Global investors back wellness startups in India

Indians are increasingly becoming conscious about wellness and health related issues and the sector offers plenty of business opportunities to discerning entrepreneurs

May 20, 2019

Wellness industry in India is growing and has emerged from being a niche lifestyle concept into a mainstream sector with high prospects

Wellness industry is growing at CAGR of 12 per cent and is expected to reach US $ 21.5 bn by 2020

Curefit has flagged off an incubator program for healthy food and snacks start-ups by investing around US$5 million, across 8-10 start-ups in the next two years

Today, India is home to 90 million health conscious individuals (HCIs) set to increase to 130 million by 2022, according to studies

In a first in India’s evolving and dynamic start-up space, global entertainment superstar Jennifer Lopez and her fiancée, baseball legend Alex Rodriguez led a US$6 million seed funding round in a Mumbai based yoga and wellness start-up, Sarva. Lopez, who is encouraged by India’s consumption story and authenticity in the yoga space, made this investment in May this year. It took Sarva’s founder, Sarvesh Shashi a few trips to Los Angeles to convince the celebrity duo to invest in his three year old start-up.

Other backers in this Indian wellness start-up include a host of US corporate executives such as Bill Roedy, former chairman and chief executive of MTV Networks International. In a written statement, Lopez said that besides personally benefitting from her regular practice of yoga physically and mindfully, she sees Sarva as a “brilliant investment opportunity” to co-create and serve a global community.

Sarva, which has at present about 91 brick-and-mortar gym and yoga studios, spread across Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru, will use the funds to expand and move into the digital space. A Mindfulness App, including an AI driven interactive training platform will be unveiled later in the year. This high-profile investment drew attention to a thriving sector in India – the Wellness industry – and to the fact that of late, they are drawing global and local investors into their fold.

In May itself, another health and fitness start-up, Curefit too clocked in US$ 75 million in a funding round led by an existing investor Accel Growth, which has a track record of finding and backing high-growth ventures. This was less than a year after Curefit had raised US$ 120 million. Curefit owns gyms and yoga centres, sells healthy food options through EatFit and offers mental wellness programs through a subsidiary, MindFit. Aiming to be a fitness hub for customers, they have evolved by acquiring a slew of smaller outfits offering yoga and healthy food delivery options.

Many such wellness enterprises are witnessing traction driven by a growing conscious desire by Indians to get fit and be healthy. Take Healthify Me, a weight loss and fitness app, which in November last year raised US$ 6 million in a series B extension round from a Temasek backed venture capital firm, InnoVen Capital and existing investors. This platform, which claims to have one million customers, offers services to connect users to a plethora of nutritionists and fitness trainers for a subscription fee of Rs 999. It has now built up enough digitally delivered fitness and weight loss program expertise to expand its services to Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.

The Wellness Industry in India

The Wellness industry in India is growing and has emerged from being a niche lifestyle concept into a mainstream sector with high prospects. The Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry website quoting Ernst & Young and FICCI studies estimate that the Wellness industry in India is growing at CAGR of 12 per cent to reach US $ 21.5 bn by 2020. Other studies such as the one by Red Seer Consulting, project an even higher 18 per cent growth rate to US$ 100 bn by 2022, outpacing the consumer retail spend. The Red Seer Consulting attribute the growth to mega-sectors such as recreational sports, wellness therapies and new-age sectors such as fitness wearable devices and healthy meal delivery.  

Much of this activity in this sector is due to rise in disposable incomes, the spike in lifestyle diseases with India leading in cardiac and diabetes, and the increasing consciousness towards health issues by the urban affluent class.

There has been a paradigm shift in the way Indians view their health as young and old are focussed on eating right, being physically and mentally fit.

This trend is very much in step with the global wellness industry, which has been pegged by the Global Wellness Industry report 2018 at over US$ 3.72 trillion.

Indeed, the sector is offering plenty of opportunities for innovators to come up with new and disruptive models. Even well-known international health and fitness guru Deepak Chopra has opened a healing centre in Puducherry a couple of years ago.

Vast, Diverse and Full of Potential

The Wellness industry in India is a vast one covering the entire ambit of specialised treatment centres like Jindal Nature Cure, spas, and rejuvenation treatments with yoga and Ayurveda drug manufacturing (nutraceuticals, food supplements, cosmetics and rejuvenates) to fitness oriented gyms, health oriented apps and wearable devices to health food delivery and meditation centres. At present, the government is making efforts to streamline the industry by offering accreditation to yoga practitioners and bolstering start-ups with a slew of benefits. And, start-ups with their digital and innovative solutions are also creating a level playing field. Their solutions are customer-centric and heavily personalised using the latest technology to give physical and emotional well-being to people.

From offering online products like eco-friendly cork yoga mats and cold pressed organic drink to aggregating yoga and gym centres, start-ups are not leaving any stone unturned to ensure good health. And, are willing to share their expertise as well. Bengaluru-headquartered Curefit has flagged off an incubator program for “healthy food and snacks” start-ups by investing around US$5 million, across 8-10 start-ups in the next two years.

Today, India is home to 90 million health conscious individuals (HCIs) set to increase to 130 million by 2022, according to studies. However, a large segment of HCIs though aware of fitness needs are not making enough efforts to address them. These new start-ups are therefore targeting this lot by making it increasingly easier to adopt fitness and health practices with the help of technology and home service facilities.