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Good companies can easily raise money in tough times: Curefit cofounder Mukesh Bansal

In an interview with ET, Mukesh Bansal - a serial entrepreneur and cofounder of health and wellness startup Cure.Fit - talks about some of the habits he has cultivated, Cure.Fit's revenue growth and profitability, Eat.Fit, his current venture and his outlook on the startup ecosystem.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Jan 13, 2020, 03.35 PM IST
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"Eat.Fit has grown a lot. Last year, it was 40% of our revenues. In the longer term, I feel EatFit will be a much bigger business," Bansal said.
The premise that you can become an exceptional performer through continuous practice, hunkering down for the long run and cultivating desired physical and mental habits is beguiling. Numerous experts have dwelt upon various aspects of this theme.

It is also a subject that has drawn the attention of Mukesh Bansal, a serial entrepreneur and cofounder of health and wellness startup Cure.Fit, inspiring him to write his first book, No Limits: The Art and Science of High Performance.

In an interview with Indulekha Aravind, Bansal talks about some of the habits he has cultivated, his current venture and his outlook on the startup ecosystem. Edited excerpts:

In your book, you write about the importance of cultivating the right habits. What are the three habits you practise every day and which of these was the most difficult to develop?

All of them are health-related. The first is sleeping 7-8 hours a day - I almost never miss that. Second, I work out at least five days a week.

I've been doing that for over 10 years. The third is meditation, which I picked up during my Cure.Fit days. It has had a huge impact on how I feel throughout the day and the overall quality of my thought process. I am a lot less stressed now, I sleep better. Of these, meditation was the hardest to cultivate. I wasn't used to sitting still and not doing anything.

Going from your health to that of your company, where does Cure.Fit stand in terms of revenue growth and profitability?
Last year, we grew almost 4x and this year we grew almost two times. We don't really have any direct competition so we don't have that much growth pressure. We are generally more focused on becoming profitable.

That will be our focus for the next one or two years. Our fitness business is quite close to becoming profitable, and we think we will get there this year. What about pressure from investors? Our investors are very happy because fundamentally, our business model is profitable, from a unit economics point of view.

So far, we have achieved the milestones in the four-year business plan we had shared with our investors.

What are your expansion plans looking like, in terms of new centres and new geographies?
Last year, we expanded our city footprint from five to 18. We also launched a centre in Dubai. A lot of the cities have only one centre. So this year, our focus will be to increase the number of centres in each city.

We have about 200 Cult centres, which we are looking to expand to 500 by the end of this year, mostly in the top 20 cities. Abroad, our focus is on Dubai. We have five centres there now and want to increase it to over 10.

Cult has been able to establish itself as India's biggest fitness chain in the space in four years. What did you do differently to get there?
I think primarily the awareness around health and fitness has been increasing. People have been looking for solutions.

No Limits front cover

We focused on making workouts really fun and interesting. If you go for a Cult class, you will see each workout is unique, the trainer guides you, you are working out with other people so there is a significant social element. There has been a lot of behind-the-scenes work to ensure the experience is consistent every single day. There has been a lot of focus on standardisation, automation, processes and training.

What role has tech played in all this?
Tech is a big reason why we have been able to do all this at scale, with quality. Today, almost all processes in Cult are automated.

Workouts are generated through algorithms in an automated fashion, we track a lot of data about quality metrics, customers book classes through the app, give feedback through it, and they can track their habits through it.

There seems to be more awareness around mental health and its importance. Is this reflected in Mind.Fit's business?
Yes, of course. We have about 30 centres now, and we offer meditation, yoga and one-on-one therapy. About 50 mental health therapists work with us. Stress, panic, anxiety issues are all on the rise and yoga and meditation are good preventive solutions.

We are also working on building a very strong sleep product that we will launch in six months. It is an appbased product that can assess the quality of your sleep. There will be device integration and it will create a customised programme to tell you how you can improve the quality of your sleep.

How has Eat.Fit, the food arm, grown?
Eat.Fit has grown a lot. Last year, it was 40% of our revenues. In the longer term, I feel EatFit will be a much bigger business.

You are someone who has been in the online space for a while and have seen many funding cycles - starting with the heady days of the dotcom boom in the US. Do you see investors turning more cautious in the days ahead?
Some years are easier and some are tougher when it comes to funding. But good companies don't struggle to raise money. In fact, they find it easier to raise money in tough times because investors look at quality metrics more. They look at your unit economics and whether customers really like your product.

From an ecosystem point of view, this year might be slower than last year. But if you have a good product that customers love, investors are always available. I have now been part of the Indian ecosystem for 13 years - 2008 was slow, 2013 was slow, 2016 was slow and maybe 2020 will be a slow year. But that is okay. It is something you expect.

What about the general slowdown of the economy? Do you expect that to have any impact on the ecosystem?
I think the Indian economy will bounce back in the next 2 or 3 quarters because the fundamentals continue to be sound.

For startups, it doesn't matter that much. You are not looking to acquire a million customers. You will be looking at 5,000. A lot of good companies get started during a slowdown. As long as you survive that time and use it to make your product better, it is fine.

We have seen a few business leaders speak out about the violence on university campuses. But there haven't been many voices from the startup ecosystem. Why is that so and what is your view?

Entrepreneurs are busy and focused on their own world. But I know a lot of entrepreneurs who express their opinion. By and large, most of them are in favour of freedom of speech, and support the fundamental rights in the Constitution. I don¡¦t think entrepreneurs are any more silent than people from other sectors.

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