The healthy food at Curefit

Since its inception in 2016, Curefit’s gym chain has primarily been the anchor of its business. Today, it has some 250 gyms spread across the country, drawing 100,000 users each day. Over 90% of its app users were on account of Cult.fit. Increasingly, however, its food business is starting to rival gyms in terms of importance. The kiosk at Lajpat Nagar stands testament to this. After each session—the centre runs two to three different classes every hour between 6AM and 10PM—tired athletes mill around the kiosk, hydrating or snacking.

That’s just within Curefit’s gyms.

The company also runs a network of cloud kitchens coupled with food delivery operations across the country. At present, its Eat.fit vertical operates 80 such cloud kitchens across 15 cities, all pumping out a range of healthy, yet homely food. Think vegetarian thalis (Eat.fit’s best-seller), tofu wraps, chicken curry and rotis—except without unhealthy ingredients like butter or refined flour. Every meal is also tagged with a calorie count, underscoring Eat.fit’s health-first ethos. Then there’s the smattering of quick-service restaurants (QSRs)—all in Curefit’s hometown of Bengaluru—that allows for a dine-in experience.

Through this multi-pronged approach, Eat.fit has grown by leaps and bounds over the past year. Despite Cult accounting for 90% of its app users, it only contributed to 60% of Curefit’s revenue in 2019. Eat.fit, on the other hand, saw its revenue contribution double—from 15% to 30%. And it isn’t plateauing anytime soon. This year, Curefit intends to double its order volumes. Several Curefit senior executives told The Ken that Eat.fit is growing faster than all the company’s other verticals, and will soon surpass gyms as the largest contributor to its revenue.

This success has allegedly helped Curefit close a fresh funding round from Singapore’s state investment fund Temasek in February, according to a highly placed source with knowledge of the deal. While it hasn’t been publicly announced, it reportedly gives Curefit an $800 million post-money valuation. Mukesh Bansal, Curefit’s co-founder, neither confirmed nor denied the deal.

Snakes and ladders

Curefit is now looking to scale its food business even further. Its allure, said a senior executive with Eat.fit, is that the markup on cooked food can be over 100-150%, with cloud kitchens easier to scale and make profitable as compared to gyms. Eat.fit also plans to expand its own healthy packaged food brand collection—the sort of items sold at the kiosk. Currently, it retails just a handful of packaged food brands but these account for around a third of Eat.fit’s revenue.

“Curefit realises that its ecosystem is its biggest strength—they want to leverage their captive customers on their app directly and phase out the middlemen as much as possible,” an Eat.fit executive said.

However, expanding its food operations will not be a walk in the park. Hyperlocal food delivery is a cash-intensive business, riddled with high marketing costs, discounts, etc. Building or acquiring healthy, packaged food brands is also time-consuming. And unlike gym chains, where Cult enjoyed a first-mover advantage, Eat.fit will have to make its way in the free-for-all that is India’s food delivery space, taking on food techs like Zomato, Swiggy, and the millions of restaurants that dot India’s landscape.

Naresh Krishnaswamy, the man responsible for growth at Curefit, is clear about Eat.fit’s potential. Five years down the line, he says, Eat.fit would undoubtedly be the biggest business for Curefit since there is a large demand for standardised healthy food. Second, he says, would probably be gyms. And orbiting these two wellness suns will be an entire universe of healthcare offerings—from therapy, to doctor consultations, health insurance, and even drug delivery.

The ambition, Krishnaswamy underlines, is to be a horizontal health player, akin to what Amazon is to commerce. Founder Mukesh Bansal stresses that it will remain a platform for all health needs. The truth on the ground, however, is that not all of Curefit’s pillars are as strong as Eat.fit and Cult.

According to one of Care.fit’s former senior executives, the plan was to expand to 100 centres by tying up with doctors. Already, third-party general physicians and some specialist doctors have been onboarded. However, the executive said, Care.fit has not found product-market fit. At present, it has just eight centres some four years after its launch.