Naresh Krishnaswamy, Business Head, spoke to BusinessLine on business after the third Covid wave and progress on the company’s recent acquisitions - the Gold’s Gym India franchise and sports startup Fitso. Excerpts:


How has the business recovery been following the third Covid wave? 

Over the last six months, people have a shown a greater tendency to step out of their homes and visit public spaces including gyms, theatres and sports arenas. There is a distinct difference following the third wave, which receded in January-February 2022.

In previous Covid waves, the fitness industry’s recovery in both footfalls and revenue was capped at 50-60 per cent, because a new Covid wave would hit every few months and the growth momentum would be upset. However, that is changing now. In our understanding, the overall fitness industry is almost back to pre-Covid levels. The recovery would be anywhere between 75 to 100 per cent, depending on the business. For example, in sports centres and swimming pools, demand is back at 200 per cent. Further, the recovery across different segments, between 75 to 90 per cent, is growing month-on-month. 

Q saw huge customer adoption on its digital workout session during the pandemic. What is the online to offline user split now?

The split between offline and online users would be roughly 1:2, for every one online user on our platform, there are two offline users. We have about 1 lakh subscribers on the digital platform, which continues to grow. In 2020, right after the pandemic, our online user base hit a certain level, which I think was artificial. It was mainly because everything had been shut down, so a lot of people tried digital fitness that year. Obviously, the online user base is not anywhere near those heights. However, we are seeing healthy trend, users are switching between online and offline. People are doing two or three sessions a week in the centre, and the odd day or two, when they are not able to come into the centre, theydo online workouts. We are still bullish on digital fitness and continue build more products there. 


In the past, has talked about adding more tech aspects to its offline centres. What are these new additions?

We have installed screens in 40-50 per cent of our centres and are in the process of installing at more centers. These screens project the workout and the movements that our member is going to perform, which allows the trainer to help individual users with posture correction, or help them scale up or down the movements. We are seeing a lot of success in this and are scaling it up as well.

Another feature that we rolled out over the last six to nine monthsis the smart workout planner. Users can input their parameters, the workouts they like and don’t like, and the planner creates a custom workout for them. The planner is also able to factor in the machines available at the centre while suggesting a workout. In addition to this, trainers help users with the proper use of machines. . Our real focus is on how we can make the user’s time in our centres more productive using technology.


How many trainers and centres are there? 

We have 1,000 trainers on our payroll. This does not include trainers who work with our partner gyms, which we don’t directly own, but are listed on our platform. We drive demand for these gyms, but we don’t employ their trainers. There would be a few thousand trainers at our partner gyms. 

We own 160 Cult centres and the rest of the gyms/centres are either added through a franchisee programme or in a pure marketplace model. We have about 40 franchise centres across 20 cities.

In the marketplace model, pre-existing gyms come onto our platform and are co-branded as Cult centres. They do not sell their own memberships or list on any other platform. Cult drives demand for them through membership. We have about 200 partners under this model. Overall, we are in about 32 cities. This is just Cult. We are also owners of the Gold’s Gym franchise rights in India, which is spread across 80 cities. 


What is the update on the partnership with Gold’s Gym?

Almost 25 Gold’s Gym partners have been made live on our platform and we are hoping to get another 50 to 75 partners live by the year-end. Sot of the entire Gold’s Gym network, about 100 will be available on the Cult platform by the year-end. 


Curefit acquired Fitso from Zomato late last year. How is that business doing?

The lion’s share of the supply, as well as consumer demand, has been in two sports, swimming and badminton. So, these two sports are the core focus for us, but we continue to offer other sports as well, including tennis, squash and football. We are currently present in three cities - Delhi, Bengaluru, and Hyderabad. There is plenty of room for growth in the existing cities. So we will expand in them for the next six months and thenmove into some of the other cities next year.