Fitness app BunkerFit, launched in March this year, has come up as a huge relief for those who use to have multiple apps – one for running, another for nutrition, yet another for yoga or mindfulness and so on, and that too with a price and English as a medium of communication. BunkerFit is a one-stop shop for all your fitness-related needs, available at zero cost in multiple language options. Interestingly, Airtel has acquired 10 per cent stake in Spectacom, the company which owns BunkerFit as a part of the telco’s Startup Accelerator Program. This collaboration allows Spectacom to leverage Airtel’s strongest pillars and most importantly, the executive advisory. Zeba Zaidi, Founder, BunkerFit, speaks more about this fitness platform, its value proposition and strategy to make it big in the given space, in a conversation with Ramesh Kumar Raja. Excerpts:
How did you get into the business of fitness?
After spending 15 years in a corporate career that took me across Europe and the Middle East, I moved back to India with a thought of doing something on my own. Through my working years, I had miraculously maintained my connect with sports and fitness by ensuring that I found that “me” time no matter where I was.
Upon returning home in 2011, I saw that unfortunately the life I had led was a luxury many didn’t enjoy. As soon as one left college, they threw themselves into work, and health & fitness took a backseat. I knew then that I needed to do something that revived the connect that people seemed to have lost. With this objective, I created India’s first obstacle running property called the Devils Circuit. Although it became a cult phenomenon, I wasn’t satisfied with how many people we were reaching through the offline property.
This dissatisfaction led to the creation and now the launch of BunkerFit- India’s first vernacular fitness platform that is holistic and free. I saw that access to good quality fitness content was a luxury limited to the few who could afford it. I wanted to democratise fitness and make high quality fitness content available to every single person who was so inclined.
I think, especially in today’s times, with India having grappled with two cycles of the pandemic, it is very important that we focus on building our immunity, our fitness levels, and our overall health. This is what BunkerFit aims to help with.
What are your plans of taking it to the masses?
We have very big plans of taking BunkerFit to the masses. We aim to have a community of 100 million users by 2030. That’s our vision and with partners like Airtel and Umang Bedi (the co-founder of vernacular unicorn Dailyhunt) amongst others, we are definitely on track to achieving that goal.
With BunkerFit, we aim to offer a holistic fitness platform to all our users so that instead of an app for running, another for nutrition, yet another for yoga or mindfulness, all of which they pay for and all of which by the way only offer English as a choice of communication- they only need BunkerFit which serves them across all fitness verticals, in a variety of language options, and that too at zero cost to them. We feel this disruption will allow us to reach far and wide.
Do you think there is a market for something like BunkerFit in the rural parts of India?
Oh absolutely! We have gone through phases where fitness was for the elite, then it became aspirational, and now it’s a lifestyle choice for the masses. Over the last few years as a deeper realisation has set in about lifestyle-related disease, we have seen a surge in consumption of fitness services. This of course has gotten accelerated during the last 18 months of the pandemic.
The desire to be fitter is no longer an urban phenomenon, and this is reflected in the number of fitness-related Google searches, or YouTube content consumption, which arises from rural India.
In addition, the high mobile penetration and access to cheap data has created a market outside of the metros and tier 1 cities that were the sweet spot for all fitness services providers. In fact, out of the half a billion plus digital consumers in India, two thirds belong to the vernacular rural India. This is a huge underserved market and we absolutely aim to make a mark here.
|“The high mobile penetration and access to cheap data has created a market outside of the metros and tier 1 cities that were the sweet spot for all fitness services providers. In fact, out of the half a billion plus digital consumers in India, two thirds belong to the vernacular rural India. This is a huge underserved market and we absolutely aim to make a mark here”|
What is BunkerFit all about and how it’s different from other fitness apps?
BunkerFit is a vernacular integrated fitness platform that is holistic, intelligent, inclusive, and trendy. What I mean by that is that when you download BunkerFit, you essentially do not require any other app for your fitness fix. Think about it, a person that wants to get fitter, wants to work on his mind and body. He or she wants to train, eat better, manage stress, and most importantly do all of this in a way that links back to their chosen goals. BunkerFit not only offers all of this but empowers each user by giving them key insights linked to their usage of the app through which they can travel towards their goal in a more focussed and guided manner.
