By Srinath Srinivasan
Digital has opened up varied business models for companies in the health and fitness industry. From tele/e-consulting, e-pharma and e-diagnostics, to preventive healthcare products and services in the form of fitness, diet and mental/ psychological wellness coaching — digital is allowing businesses to go the whole hog. But how sustainable are such business models?
One of the big players in the curative healthcare space is Practo, which claims to offer medical consulting, pharmacy and diagnostics to over two crore patients across major cities in India every month. “Our ultimate aim is to make healthcare as simple as possible. Our products and services revolve around that to offer services at the location of the patient, instead of making the patient go in search of a doctor,” says Varun Dubey, head of marketing, Practo. The company has over one lakh verified listed doctors. The platform connects the doctors with patients directly, and charges a fee from the doctors for visibility. The business model is similar for pharmacy and diagnostic services, except that in certain cases, the patient pays for the pick-up and drop of the medicines and diagnostic samples.
When it comes to preventive healthcare, the focus is on fitness. Cure.fit, which operates across verticals, has a rather unique business model. The Cure.fit app, its flagship product, serves as a one-stop digital platform for four verticals — fitness via Cult.fit, food and diet via Eat.fit, mental wellness via Mind.fit and medical consulting and diagnosis via Care.fit. The approach followed is hyperlocal and omnichannel, enabling users to subscribe to the services on the Cure.fit app and avail them at the respective Cure.fit centres or at their homes.
Furthermore, the quick service restaurants (QSRs) operated by the company under Eat.fit can also be accessed via the app and through other food delivery services. With Care.fit, users have access to health centres — where general physicians specialising in family and internal medicine, paediatrics, gynaecology, orthopaedics and nutrition can be consulted — along with diagnostics and digital health record facilities.
According to a report from RedSeer Consulting, the tele-consulting market in India is estimated to be worth $17 million, expected to grow at a CAGR of 40% till 2020. The e-pharma market is worth over $250 million, growing at a CAGR of 40% till 2020, while the e-diagnostics market is estimated to be approximately worth $7.06 billion (in 2018), growing at a CAGR of around 20%. While the industry is at a nascent stage at the moment in India, several new domestic businesses, such as Docsapp, FitGo, Growfit, Innovacare, Occulus Health and Vibrent, are cropping up.
Cure.fit has been bullish in terms of digital marketing. “Our marketing campaigns and business revolve around our app. Whatever we do ties back to redirecting potential users to the app,” says Ankit Nagori, co-founder, Cure.fit, adding that the app has seen two million downloads so far.
Apart from leveraging social media, the company has a leaderboard on the app and group workouts at its fitness centres. Besides, it has Bollywood actors Hrithik Roshan and Tiger Shroff acting as brand evangelists and co-creating fitness routines for users, who are mostly in the 25-40 age group and digitally savvy.
Practo, too, takes a similar approach. “We would say we are ‘responsible’ in our digital marketing spends,” states Dubey. Digital, he says, is the best way to scale up its services and offerings.
Mrigank Gutgia, consultant at RedSeer, says that the return on investment from digital spends remains to be seen in India. “Our market is just coming up at the moment. Consumer behaviour is rapidly changing, due to well-established digital brands that they are used to, such as Amazon, Ola and Uber,” he points out. “The health and fitness industry will also benefit from it soon.”
With cheaper data plans and deeper mobile penetration expected in the coming years, digital players in this space have a lot to look forward to, according to Samit Sinha, managing partner, Alchemist Brand Consulting. “With growth in wearable tech, IoT and AI, the balance of power could shift from the established medical service providers, such as doctors and hospitals, to the consumers of these services, thus placing the management of health firmly in the hands of the consumers themselves,” Sinha says.