‘Productizing’ Nutrition

GrowthStory-based Grow Fit, offers a nutrition-based diet plan to its 1 lakh users. It plans to monetize these users by selling health mixes, snacks and drinks, that are packed with the right nutrition.

Jyotsna Pattabiraman, Founder, Grow Fit

For Jyotsna Pattabiraman, her familiarity with consumer technology and her own health experience led her to set up Grow Fit, a startup that operates in the area of preventive health and wellness.

 

When Pattabiraman returned to India after a stint abroad, she was diagnosed with diabetes and had to be restrictive in her diet.  This lay the foundation for her to consider entrepreneurship and her meeting with serial entrepreneur and investor Krishnan Ganesh pushed her in the direction of adopting a mobile-first approach for her business idea. Founded in November 2015, the company’s first app ‘Grow Fit’ offers a customized nutrition plan and diet chart through its app. The diet charts are put together using a combination of data, machine learning and AI-based algorithms, in the process delivering a customized plan, as per individual needs.

In the early days of conceptualizing the business, it was the huge market size that attracted Pattabiraman’s attention. Research suggested that there are over 300 million Indians at risk of lifestyle diseases, and a nutrition-based approach was critical.  “I realised that not just me and my friends but many other young adults in India were at risk due to their lifestyle,” says the founder. Since January 2016, the company has started seeing good traction and has recorded over 1,10,000 app downloads so far.


We aim to differentiate Grow Fit from the rest in the industry by developing the company’s own IP and not cutting and pasting from Western protocols. We may use it as a starting point, but we change it to suit our requirements.


Grow Fit prevents lifestyle diseases through a combination of data science, medical science and behavioural insights. Its team realised that through mobile chat, people were revealing a lot of personal information, which serves as an input to Grow Fit’s algorithms. Moreover, Pattabiraman says, “Most of the information present today is about Western body types and based on research adopted in the U.S. For the first time we have data about what is happening in India and we could use this to make a breakthrough.”

For instance, the company understood that those consuming vegetarian food are not getting the necessary protein and fat. “Stress and low fat food leads to health issues. What people really need to be eating is low carbohydrates. So that was the aha moment which came from the data we’d collected,” shares Pattabiraman.

Grow Fit’s role goes beyond suggesting a diet plan. It is building an e-commerce platform around the app, to sell nutrition-based food products including atta, idly-dosa mixes and such. The product ideas are based on scientific analysis of the data gathered from its users. Each product goes through a trial run, is further improved and finally launched.

A scientific approach

Grow Fit believes in empowering Indians to prevent and even reverse lifestyle diseases by addressing its root causes like inadequate nutrition, mental wellness and stress. It achieves this through its chat-based coaching program which connects users across the country to experts, who offer nutrition advice and customized diet plans related to physical and mental health.

On the Grow Fit app, a customer can get a free diet plan or consultation from a nutritionist using the app, get meal plans delivered to their doorstep or workplace or use its healthy snacks and mixes.  The company’s team of over 50 comprises chefs, nutritionists and engineers.  “We have more than 1,000 consultations a day, which is more than what even the biggest hospitals’ nutritionists consult in a day. And, we offer around 500 to 600 diet plans a day,” says she.  On this front, currently, while it serves fresh food in Bengaluru, it has almost 30 per cent demand coming from metros and 70 per cent from tier-two plus cities.

To reach out to customers and for referrals, the company takes the digital and social media route. Specifically for B2C interactions, it finds platforms like Facebook and Instagram to be effective tools. ”We have recently begun our B2B outreach and many companies, mostly large MNCs, have shown interest in partnering with us,” says Pattabiraman. The company recently acquired the nutritional beverage platform, Drink King; a move it believes will help the company expand its product portfolio in the preventive health and wellness space.

The Logistics Strategy

Its products (the snacks, health mixes, etc.) can be purchased online and is usually delivered across the country. “Since we make the product on demand, there is no inventory,” shares the founder.  The company ships the products within 48 hours in metros and within a week, if the order is from remote areas.

As far the impact of the product goes, Grow Fit looks at measurable outcomes wherever possible. For example, when it comes to women and their physical health, say weight loss, the company tracks based on specific metrics. However, with issues that cannot be measured, it relies on the feedback it receives from the customers. “When a customer shares positive feedback saying we have made a difference, we like to believe that they are telling us the truth,” adds Pattabiraman.

Making a difference 

For the founder, it’s not just about achieving transactions. She strives to differentiate Grow Fit from the rest in the industry by developing the company’s own IP and not cutting and pasting from Western protocols. “We may use it as a starting point, but we change it to suit our requirements,” she adds.

She admits that there is no shortage of customers.  “There is no question of educating a customer as they are desperate for a solution,” opines she. Operating in a market such as this, Pattabiraman believes that they can use technology to improve the efficiency of their product as long as there is a human service. “It is not about acquiring a new customer but about making sure that whatever we tell them is effective,” she says. Although the company’s DNA is to be an online player, Pattabiraman doesn’t rule out the idea of launching kiosks or pop up stores. “We plan to primarily be an online player because our customers can access us at any given time. That being said, we do have some offline touch points too,” says she.

Future Path

“We aim to grow by increasing touch points,” says Pattabiraman. While increase in size of the market in essential, the bigger challenge is to exponentially increase the number of touch points and develop a closer relationship with its people. Operating in the world’s largest market in terms of lifestyle diseases, the company has a lot to do in just getting the market right, admits Pattabiraman, but it has not ruled out the possibility of crossing the national border.  “Going forward, we see our app becoming a daily habit and we want to reach out to almost 150 million customers in the next three years,” says she on a concluding note.


Snapshot – Grow Fit

Founder:

Jyotsna Pattabiraman

Year:

2015

Concept: 

Mobile-first app using AI-based algorithms to deliver customized nutrition-based diet plans to individuals. Beyond suggesting a diet, it sells healthy snacks, mixes and drinks through its e-commerce platform. 

Investor: 

Growth Story

City:

Bengaluru

Poornima Kavlekar has been associated with The Smart CEO since the time of launch and is the Consulting Editor of the magazine. She has been writing for almost 20 years on a cross section of topics including stocks and personal finance and now, on entrepreneurship and growth enterprises. She is a trained Yoga Teacher, an avid endurance Cyclist and a Veena player.