In a candid interaction, Sachin Kotangale from the Leadership Team of Cure.fit outlined the roadmap to dominate the fitness industry while speaking about the current trends, Cure.fit’s growth trajectory, innovative strategies for customer engagement and future outlook over the next 2-5 years
Please talk about the impact of Covid-19 and resulting lockdowns on your overall business and gyms.
With the lockdown and the general safety concerns surrounding working out at gyms suffered a lot as it is traditionally a contact-heavy industry. Our business, especially Cult.fit which constituted about 65 percent of our revenues, took a hit. Our revenue had gone down to zero as we had to shut our centers temporarily. To cope with this, we extended unlimited free pause to our members so that there is no disruption to their experience with Cult. At the same time, we offered free subscriptions to our Live classes, while onboarding celebrity trainers and fitness icons to conduct special sessions. We monetized this offering later which saw good uptake from existing and new members.
However, now with restrictions having eased, we have reopened our centers across major markets. With a strict safety protocol called Cult CARES in place, we have been able to slowly welcome back our members. With the social distancing regulations, centers are currently running at about 50 percent capacity.
During the lockdown period, most of the people were concerned about their immunity and health, which led them towards online fitness services. How did you leverage this space? The pandemic and the lockdown have helped us extend a digital-first approach to all our verticals and offer complete solutions in the health and wellness space. We have been able to pivot quickly and effectively, offering a wider range of products and services than ever before. Curefit.live which encompasses our digital offerings has picked up strongly since the pandemic hit India and helped us transform our business model as well.
Cult.live and mind.live: Our Cult.live classes, which are online live workout sessions encompassing all formats such as Yoga, Dance, S&C, HRX, and HIIT saw good uptake in not just the metros but also in Tier-2 and -3 markets where Cult centers were never present. We also onboarded fitness experts and celebrities to conduct special masterclasses and have simultaneously begun online personal and group training. These live classes have been gamified through features such as energy meters and live class rankings to make the experience of working out at home more interactive and interesting for the users. We have also amped up the amount of content available on our app by offering guided meditation sessions and built a library of fitness content that can be accessed by users at their convenience. We witnessed a 3x increase in the amount of time users spend on Cult.live. The app has about 5 lakh sessions happening every day and over 1.5 million new users with 50,000 paid subscribers.
Care.fit: With relaxation on government regulations around teleconsultation, we have been able to extend these services via our app for primary healthcare, nutrition consultation as well as therapy. The segment has witnessed a 10x growth since lockdown.
Cult.gear: We have also increased the range and availability of our fitness equipment and gear. Our Cult.gear segment also saw increased sales as people began to demand more equipment and gear for at-home workouts.
As the fitness centers opened after a long sabbatical, people are still concerned about safety and hygiene. For you, which is the bigger focus area – offline gyms or online services?
We understand that safety and hygiene will continue to be a major deterrent for most people even as we continue to ease back into daily activities. To ensure that we have done all that we can to allay these fears, we launched a safety protocol called Cult CARES that encapsulates our major changes across all centers.
Cult CARES stands for:
C - Controlled access
A - Allotted workstations with sanitized equipment
R - Replacing common touchpoints with touchless set-ups
E - Extensive sanitization
S - Social distancing at all times
By strictly adhering to these standards and maintaining a high quality of control across the board, we have begun to slowly instill faith in our facilities.
In terms of focus areas going forward, we anticipate a highly hybrid approach to fitness. While pre-pandemic about 95 percent of our business came from offline models, post-pandemic we are 60 percent digital and 40 percent offline. As centers keep reopening, we do expect the chunk of offline revenue to go up, but the digital part is here to stay. Hence, while we continue to focus on bringing Cult.fit back to pre-pandemic levels, we will be doing so across online and offline models.
What are the trends you see in the fitness industry post-Covid? What are your observations on the footfall and subscriptions in your gyms?
The fitness industry at large has undergone a huge change in the last year and is continuing to show new trends as we move ahead. Post-Covid, we find that digital is here to stay. The convenience of working out from home, saving time, money, and effort, has been a hit with many people. It has also helped businesses such as ours extend our reach beyond where we existed offline pre-pandemic and acquire new audiences in smaller markets. Hence, the ‘phygital’ model in fitness is one of the biggest trends we will continue to see.
We also anticipate fitness trends becoming more holistic in nature. Rather than focusing on one aspect of wellness, people want to improve their overall health and boost immunity to combat susceptibility to infections. This will open up the market for more than just physical fitness to continue incorporating aspects of nutrition and mental wellness.
In terms of return to our centers, we are seeing existing members return but also interest from new members who, because of the pandemic, have become more fitness conscious. With social distancing norms in place, our centers are currently running at about 50 percent capacity, and within this, we have 55-60 percent utilization. We continue growing every week as word-of-mouth spreads. If pre-pandemic, a center was acquiring about 500 new members every month, it is now acquiring 200 new members.
As most of the fitness enthusiasts may still be waiting for vaccine before visiting gyms, what is your strategy for business operations? What is your objective to introduce Cult Pass for your members?
While we have opened our centers for those that are keen on working out in person, to accommodate for those that would rather wait for a vaccine, we will continue to offer our Live classes. We have a great library of live and recorded content that can help our members continue working out from home as long as they need to.
Cult Pass has been devised as our solution to also meet the needs of those who like machine-oriented workouts. This is our first foray into gyms and equipment-based workouts. Our goal is to create an all-encompassing pass that will give members access to not only our Cult centers but also the best quality gyms in the city which we are onboarding following a careful selection process. This Pass will allow our users greater mobility, flexibility, and personalization in terms of their workouts.
What is your outlook for the fitness industry and top focus areas over the next 2-5 years?
By and large, we expect technology to play a greater role in the fitness industry over the next 2-5 years. Now that we know digital fitness is convenient, cost-effective, and effective on the body, we expect to see greater investment and uptake for this model with many players trying to develop suitable products. The fitness industry will also see consolidation.
Our focus areas going forward would be to get back to pre-Covid utilization numbers in Cult.fit centers and continue to expand Cult through franchise partners pan India. We want to further use our momentum with Cult Pass to dominate in gyms/machine-based workouts across the country. As we enter 2021, Cure.fit’s focus will be on reviving its business and winning in the offline fitness business and gym aggregation. We aim to onboard 300-400 gyms by the end of 2021 into our network. Lastly, in addition to the continued growth of our offline operations, we want to simultaneously grow and scale our online fitness offering.