BunkerFit is very different from the other apps in the market. If all other apps offer you a buffet to choose from unless you pay top dollar for personalisation, BunkerFit offers you a gently personalised action plan for free. It’s an app that’s only 3 months old and we are building very exciting AI driven features which will allow users to very seamlessly be guided through all fitness offerings, so they don’t feel overwhelmed as they do with other apps.
It’s also different in terms of its proprietary content delivery system. At the click of a button, a user can change their preferred language and consume the same content without it affecting their experience of the app. There are many other features that we shall shortly keep releasing which will show how different we are, watch this space.
And lastly of course, BunkerFit is a free to use app for our users.
Please tell us about how the app works, its UI and verticals that it offers.
BunkerFit is a very simple app to use. Our objective from day one was to ensure that whilst the app has a lot to offer, the user should at no point feel overwhelmed or confused. With that in mind, our team of UI experts have created a flow that feels familiar to every user.
Currently, we have launched our MVP version in which we have offered Train and Meal as the first 2 verticals. Train section offers high intensity workouts spread across Cardio, Strength Training, modules especially curated for beginners, workouts with resistance bands and dumbells and many more; whereas with the Meal section, you get to dip into delicious healthy recipes that help cut fat, boost immunity, build protein etc.
Our Train section has been put together by a team of fitness experts, whereas for the meal, we brought on board a senior chef associated with both the Taj Group of hotels as well as MasterChef India. This is in keeping with our philosophy of offering top-notch world-class content to all our users.
When can we see it on Apple’s App Store?
We will definitely roll out an iOS version of BunkerFit, but only once we have finished adding all verticals to it. India has a mobile consumer base with a 96% Android penetration and this is our target market to begin with.
What’s your monetisation model?
We love the idea of impacting lives. It is this reason that led us to the creation of a platform like BunkerFit and we want to keep it free for our users. Having said that, we are a for profit company and we have very clear ideas on monetisation.
Having run companies that were profitable and debt free, I come from the belief that if you focus on getting the product right and your customer delighted monetisation automatically follows. Our monetisation plan focusses on a layer of premium subscription-based services that we will be launching in the near future- these will not impact our philosophy of offering free content which we will continue to do. Our second focus for monetisation is the B2B segment for which we are building a proprietary tool that we will be bringing into the market over the next quarter. We have already been brain-storming with a few big firms on how to structure this and are very excited about launching BunkerFit B2B.
|“Our monetisation plan focusses on a layer of premium subscription-based services that we will be launching in the near future- these will not impact our philosophy of offering free content which we will continue to do. Our second focus for monetisation is the B2B segment for which we are building a proprietary tool that we will be bringing into the market over the next quarter”|
Are you thinking of any sort of collaboration with a smartphone maker?
Absolutely! We are already in talks with two major players in this market and you may see us preloaded on your smartphone very shortly.
Since Airtel has a strategic stake in Spectacom, what kind of assistance it is providing to BunkerFit?
Airtel is an awesome company headed by incredible folks. Their vision in what we could build together and their support to us has been beyond what we imagined. They are not only our sounding board helping us fine tune our ideas and turn them into actual offerings, but their data science teams have been working with us to get our product market fit right. This early traction is so critical to the survival of startups and the fact that Airtel has a consumer base of 350+ mn customers that they have opened up to us is a support many can only dream of.
In Airtel we have found partners who are helping us soar and fast tracking our growth in the fitness space.
What is your view on women in fitness and women in the business of fitness?
Nothing delights me more than seeing women get fitter. My biggest personal achievement was when with a seemingly macho rugged sport like Obstacle running, we managed to get women runners to constitute almost half of the participant base. I think women are natural leaders, especially at home and there is something very empowered about a woman who wants to look after herself and take care of her health. A woman has the ability to influence her family and it is indeed very heartening to see the growing number of women influencers and fitness enthusiasts.
As far as women in the business of fitness, unfortunately it is still a very male dominated domain. Very few women own fitness related businesses and I hope that changes in the near future. I think women make very strong leaders and it’s a pity that when we think of health, sports and fitness, women bosses are far and few in between.