Serving clients including Bollywood celebrities Malaika Arora and Bobby Deol, this startup is bringing healthy back.
At a glance
Founder: Yusuf Nalwala
Year of launch: 2013
Sector: Food and health/lifestyle
Problem it solves: Healthy, tasty food on a subscription model
Eight years ago, commerce graduate Yusuf Nalwala (now 30) weighed 140 kg. Today, he is one of the prominent celebrity fitness trainers in Mumbai, and the founder of a startup that caters to consumers who want healthy food. With brand tagline #ItsInYou, the startup was named ‘Yustrength.’
About what he wished to do with the brand, Yusuf says, “We want people to believe in themselves when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle. The main idea is to educate the masses that healthy food is not boring and they can be tasty too.”
Launched about six years ago, Yustrength provides subscription-based meal plans to clients on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. The subscription meal plans are different for every client, and are completely different from their menu available online for daily orders. They are made specific to people looking to lose weight, to gain muscle, or to simply eat healthy.
Yustrength is also available on on-demand food delivery platforms like Zomato and Swiggy. Yusuf says that they get orders worth Rs 40,000 per day from these platforms.
Healthy food has been the buzzword for a while, with startups like Healthie and FitGo making waves. But Yusuf says that he does not look at the competition. “We are different in our own way because we provide exactly what the client or customer needs and not selling something that the customers don’t need,” he says.
Yustrength started off five years ago, with only two clients. Now it caters to more than 20-30 clients per month, and 400-500 orders monthly through online portals.
From obese to fit
Yusuf’s personal journey was long and hard. Due to his obesity, he was often ill, and could not even keep a job consistently. With one year of dedicated workout, he was able to lose about 50 kg, and build muscle.
Afterward, he went to Dubai for a marketing job for two years, but realised that he wanted to get into fitness seriously. “My boss in Dubai stayed at Burj Khalifa. Through his connections, I was able to train some residents of the skyscraper,” he says.
After doing a course in nutrition from Dubai, Yusuf came back to India to start up in the fitness space. His mother had helped him with putting healthy food in place earlier, as most other options were too expensive. So his path was clear.
“With my savings, I started up myself in healthy food for those who cannot afford it otherwise. I knew nutritious food,” says Yusuf, who believes that the food you eat should constantly change yet be functional. His vision is to make healthy food a staple.
With help from his mother, Yusuf started with customised meal options on a small scale first. For a whole year, they cooked at home for about 18 clients (on a subscription basis).
“Now, we have scaled up with a bigger cooking space and my mother has trained four cooks. I used to do everything else – purchasing raw materials, delivering the food to clients, and taking feedback personally from the clients,” says Yusuf. Their team has now grown to include three delivery boys and a marketing specialist too.
An ISSA-certified fitness trainer with more than seven years of experience, Yusuf has ensured that Yustrength goes that extra mile in being transparent, by detailing the contents of every meal in terms of calories, fats, proteins and carbs to tell the consumer what they are consuming and in what quantity. The menu caters to nearly every food preference, with gluten-free, ketogenic, organic, vegetarian and vegan offerings. All their desserts are sugar-free and made with zero-carb isolate protein.
Currently, Yustrength serves only in Mumbai but will soon expand to other metro cities. But Yusuf has rejected offers for a franchise. “It is about knowledge and experience, and knowing your customer closely. We currently have no VC funding but we would be happy to have people on board,” adds Yusuf, who is also a freelance fitness trainer.
Everyone loves good food
Yustrength reaches out to health-conscious customers through social media, but Yusuf says word of mouth has helped them more.
Being in the fitness industry in Mumbai has given Yusuf a social circle that includes Bollywood actors. “Our celebrity clients share our information to their audience. It adds benefit to the brand,” he says. Yustrength’s clients include former VJ and model Malaika Arora, actors Sonakshi Sinha and Bobby Deol, among others.
Yustrength’s menu has around 12 items. Yusuf claims all meals are freshly made every day. “We don’t cook food in advance and only execute when we have orders for the same. Our daily subscription meals are also cooked early in the morning and delivered to our client’s doorstep before they even wake up to keep them sorted and moving for the day,” he says.
Customer feedback is very important to Yustrength. “Anyone would choose butter chicken over a salad, but at Yustrength that is what we do in getting the right food to our customers with the right nutritional value. We have received positive and negative feedback from our clients and customers, and we take every feedback as a learning to be better in the future,” says Yusuf.
Healthy and tasty
As per some reports, the health-conscious segment in India caters to around 50 lakh people in Delhi, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad and Chennai, and is growing at 10-15 percent annually with a market size of Rs 12,500 crore.
According to Yusuf, 70 percent of our health and fitness is defined by the food we eat, 20 percent by training and 10 percent by our sleep routine. When one chooses to eat healthy, Yustrength wants to ensure that they adapt to the changing tastes of the customers.
Yustrength’s main categories are soups, rolls, wraps, no-bun burgers, steaks, keto meals, tikkas, protein bites, low-carb desserts, low-sugar soufflés and protein bombs in various flavours.
“We also have a special section on the menu that is the chef’s specialty, and another option where you could make your own meal choosing from the various carbs, proteins and fibre,” Yusuf adds.
Yustrength’s average meal prices for subscription-based services vary with the type of packages: 1-2 meals would cost Rs 500 per meal, 3-4 meals would cost Rs 450 and five meals above would be between Rs 400 and Rs 450. Their online menu for daily orders has meals starting at Rs 200 and going up to Rs 500. Yusuf asserts that he is not losing money in transactions because of the volume purchase of produce and ingredients.
Yusuf has no background in hospitality, and his family was not particularly into fitness either. “But now everyone in my family is eating healthy. My mother is my strength. My proudest moment was when my father – who was earlier sceptical - told me that his 46-inch chest is due to Yustrength’s meals.” Yusuf signs off.
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