commercial banking services for startups, including account opening, advisory, compliance, investor connect, online campaigns and state-of-the-art solutions for payments and collection.