Rukaiya Kanchwala, who till recently was lifestyle e-tailer Jabong’s director of marketplace, has ventured out on her own.
She has founded Classverse, a curated marketplace that provides users with unlimited access to fitness studios, classes and gyms for a monthly membership price. The idea is to provide clients the flexibility of choosing where and when they workout without an annual contract, Rukaiya, who is a mother of two, told Techcircle. She left Jabong in February after a four-year stint to start Spry Infotech Pvt Ltd, which runs ClassVerse.
“After Jabong, I decided to get back into shape and looked at fitness options in my neighborhood. That’s when I realised there wasn’t any single offering out there that met my expectations,” said Rukaiya.
She herself was not a big fan of signing long-term contracts with neighborhood fitness studios and gyms.
“After a little more digging, I learnt that these studios have a very high capex and low capacity utilisation. I spent the weekend pitching the concept of ClassVerse to these gyms and studios. The response was overwhelmingly positive and ClassVerse was born the next day,” Rukaiya said.
For a monthly fee, ClassVerse members get unlimited classes to studios in the ClassVerse network. ClassVerse has partnered with 250 fitness studios, offering more than 5,000 classes a week and over 100,000 fitness and activity slots per month. In addition to gyms and studios, it offers access to actvities such as zumba, cycling, yoga, dance, kickboxing, bodybuilding, swimming, badminton, tennis courts and others. The company is currently working on developing a mobile app. As an introductory offer, ClassVerse is offering unlimited classes for two weeks to studios in its network. The startups gives users the flexibility of creating a personalised fitness routine.
Classverse’s business model is similar to Delhi-based Golflan Technologies Pvt Ltd, which offers subscription services to play the sport across several golf courses throughout the globe without having a membership in the respective club. Golflan had raised an undisclosed amount in seed funding from early-stage investor YourNest Angel Fund in March.
Rukaiya says that her company has the first mover advantage in the health and fitness space. US- based startup ClassPass has been operating a similar service in that country. ClassPass was reported to have a revenue run rate of $60 million for the year in February.
ClassVerse, which is currently operational in Delhi and Mumbai, plans to establish presence across all major metros. “We have a large team in Delhi and growing operations in Mumbai. It is a very aggressive plan, and we’ve already outgrown the office space we’ve leased in Delhi,” said Rukaiya.
Rukaiya has over 12 years of experience in the technology industry across the US, Singapore, Japan and India. She spent eight years at Dell prior to coming to India with Rocket Internet, helping the VC establish its portfolio in the country. At Rocket, Rukaiya helped establish Groupon India (taking the company pan-India) and most recently was responsible for the marketplace division at Jabong (managing a $100 million annual topline). She also co-founded DropGifts, an e-commerce gifting platform.
ClassVerse is currently funded by Rukaiya ‘s family and friends. “A few VC/PE firms have reached out to us and we’ve started preliminary discussions at this stage,” said Rukaiya .
Jabong is one of the two top lifestyle e-tailers in India, along with Myntra. “I loved my time at Jabong and Rocket Internet. My four years there taught me everything there is to know about e-commerce in India and running large scale, pan-India operations successfully,” said Rukaiya .
Gurgaon-based Jabong was earlier in talks with e-commerce giant Amazon for a potential acquisition worth $1.1-1.2 billion. However, the talks did not progress. Its rival Myntra was acquired by Flipkart last year.
Jabong has given additional responsibility of its women’s fashion division to Jai Vohra, who has been heading the company’s marketplace business.