The Indian originated fitness and health app, “HealthifyMe” which has a 4.5 rating on Google Play and iTunes redefines fitness lifestyle through digital communication. Tushar Vashisht, Co-founder and CEO, HealthifyMe talks about the journey and business model for the application and the future plans in an interview with BW Businessworld. He also said, “We are India’s biggest health and fitness application.”
How did the journey of HealthifyMe begin?
HealthifyMe was started with a vision to make a genuine and large impact on India’s health fabric. I wanted to touch something in the consumer and health segment. Health in India is a massive problem today and needs to be strengthened & provided a solution for. According to NFHS (National Family Health Survey), the obesity in the country has increased from 10 per cent to 20 per cent from 2005 to 2015 and urban obesity increased to 29 per cent. Our food habits are worst in the world which includes more carbohydrates and fat and are preventing fibre and proteins. In order to reduce weight and become fit, I realised that there was a lack in applications that displayed calorie counting. HealthifyMe started of as a calorie tracking application where we started tracking Indian foods, workout, water and the entire gambit. We have become a shining example of a movement called “Quantified Health” in India and that led to adding social layers to it. We added WhatsApp like communities and content feed to make it more engaging. This eventually led to the path to monetization where we discovered ways in making the application more efficient and more profitable. We started offering nutritionist and fitness trainer services on the application digitally. We render these services digitally and it has turned out to be convenient for users to keep a track on their fitness regimes.
How did HealthifyMe gain popularity amongst tier 1, tier 2 and tier 3 cities across India?
The application that started off as a calorie tracker eventually expanded its footprint over India and tier 2, tier 3 and tier 4 cities also started using the application. Since obesity is an urban problem lacks solution, the application has been helpful in providing nutritionists and fitness trainers easily available in these towns and cities as well and that is the reason we gained 2 Million downloads that easily. By the end of this year, we aim at getting 5 million downloads which eventually makes it the largest and most rated health and fitness application in the country. According to the App Annie rating, HealthifyMe grew to a 4.5-star rating becoming India’s highest rated Health-tech. The application is also ahead of all e-commerce and payments applications in India.
Why is there a need for health and fitness applications in the country?
In the country today, 450 Million people in urban India out of which there are 250 Million people who are hypertensive. Out of 250 Million people, there are 150 Million adult Indians who are obese. The overall survey makes us the most hypertensive, diabetic and off clinically the most obese people in the world. On the other hand, everybody has a smartphone and e wallets where they transact digitally. This further develops profit for the application and also results in more efficient services we can provide to the app users. All the applications that have received a high rating in the consumer space haven’t come out of emerging markets. Hence if HeathifyMe can make a huge impact in the digital space and if we can target 5 Million users from India itself, then we can plan to take it global after we achieve our target over here. Within next year if anyone thinks of getting healthier and fitter, they will think of HealthifyMe as that brand.
What does the Indian health and fitness community lack?
In the B2C space, there is a vacuum of good quality nutritionists and trainers along with food that contains more of proteins and fibres. Good quality health and fitness trainers as well lack opportunities and there is a struggle for finding something healthy and tasty at the same time. There are many who are trying to contribute to healthy foods and beverages but no one has actually cracked it. There is also a problem to get access to good quality content, good quality advises and a problem in connecting people with interests of different health and fitness activities.
What are the marketing strategies applied by the application in order to gain the success of 4.5 rating on Google Play and iTunes?
1/3rd of our consumers have come from word of mouth and that drives a lot of word of mouth propagation. In the health and fitness space, anybody who loses weight, gains muscles or runs a marathon wants to show it off. People always look forward to talking about the changes their bodies go through following certain types of workouts. I f the health and fitness application is that good enough, it lends itself towards organic propagation and that’s been driving a lot of our behaviour. We have also been marketing very strategically and very smartly and we haven’t put out any billboards, but we have been under the radar, focusing on the right segments, we have been tapping Facebook and Google, we have been done referral programs to drive and get to our audience base efficiently. It is the people who will be talking more about HealthifyMe more than the billboards. Corporate programs and healthcare providers have been a very big support in running our advertising campaigns. We work with many companies who distribute our platform to their employees were distributing an application is better than distributing variables. With our application being an asset light companies send out one communication along with leadership buy ins and we instantly get a lot of users on the application. Partnering up with some of the top health care names like Medanta – The Medicity, Apollo ACODE and Manipal Hospitals has proven to be very effective because doctors recommend patients to use our app when it comes to dealing with problems like obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular problems and other lifestyle diseases.
Will HealthifyMe provide services virtually only, do you plan to open physical training centres and gyms?
The entire application runs virtually with nutritionists, fitness trainers guiding the users using the cloud. We have trainers who engage with their clients all across India and hence the virtual services we provide over the cloud have been effective at scale. That is the model I seem to be running with and not having physical centres to operate our services but there are good models for using offline centres for the acquisition of customers. Many companies have used it very effectively and have gained a lot of customers, although we will provide stores to sell our products we won’t open centres that deliver fitness services. Since 80% of the workout regime is based entirely on diet and 20% is based on workouts, we nudge people to work out in parks and areas where we can have more people join them and that’s why we encourage users to not spend on things which they don’t need to spend on.
Where do you see HealthifyMe in the next 5 years?
For India and the emerging market region, we will be the health and fitness brand that anyone needs to go for. If anyone thinks of flight booking then you think of Make my trip, anyone thinks of searching information they think of Google and if anyone thinks of getting healthier and fitter they will think of Healthify Me. The brand will be engaging in creating tech solutions and we are the only app in India which has its means to its end where we don’t try and sell anything to the customer and it is a base which will help people to interact and engage with different communities. The nutritionists and trainers who are tech augmented will continue to increase and more and more clients would be addressed by lesser nutritionists and trainers which will bring down the costs. Innovation in tech products and artificial intelligence is what we seek to improve and we will provide all products that a consumer requires in this field.
How much was the investment required to start and maintain HealthifyMe?
We raised 7 Million dollars when we started the application, after creating more scope and bringing in new innovations in the app we have hired 40 engineers from many companies that wanted to come and work with us. $6 million Series A round led by IDG Ventures India, Inventus Capital, and Blume Ventures. This latest $1 million round is an extension of the Series A round and the head office is based in Bengaluru, India.