GOQii started its existence as Vishal Gondal’s 2nd challenge back in 2014. Vishal, a veteran entrepreneur, had formerly constructed a recreation improvement agency – Indiagames, which turned into in the end received with the aid of Disney for close to $one hundred Mn.
It offers a unfastened wearable wristband that can be procured on the acquisition of a fitness subscription provider that gives a one-on-one cellular private training provider backed through the data gathered from the band. The startup has gamified the concept of health to hold its customers (cited by using the carrier as ‘players’) engaged and encouraged to ‘win’, in place of ‘paintings’.
Today, with a one hundred+ strong worker base, it's far the marketplace leader in wearables in India, with a sixteen% percentage as in keeping with the latest IDC report. GOQii has raised a complete of $thirteen.Four Mn in investment from 6 rounds, out of which five rounds did no longer have disclosed figures.
Here are excerpts of our communication with founder Vishal Gondal, who spoke to us approximately the healthtech-hardware space. The zone has been brimming with players both from within the usa and across the world and is getting quite interesting with startups presenting distinguishment in products that add considerable fee to the stop customers, garnering success.
In this verbal exchange Vishal talks about mentors, hiring, innovation in healthtech and extra.
This interview has been edited for brevity and readability.
Icft: What does the healthtech enterprise look like to you?
Vishal: Today, there are sorts of startups in this area – at the curative facet or the preventive aspect.
You are both spending cash on drugs or medical doctors, or you are stopping customers from getting till there via maintaining them healthful. There’s a whole lot of disruption this is certain to occur in this space because there is huge fragmentation, there may be information but it is scattered everywhere, the sufferers are unwell-informed of what to do and this allows medical doctors to make cash off of them, and in the end the problem with pharma companies. There are these kinds of challenges, the tech solutions to that are big startups waiting to appear.
But my preferred corporations will stay those that have models that allow the empowerment of the customers via motivating them and instructing them.
Icft: In the past yr, aggregators were mushrooming inside the healthcare industry. Should innovation be approached otherwise within the region?
Vishal: Innovation these days is required extra within the nuances of positioning a product in a zone like healthcare. A important factor I even have observed in the healthcare area is that humans have a conflict of interest whilst beginning a enterprise. For example, as a organisation if I make revenue from doctors and hospitals, I am incentivised to ship human beings to these medical doctors and hospitals.
Then, my enterprise is not approximately improving your health, it is to make more money from sending you to them. Irrespective of you requiring the understanding of a physician, I will endorse you to one. Today, maximum corporations feature on this device, which in itself is the hassle with the healthcare enterprise. It is consequently really useful to try to make sales immediately from the clients themselves and make cash best when the customer feels they have end up healthier.
I come from a heritage of gaming, where the commercial enterprise model is to have interaction your consumers, get them addicted to your product and then monetise. GOQii innovated with the aid of making use of the equal concept to a surprisingly stupid zone like healthcare by gamifying the technique of looking after your frame. My point is that if we can get human beings addicted to gambling Candy Crush, then why can’t get them hooked on eating greens, or addicted to taking walks.
We by no means idea of this as a medical trouble, in reality a consumer of GOQii isn't always referred to as a consumer or a affected person, he's known as a player. If you go to any healthcare website, you will be called a affected person. Even in case you are not a affected person, you will known as one due to the fact the web site categorised its audience. They are already making you unwell without you being unwell.
Today there is a band for diabetes, a band for blood stress and other such merchandise, but no person buys them. The purpose is that consumers don’t want to be reminded and told by others that they may be ill. If you're carrying such a band, you already deliver the impact that you are sick, and why would anyone need to do that?
This is why GOQii by no means placed itself as a continual care or weightloss application. The impression that human beings need to believe in is that a GOQii consumer is wholesome and lively – that is a tremendous connotation. Monetising positivity along side that specialize in engagement as a key metric is what innovation on this sector should cope with.
