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Indian health platform wants to nourish mind, body and soul

CNN logo CNN 9/29/2020 By Nell Lewis, CNN Business
a person sitting on a table: Cure.fit appeals to young adults who are embracing a wholesome and healthy lifestyle. © cure.fit Cure.fit appeals to young adults who are embracing a wholesome and healthy lifestyle.

The Indian start-up Cure.fit began in 2016 as a fitness app like many others, offering gym memberships and exercise classes to young adults in Bangalore.

But it has since transformed into one of India's top health platforms, with meal and grocery deliveries, online workouts, mindfulness classes, appointments at its health centers and even an online store for fitness gear.

The spread of coronavirus spurred the business to further reinvent itself, from one primarily reliant on physical gyms to an international online fitness platform.

This summer Cure.fit announced its digital expansion into the US, where it has begun offering online fitness and therapy sessions.

a group of people jumping in the air: Cure.fit offers mindfulness, meditation, meal plans and medical appointments. © cure.fit Cure.fit offers mindfulness, meditation, meal plans and medical appointments.

"Lockdown has expedited these efforts," Shamik Sharma, Cure.fit's head of international business, tells CNN Business. "When we saw the demand for our app in the United States, we launched rapidly," he adds.

Quick reaction to Covid-19

Like businesses all over the world, Cure.fit was forced to re-strategize in response to the pandemic.

It shut the doors to all of its 250 plus fitness and health centers in March, when India locked down parts of the country. So far, it has reopened 30 centers, in compliance with government regulations, with more scheduled to open in the coming months. But some centers are expected to close permanently, says the company.

It has had to cut jobs and furlough workers — Cure.fit declined to comment on the number of staff affected, but Reuters and TechCrunch have reported that at least 800 employees have been laid off in the past few months. In the same May report, Reuters pegged Cure.fit's staff count at 5,000 across India, citing an anonymous source.

a display in a room: Before lockdown Cure.fit operated eight health clinics in Bangalore, offering check-ups, diagnosis and prescription services. These will reopen once government regulation allows. © cure.fit Before lockdown Cure.fit operated eight health clinics in Bangalore, offering check-ups, diagnosis and prescription services. These will reopen once government regulation allows.

The company, which has raised more than $400 million in funding, was at risk of coming to a complete standstill — before March, at least 60% of Cure.fit's revenues were generated by its physical fitness studios, according to the company.

Instead, lockdown has accelerated the company's pivot to online.

"When our gyms closed, we immediately knew that our customers would miss in-person classes so we created live classes through our app," says Sharma.

The Cure.fit app hosts more than 200,000 sessions daily in India, with instructor-led online classes ranging from strength to pilates, cardio and yoga.

During the pandemic, this platform has thrived. Since the start of India's lockdown, the company says it has signed up 1.5 million users in the country and amassed 100,000 paid subscribers since launching a paywall in May.

In the US, the company has reported 75,000 downloads since testing for the app began in May. Cure.fit currently offers its live sessions there for free, but plans to introduce a subscription model by the end of the year.

India's healthcare apps

While the virus has prompted more interest in healthcare apps, India already had a well-developed market. Pre-pandemic, the market for such apps was projected to grow in value from 27 billion rupees ($360 million) in 2018 to 138 billion rupees ($1.8 billion) by 2024, according to a report from Netscribes, an India-based technology and market research firm.

This is primarily credited to technological advances, including falling device and mobile data costs, says Lalatendu Sahoo, a senior consultant at Netscribes.

"People are also becoming more and more health conscious," says Sahoo, particularly younger generations living in big cities. "They are more familiar with the internet, they're more comfortable with mobile devices ... and they are really trying to add the wellness factor into their day-to-day life," he adds.

Cure.fit wanted to attract this millennial market by selling a whole lifestyle through its range of food, therapy and fitness services.

"The idea was to build a one-stop solution for anything health and wellness," Ankit Nagori, who co-founded Cure.fit with Mukesh Bansal, tells CNN Business.

"We want to build a community of fitness enthusiasts who would like to lead a healthy lifestyle and promote healthy living," he adds.

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