Vertically Integrated: cure.fit Aspires To Build The Apple Of Fitness
With nearly $300M in funding and the ambitious goal of building an all-in-one health and fitness ecosystem, India’s cure.fit is one of the most innovative companies you’ve never heard of.
Founded in 2016 by Ankit Nagori and Mukesh Bansal, two former Flipkart executives, cure.fit launched with $15M in funding (in July 2018, the company closed its $120M Series C). From the start, the company sold investors on a five-year, three-phase plan to vertically integrate every aspect of preventative healthcare. From gyms to healthy food and meditation to primary care clinics, all packaged into one “super app”, cure.fit aspired to build the health equivalent of Apple.
As anyone who buys an iPhone or Mac knows, from the App Store to iCloud, life essentially runs on iOS. Similarly, cure.fit’s founders see themselves as following in Steve Jobs’ footsteps. “We think of ourselves as, DNA-wise, like Apple. Very, very vertically integrated, that’s our core DNA,” Bansal told The Ken (paywall).
Of course, the startup graveyard is littered with companies claiming to be the next Apple or Amazon of ‘X’. And cure.fit’s critics are quick to point out that the company is actually building four or five separate businesses, where in the current landscape, executing on any one concept would is a longshot. But Bansal, quoting Jeff Bezos, says: “It’s your big vision, you need to be willing to be misunderstood for a long period of time.” “We are comfortable being misunderstood,” Bansal added.
Now, almost three years later, the company has made serious strides. In all, there are some 130 Cult gyms, 11 mind.fit meditation centers, one care.fit clinic (complete with doctors, diagnostics, and a pharmacy), and the eat.fit food business that is processing 30,000 orders/day. Plus, thousands more members are accessing the company’s online yoga, fitness, mediation, and healthcare services.*
After initially acquiring Tribe Fitness and Cult, two Bangalore-based fitness studios, as well as the Fitness First gym chain and a1000yoga studios, the cult.fit business has turned its attention to hyper-saturation strategy. The goal? According to Nagori, most customers should be able to walk to their gym. At the furthest, there should be a gym within 20 minutes in either direction.
While most gyms depend on breakage—customers buying a membership that they infrequently or never use—cure.fit uses its gyms as top-of-funnel customer acquisition. In that way, the company hopes its 60,000 gym members (as of August 2018) also become part of the broader cure.fit ecosystem — which is where the cure.fit app comes in. By combining goal setting and management, health education and intervention, and streaming workouts with the ability to order food and book fitness classes, the all-encompassing platform is certainly taking shape.
For now, cure.fit is focused on building synergy among its various businesses while expanding across its four verticals. Looking ahead to 2020, the company plans to have 400 gyms and 1M members, 100 eat.fit kitchens, 100 mind.fit centers, 100,000 online users streaming content, and 50 care.fit centers serving 1M people.
Though, it appears they haven’t wrapped their acquisition spree either. In fact, a new report suggests that cure.fit is close to picking up another $75M in funding to expand their empire. Just last week, the company acquired cold-pressed juice brand Rejoov and plans to fold it into the eat.fit platform. The company also announced an incubator program for consumer product startups creating “healthy food and snacks.” cure.fit will invest $5M across 8–10 startups, co-creating products for the eat.fit vertical.
While it’s too soon to tell if cure.fit can succeed in building a sustainable, interconnected ecosystem, such an ambitious undertaking certainly gets the gears turning. Could a vertically integrated concept take hold in the US — or anywhere else, for that matter? What about a PE-backed roll-up in the health and fitness space?
The Related Companies, owners of Equinox, SoulCycle, Blink Fitness, and Equinox Hotels, as well as investors in Rumble (and a number of other companies), have interests in the fitness space. But Related is a real estate company at its core. Among other examples, Xponential Fitness and their portfolio of eight boutique studios, certainly come to mind. Still, fitness is the sole focus. Then there’s L Catterton. As Brett Bivens of TechNexus points out in The At-Home Fitness Roll-Up, L Catterton led Peloton’s Series D, Tonal’s Series C, Hydrow’s Series B, and they participated in ClassPass’s Series D. Are they, or another PE firms, positioning to form an at-home fitness holding company?
Given the interest in and growing opportunity around fitness and wellness, the possibility of a cure.fit-like super-company in the US seems as likely as it is difficult. But if an industry consolidation plays out, expect to see health and fitness rolled up, bundled, and repackaged for the wellness consumer.
*Note: Location and member numbers are based on best-available information. Cure.fit did not respond to a request for up-to-date numbers.