Icft: What impact have mentors made to the product that GOQii is nowadays?
Vishal: I turned into fortunate to have had the opportunity to have worked with quite a few people in my past life. So I had a number of human beings mentoring me for different things. There turned into always anyone mentoring me on hardware, on deal making and so forth.
Pravin Gandhi is any person who I appreciate plenty, he changed into my first investor back in 1999 in Indiagames, and he has now even joined our board. Our tech cross-to man has been Amit Singhal, who additionally joined as our board member and he has only been a part of two forums in India, that is Paytm and GOQii – so that stimulated a lot of self belief. An advice he gave us that, in case you are building a tech-based organization, 50% of your personnel have to be running on tech alone. Right now we're at 38% however we are rapidly coming near that focus on.
Then there are men like Ronnie Screwvala, who has a superb information of classified ads. You can constantly take 20-half-hour from them and run them thru ideas and their inputs at some point of that quick time can be very helpful.
One of the largest demanding situations for a startup is – whether or not to grow rapid or focus on building a better product. At one point, we have been going for the latter. There was a time inside the Indian atmosphere in 2015 whilst anyone wanted to scale extremely fast, and you have a tendency to get swayed with the aid of the waft. But we have been lucky to be suggested with the aid of several mentors that there has been no hurry and to preserve our effort on growing a patron pleasant product. In hindsight, that became a excellent call.
We were also very near spending huge cash on advertising, however have been advised towards it. Today I realise, it would not have made a big distinction in our numbers. This is an advice that young entrepreneurs need to also pay heed to, advertising and marketing isn't always essential. Building a super product with a high Net Promoter Score is what's critical. If your present users are not getting you more customers, then there's no factor losing your cash on advertising.
Another key aspect with which I got help from my mentors, become GOQii’s brand and product positioning. There was a variety of confusion as to how we're positioning GOQii early on. It was then that one in every of our buyers, Bala Deshpande informed us to head and get insights from your consumers. We spent quite a few time doing just that and the learnings had been gigantic – extra than we could ever assume up at the same time as brainstorming. Some of the components that we felt we must head in have been absolutely distinctive from what the purchasers notion. I am no longer pronouncing intestine-calls aren't vital, but once you have got sufficient facts from it slow talking together with your consumers, you could use your gut and facts to return to the proper conclusion.
Icft: GOQii has obtained investment from enterprise heavyweights like Ratan Tata, Neeraj Arora, and Vijay Shekhar Sharma, among others. What got them invested in you and your idea?
Vishal: The pitch itself usually entails the imaginative and prescient basically. The human beings of the calibre you stated are not there to get into the details on the early degree. When I met these people, I told them that GOQii isn't only a wearable, a health subscription version, or any one factor. It is a platform that transforms your life. People typically try and give a few metrics, the marketplace size and different such numbers, but for me it changed into continually the case of answering why. Especially on the early ranges, it all boils down to the entrepreneur’s credibility.
There can not be sufficient metrics to persuade an investor to put money into a corporation where the founder lacks vision and passion for the concept. One of the values that GOQii preaches is exercise what you preach, so after I communicate approximately health and well being – the buyers, knew approximately and had seen my own transformation. When I instructed them that what I did for myself is what I will do for the users of GOQii, it turned into very smooth for them to correlate.
Moving from early funding stages to later ranges, you want to translate your imaginative and prescient into numbers. The important metrics for GOQii are, are the humans really becoming healthier, and are they persevering with their way of life (due to the fact we're a subscription carrier). The splendor of it become, at that time 86% of our energetic users confirmed healthier stats from before, and 60-70% of these users were renewing their subscription. That is all any investor ever desired to know, due to the fact if we had claimed that we had a imaginative and prescient and ardour however that were now not getting them translated into the fruit of our labour, then it meant in the long run we had no cost.
Icft: Investors do deliver the first-rate recommendation, but not always. Have there been times of you now not heeding their phrases?
