From growing up in Haridwar to studying at IIT Kanpur, building a decade-long career in Silicon Valley, coming back to India to take the fashion and fitness industry by storm, to now joining the Tatas, it has been quite an exciting journey for CureFit founder Mukesh Bansal.
Bansal's entrepreneurial journey started in 2007
with Myntra, a company he founded along with Ashutosh Lawania and Vineet Saxena, his juniors from IIT Kanpur. After starting out as a personalised gifting startup, Myntra pivoted in 2011 to sell fashion and lifestyle products.
It went on to became one of the leading fashion sites in India and in the process acquired multiple subsidiaries like Fitiquette, a virtual fitting room for shoppers and Exclusively, a members-only shopping site for Indian-inspired fashion that helped in growing its business.
The Myntra Sale
In 2014, Bansal sold Myntra to Flipkart for $300 million, which was at the time, the largest e-commerce acquisition in India. He joined Flipkart as Head of Commerce and Advertising Business and continued to remain on the Myntra board as chairman. At the time of acquisition by Flipkart, Myntra had a total of 150,000 products of over 1,000 brands, catering to over 9,000 pin codes in India.
In an interview to CNBC-TV18's Young Turks, Bansal had said it was a great move, one he did not regret. "It's been one of the few examples of M&A which was quite successful. Myntra continues to operate as an independent autonomous company. Myntra has also grown more than three times in this period. So no, I don't regret it at all, I think it was a great move. And this has probably put Flipkart-Myntra in a strong position," he said.
Post the merger and restructuring of Flipkart, Bansal was ready for a new challenge. He said, "I had enjoyed my two years at Flipkart. I think it was great working with Sachin , Binny
Following Myntra's success, Mukesh Bansal decided to revolutionise the health and fitness market in India and also wrote his first book, 'No Limits, The Art and Science of High Performance'. He started his second business, a fitness startup, CureFit with Ankit Nagori, the former chief business officer of Flipkart. The founders pooled in $5 million to launch the startup.
Cure.fit offers fitness and yoga, healthy meals, mental wellbeing, primary care and runs Cult fitness centres, health food platform Eat.fit and mental health platform Mind.fit.
The venture had raised $15 million in a Series A funding in 2016
led by Kalaari Capital, Accel Partners and IDG Ventures. One of the largest early rounds of funding for an Indian startup at the time.
New challenges posed by COVID-19
Soon after COVID-19 struck. Its flagship offering Cult.fit, like most offline businesses, saw a huge hit due to the pandemic. The company had to lay off employees and shut several gyms and fitness centers. Its Eat.fit business also took a severe hit.
Bansal, not one to shy from adversity, decided to pivot the business to an online model. The model was an instant success with tech savvy fitness enthusiasts, helping the company build itself back and become one of the biggest and healthiest players in the Indian fitness arena.
In an interview to CNBC-TV18 post the pivot, the CureFit founder said, "We have worked very hard on our digital offering & that has seen massive scale. We are making the most of new opportunities & being prepared to ride out the storm."
M&A at Cure.fit
Cure.fit rode out the storm in style. In February Cure.fit acquired fitness aggregator Fitternty, taking their collective user base to 3 million. Fitternty was CureFit's eighth acquisition since 2016. The others being The Tribe Fitness Club, Kristys Kitchen, a1000yoga, Fitness First India, Seraniti, Rejoov and Onyx.
The Tata Deal: A Big Deal for Mukesh Bansal
After a series of acquisitions, came the big validation for Mukesh Bansal and the category leadership Cure.fit owns.
On Monday, Tata Digital announced to invest $75 million in Cure.fit and that Mukesh Bansal will join Tata Digital as President. This marks Tata’s third big deal in the startup space.
Tata Digital has gone on a shopping spree - First, it was the e-grocer BigBasket, for which Tata Digital paid Rs 9500 crores for a 64% stake. Then it bought e-pharmacy chain 1MG at a Rs 1200 crore valuation. While Amazon and RIL are in both these spaces, with CureFit’s acquisition, Tatas have a differentiator.
With the fitness and wellness market growing at 20% per annum and expected to reach $12 billion by 2025, CureFit is aiming to be the market leader in this space with its hybrid model which includes the offline Cult centres.
Life has definitely come a full circle for Mukesh Bansal - From selling his ecommerce platform Myntra to Flipkart to now building a consumer platform that could take on the likes of Amazon and Flipkart.