[Tech50] How gamified digital health platform GrowFitter aims to get an entire nation into the fitness habit

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Sanmati Pande, co-founder of GrowFitter, YourStory’s Tech50 2021 startup, talks about providing embedded financial services in an integrated fitness and health insurance plan and the big picture of capturing a 75-crore strong India to democratise wellbeing
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Imagine downloading an app and going on a 30-minute walk or cycling session only to get rewarded for the same. Imagine continuing it for five or seven days, and lo and behold, you are eligible to earn a free protein shaker, a gym bag upon completing 12 days, and maybe an iPhone 11 upon completing 30 days.

That’s exactly what Mumbai-based B2C healthtech platform, GrowFitter, does. The company is also one of YourStory's Tech50 2021 startups. Their motto? Don’t burn your cash, burn your calories, and get rewarded!

According to Sanmati Pande, a qualified Chartered Accountant and the Co-Founder of the gamified digital health reward platform, Growfitter was also one among 50 shortlisted startups from 3,300 that were invited to South Korea in 2020 to build a prototype of their platform in South Korean language. "So, we stayed for four months between August and December to build the prototype and presented it on demo day," recalls Harshit Sethy, an IIIT Hyderabad alumnus and the co-founder of GrowFitter.

This was also when Sanmati and Harshit undertook a white paper research, which was later published by the American Heart Association and World Health Organisation (WHO). According to the study, a daily 30-minute physical activity helps in lowering the risk of cardio-vascular diseases and diabetes, as well as COVID-19 and the risk of mortality by 46-76 percent. The duo later transformed the study into an app that was designed as a rewards platform to incentivise physical activity with tangible financial benefits.  

Launched in January 2021, the app's customer base could include anyone in the age group of 18-60, with or without a history of exercising.

“The app has a motion-sensing proprietary algorithm and the best part is, it was launched as a game. The idea is you get to choose your reward. There are three rewards: Short-term, medium-term, and long-term. Short-term is weekly in nature and medium-term is twice a year. The problem with wellness is one starts but is not necessarily motivated enough to continue it for a very long period of time. Whether it’s with gymming or any activity, one might just give up after a few days, or even a couple of days,” says Harshit.  

“The idea is to first incentivise the user. We saw that financial benefits were enabling a change in behaviour. And very soon, the positive changes turned into a habit,” explains Harshit.

A midnight wake up call

Harshit takes us back to a pivotal moment when right after they launched the app, they did not invest in marketing or promotion, but adopted a strong referral programme. “With 50 referrals, we offered a Google Home Mini. With 100 referrals, we offered an Apple iPod. When people came to know about this unique value proposition, all of a sudden we had micro-influencers on social media, who started making videos about our app. One influencer spoke about it and today, we have more than 300 videos on YouTube. I still remember one day we got 10,000 downloads at 12 midnight. We were sleeping and our OTP had expired as we didn’t expect 10,000 messages at one time,” recalls Harshit. 

GrowFitter’s premium subscription plan that offers bigger rewards like a mountain bike starts at just Rs 99 a month, which as Harshit points out is “cheaper than a Starbucks coffee".

"So, people then started getting into a habit and we saw that an average user who was earlier undertaking seven activities a month, the moment he started getting premium rewards, he started giving 20 activities in a month because now he was playing for bigger rewards so he had to be more active," he continues.

At the heart of it lies a unique formula for all three stakeholders - the customer, the consumer brand and the insurance holder.

First, the customer is happy knowing he/she will be rewarded post a 30-minute workout session, coupled with the ease of health and the availability of an incentive on her insurance premium because of staying healthy.

Consumer brands can capitalise on the captive health and wellness audience of the platform and, secondly, get a better conversion if customers like their products. GrowFitter has also partnered with OTT platforms during the pandemic owing to consumer demand.

Considering that GrowFitter has its outreach in 200+ cities and there are 10,000+ D2C brands on board the healthtech platform to promote their products and offer free sampling, it makes it a favourable option as compared to the more expensive avenues like Google Advert and Instagram.

And finally, for the insurance spectrum, GrowFitter offers a subscription-based model for the digital-first product. 

“Our bigger plan is insurance. During Covid, the younger population that was highly impacted by the disastrous health results of the pandemic soon understood that insurance is an important financial protection. So, we launched a monthly plan of just Rs 240 a month. It’s a win-win situation because they get to earn a lot of rewards, which is more than the insurance they pay and even if they fall ill, their hospitalisation expense is taken care of with Rs 240 in a month. We became a group insurance broker and partnered with Aditya Birla Health, and we have already sold 150 policies, so embedded financial services is the next big trend,” asserts Harshit.  

The road to rewards

GrowFitter is a digital platform that adds financial benefits to physical activity and offers a monthly subscription to cover the user’s healthcare expenses. 

For its rewards programme, it has partnered with the likes of Gillette, Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, Puma, Paytm, Myntra, Lakme, Hindustan Lever, Grofers, 1mg, Jio Saavn, Thyrocare, EaseMyTrip, Actofit, The Man Company.

The startup has so far raised a total funding of $2 million from angel investors, SQue Capital & Inflection Point Ventures (IPV).

The sweet fruit of partnership

As a startup, GrowFitter aims to up the health quotient of India by disrupting health, wellness, and fitness by leveraging technology, and offering customised plans for users. 

It has partnered with gyms and fitness centres to help people keep a track of their activities and earn incentives for them.

GrowFitter is present in 200+ cities and has more than 3,00,000 clients. It works with companies such as Mercer and Aditya Birla Health Insurance to enable its users to cover their healthcare needs.

The startup’s ARR is $1 million, and its valuation stands at $10 million. Growfitter’s revenue slab is between Rs 1 crore and Rs 10 crore, with commissions on transactions and subscriptions being the two main sources.

Weighing in the challenges

“To be honest, due to the pandemic, this entire space was completely battered. The entire fitness industry is going through a very fragile stage because during the last two years, a lot of health and fitness centres had to shut shop as it’s a capital-intensive industry. So, we really feel this is a big opportunity for us as there is not much competition now and currently it has a lot of potential where we can maximise and emerge to be the key player,” asserts Harshit. 

The growth versus profitability model

GrowFitter wants to reach 2 million active users and 200,000 paid subscribers by 2022.

It also wants to get a health insurance license and become the biggest health insurance provider that rewards users to stay healthy while also taking care of their hospitalisation expenses.

The big picture lies in the “growth versus profitability” mantra as the company is eyeing to capture 75 crore Indians in the age group of 18-60. “The best part is, we can grow and we can reach a 75 crore audience because walking, running, cycling is universal, you don’t really require something separate to do. So, anybody, any user can actually be on the GrowFitter platform so that’s the big picture,” says Harshit.  

Edited by Anju Narayanan

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