Vishal: There turned into one issue that we did very in a different way proper from the beginning – that every one the traders have been against – changed into that we always had a paid model. Many startups assume, let’s get the users onboard and the cash will then comply with, I suppose that’s a fallacious method. This is due to the fact when we're seeking to build a business, we want to know if it’s a actual business or a commercial enterprise full of warm air, and you recognize that these days these groups have misplaced their steam.
We started out with a commercial enterprise model focussed on monetisation from the get pass, so that our enterprise made cash on a unit-economics basis itself. We might change our version in the future, however at that point in time we will as a minimum recognize what sort of conversions occur, what users pay for and don’t. Monetising is important from the very beginning as it validates your product, whether or not the marketplace you declare exists – certainly exists. It changed into a tough call to make at the start, due to the fact with out this strategy I ought to have were given thousands and thousands of users on my platform without spending a dime. But then I wouldn’t know in the event that they would pay me or continue to pay me.
Icft: How did you triumph over challenges that maximum Indian hardware startups face?
Vishal: Manufacturing – People are seeking to build a hardware organization today with out even spending any time in China. I in my view spent over 3 months there, and I think human beings need to spend even extra time there. You can design your hardware product in India, but these days to manufacture a product, you have to be in China. If you aren't inclined to do this, I don’t think you'll be able to construct your startup.
Product differentiation – This is a critical issue that hardware startups need to take into account that just having a hardware product isn't sufficient. For example, if GOQii only had hardware, we would were killed via now with all of the different health wearables out there. Because we had been capable of combine it with an entire fitness subscription package, and the relaxation of the atmosphere like the train, medical doctor and product pointers, no one has been able to compete with us. A commodity is simply not sufficient; you need a key differentiator.
Financial planning – The accurate aspect we did became deliver onboard a startup CEO/CFO early into the business. We additionally got PwC to be our auditor from day one. Most human beings think this is a cost that may be incurred later, however errors that you would make with out them in the starting will heavily penalise you later. It is constantly right to have an awesome auditor, lawyer and they may be willing to work on equity or coins as properly. Today most of these humans are part of incubators and accelerators, CFO’s may be delivered on on a transient foundation so those components can be without problems blanketed via startups.
I actually have seen a few startups take VC cash and purchased workplace areas and spent 50 lakhs on just doing up the region. That is a totally irresponsible waste of money. Every penny I spend on something that isn't adding price to my product, is a waste specifically at the early ranges. Today, AWS and Azure are ready to provide you cloud area, how a great deal hardware do you simply require? Your costs are pretty low in such an surroundings. And in case you are a B2B commercial enterprise, you have to be able to get your clients to pay to your product as opposed to seeking to get exorbitant quantities of funding. With respect to social media, you don’t want to have mass media campaigns to sell your product either, GOQii by no means has both. My point is that the price to get started together with your idea isn't excessive because of this (lower priced) surroundings that has been constructed.
Icft: What are your plans for the enlargement of GOQii’s provider offerings?
Vishal: Consumers are the centre of our entire product and atmosphere. We do now not examine competitors or different products; we only study customers. For instance, we started out services like coaching, medical doctor and diagnostic pointers most effective after our consumers requested for it. We similarly used this method to answer our user’s questions like which walking shoe ought to I purchase, which brand of olive oil have to I eat, which vitamins do I take thinking about my exercising etc. So GOQii is turning into their all-spherical relied on fitness associate.
In the close to future, I see GOQii becoming worried in presenting people cover for their fitness in an coverage-like service. Because, if I am handling your fitness and I even have the records that may honestly invalidate any outside audit requirements, why appearance somewhere else. This is all of the strength of records. But statistics alone isn't sufficient, you furthermore may need context.
