Trying and failing to stick to a gym routine is a punchline that hits close to home in India. The country’s young, appearance-conscious consumers are fuelling a boom in the overall fitness industry, and driving up the number of gym memberships. Yet, it’s still only a dedicated few who can get their money’s worth out of a year-long subscription. For many users, a few sessions of uninspiring walks on the treadmill are enough to put them off for good. But everyone in Bengaluru seems to know someone who’s a regular at Cure fit.

Cure.fit started in 2015 as a single center in Sarjapura and now has a chain of 12 branches with a loyal following. It was founded by fitness enthusiast and former professional basketball player Rishabh Telang. It offers energetic 50-minute sessions of strength & conditioning exercises, mixed martial arts, yoga, Zumba, or Boxing. The secret to its success is the hyper-local strategy, focused on a handful of neighborhoods, and a tech-savvy approach that makes the company quintessentially Bengalurean.

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Like thousands of others, Telang moved to India’s Silicon Valley seven years ago to work for an IT giant. As part of his job at Wipro, the 32-year-old from Agra, Uttar Pradesh, got to travel around the world. His love for sports and fitness led him to mixed martial arts and Cross-Fit centers in countries such as Finland and the Netherlands, where he trained with some of the world’s best coaches. Those experiences planted the germ of an idea in his head; to bring that kind of fitness culture and expertise to India and to become a coach himself.

So, in 2015, he established Cult, offering group classes in kickboxing and martial arts, among others. A year later, the company was acquired for $3 Million by healthcare startup CureFit, founded by former Flipkart executives Mukesh Bansal and Ankit Nagori, and that marked the beginning of rapid expansion. Following a strategy perfected by Starbucks in the US, the company established centers located close to each other in neighborhoods such as HSR Layout and Koramangala, crowding out the competition.

By the end of 2017, Cult had 25-30 centers across the city, notably in areas such as BTM Layout and Whitefield—home and work, respectively, for thousands of techies—as well as launching in Gurugram, the tech hub close to New Delhi.

Meanwhile, its parent company kept acquiring firms such as Tribe Fitness Club and a1000yoga, rebranding their centers under Cult and Mind.fit, yoga, and meditation vertical. These days, you’ll spot giant hoardings for Curefit’s health-focused meal-delivery service across Bengaluru. At the movies, a marketing campaign shows off Cult’s packed, high-energy sessions, led by specialized trainers, each one named at the end of each clip. Curefit also announced a five-year endorsement deal with Bollywood star Hrithik Roshan in 2017 for Rs100 crores ($15.7 Million), reportedly the largest ever such agreement signed by an Indian startup. Also in 2019, they ventured into the international market by establishing a branch in Dubai. 

FUNDING

The Company acquired cult in August 2016 for $3 Million. Curefit has raised a total of $120 Million Series D round in equity and debt funding in 2019. The round was led by Chiratae Ventures, Accel Partners, Kalaari Capital, and Oaktree Capital; all existing investors in the company. This investment brought the value of the brand to $500 Million. Curefit was also reported to be in talks with Softbank for a

$200-$350 Million investment deal. However, the Japanese investment firm did not participate in the round. New investors, including Unilever Ventures, Epiq Capital, Innoven Capital, and Kotak Mahindra Bank also participated in the round. Curefit will use these fresh funds to boost its expansion plans in India and abroad.

Till now, Curefit has raised about $365 Million over multiple funding rounds. In May 2019, the company had last raised $75 Million from Piramal Group’s Anand Piramal, Accel Growth, Kalaari Capital, IDG Ventures India. Lead investor Accel Growth invested approximately $30 Million. In December 2019, the company was in talks with Singapore-based investment firm Temasek to raise $100 Million, seeking a hike from its current valuation of $575 Million to $800 Million post-funding. Temasek’s Indian portfolio, which was worth $11 Billion as of March 2019, includes cab-hailing service Ola, IT services company UST Global, payments platform Pine Labs.

“Fitness should be accessible, that is what we aim to do.”

– Rishabh Telang