In a year when funding crunch has become a buzzword, Vishal Gondal, raised funds twice for his fitness technology venture GOQii. Last week, the startup raised an undisclosed amount from seasoned investor Ratan Tata and in February, the venture capital arm of Edelweiss Financial Services Pvt Ltd had invested in the firm.
Gondal believes in taking contrarian bets. In 2014, when he started GOQii, which offers a wearable fitness band coupled with remote personalised coaching, he faced severe skepticism. Today, GOQii has surpassed Xiaomi to be the number one brand in terms of shipments in the Indian wearable devices market. GOQii had a 16% market share in the second quarter of 2016, according to IDC's worldwide quarterly Wearable Device Tracker.
The firm recently launched its second-generation smart-band, which connects users to doctors, coaches, diagnostics and even health services providers such as Thyrocare, and Max Healthcare. The subscription-only model also provides a user with GOQii Health Locker where they can keep all their health records, and GOQii HRA or health risk assessment reports based on a user's fitness data and lifestyle. Armed with a fitness band, GOQii seems to be trying to disrupt the healthcare space.
Unlike other online firms that are opting for physical stores, GOQii will never go offline, says Gondal in an exclusive chat with Techcircle. The firm, instead, will always have a subscription model, he adds. The company claims to be making profits on every shipment and is now looking for ways to increase user engagement.
How have you managed to attract such diverse investors as Madhuri Dixit, Ratan Tata and investments firms such as NEA, DSG Consumer Partners and Cheetah Mobile? First of all, the vision of GOQii is very powerful. We are disrupting healthcare from a consumer point of view. We are connecting devices, diagnostics, doctors and coaches on one platform. It's a very ambitious model. We are driving services on hardware, it's very futuristic. That's why they (the investors) wanted to back us.
What makes you different from the crowd? Plain vanilla wearable is junk and that has been our hypothesis from Day One. You need actionable insights and motivation through data. We believe hardware is not a great business model. Today, we have beaten Xiaomi, Fitbit and Garmin and we are disrupting the healthcare space. Our phase one was coaching. Our phase II is bringing diagnostics, health records, doctors, coaches on one platform.
We are not just another startup. Our mission is to help millions live a healthy life. Others are transactional "there is no data, they don't know what your consultations were about. Their services are like a ticket booking platform. GOQii, on the other hand, is subscription based. We know your data, and a coach is in touch with you. If there is any concern, you can book GOQii doctors. These doctors will already have information on your health through the coach.
Tell us about your next move? We have just started and we are already a market leader. We won't stop at 16% market share. We want 70% market share. The goal of GOQii is to be the default app for anyone who wants to manage health. It's about adopting healthy habits; our goal is prevention and managing health using a platform. Who knows what benefits being healthy can bring, besides being disease free? Imagine getting reduced insurance cost because you are healthy or getting best deal on goods. Once we have a critical mass we can bring a whole host of benefits to our users.
The doctors and coaches are on the Goqii platform so a user doesn't need to pay extra. Why would you take such a bet? We have always taken contrarian bets. When we were raising our series A funds, it was one of the biggest questions. Investors would ask us why would we not give the subscription for free. They felt we could have millions of users in a matter of months. In our business, subscriptions renewals are the most important thing. We started with monetisation first and scaled up step by step. We are a gross margin positive business. Every transaction is paid for and we make money. We don't have offline presence, no stores. We believe if you can't shop online, you can't be a GOQii user.
What are your expansion plans? Our expansion has been a bit slower because we wanted to perfect user-delivery and services. We will expand in a big way in 2017. We are going after English speaking people. Initially, we wanted go geography wise, now its community of people who speak English anywhere in the world. We have realised this is not a geography play, but a language play. When a user initiates with GOQii, they can use it anywhere but they need to speak in English because the coaches speak in English. We will sell it in any country where people speak English. In foreign markets, a user does not need the hardware. In Canada, one can download the app on their Fitbit, they don't need a GOQii band. In India you need the hardware (band) and the app.
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