I may additionally understand that you haven't been exercise for the last ten days – this is statistics. We understand that there has been fog in Delhi and that’s the motive you could not walk because it’s too cold and you cannot see 10 steps ahead – that is context. The context is lacking from most AI systems nowadays, and GOQii is trying to address that these days. We name ourselves, human-powered artificial intelligence – a aggregate of human interaction and facts gaining knowledge of.
Icft: How do you plan on scaling your reach to tougher markets (beyond the nicely- serviced urban purchaser base in India)?
Vishal: It is a misnomer that our goal market is constrained to city purchasers, 60% of our customers come from smaller cities. The solution to this puzzle is truly pretty easy because humans want to get wholesome anywhere, no longer simply inside the metro towns. Added to this is the truth that ecommerce has helped each nook of India. We’ve got users from Andaman & Nicobar Islands to Arunachal Pradesh.
We have just reached a partnership cope with Amazon Launchpad with a view to help us reach a wider international target audience. This will assist us roll out GOQii inside the United States, Canada and the UK beginning subsequent yr.
We are also looking at expanding beyond man or woman client income and may be focused on organizations that get their employees onto our subscription carrier.
Icft: Making the proper hires is a complicated assignment, specifically in startups. Has GOQii made any wrong hires? How do you make sure it doesn’t happen too frequently?
Vishal: Oh yes, lots. But the occurrence charge has been decreased extensively, because nowadays we've got a very one-of-a-kind method to hiring. We do no longer lease MBAs or IITians, we adore to lease the underdogs due to the fact they're hungry to perform.
The hiring technique starts offevolved with some thing we call the DNA take a look at. In a time of want for boom, you often come to be hiring folks who may not be the best for your business. In the DNA take a look at, we ensure if the individual will fit the philosophy of the agency and may be there for the long term.
A lot of people write matters of their resumes, as an example there has been this man who stated he appreciated to paint, we gave him the stationary and agree with me he could not even draw a stick discern! Similarly, there has been this guy who claimed to be a chess champion, so we immediately organised a chess match which he honestly won. You can determine out the fellow who were given employed.
But while the bad apples do get thru, you want to cast off them ASAP. Like they say, rubbish in, rubbish out. We do not let them continue to be inside the device for lengthy, they will do more harm than excellent. Having stated that, our attrition overdue is pretty low, close to three%.
Icft: How do you preserve your personnel inspired?
Vishal: We handiest hire those who love us, and we've six6 rounds of interviews to vet that. Every employee inside the organisation has get right of entry to to on the residence, wholesome organic meals, each employee has to workout and each employee has to participate in social causes. This is made clear from the get pass, that if you do now not very well revel in those advantages, then you will no longer be an awesome fit in our business enterprise. If you don’t need to be healthy, you'll hate every day in GOQii!
There is an open offer on the desk for all personnel, that if you do no longer like our way of life, you can go away with two months severance pay – no questions requested. Luckily for us, we've got not had everybody workout that option but.
Icft: What was the most stressing moment for you in my view as GOQii’s founder?
Vishal: The correct thing approximately GOQii is that our commercial enterprise itself is to de-strain. This yr, my most demanding moments were in the course of the 14 days Everest base camp trek. Sometimes, humans get triumph over with the feelings of small day to day problems, however after you revel in the pressure of survival in those low-oxygen conditions, the each day stresses seem monumentally smaller.
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I believe inside the concept of decluttering your mind. I am looking to reduce the choices I want to make on a every day foundation. For example, I only put on crimson tee shirts, I best wear purple shoes, I have very few programs on my smartphone. When I was on the 14-day Everest base camp trek, there was no internet, hardly ever any connectivity, but my paintings in no way got hindered. People constantly agree with that staying disconnected for even five5 mins can hamper their work, however it’s never the case. The reason is just too many things to do handiest provides to the weight of the actual troubles which you actually need to focus on.
Icft: Has the adventure been well worth it?
Vishal: Oh, maximum clearly. I am on a paid vacation! I get to jot down off all my marathon costs and my travel to the Everest basecamp charges as advertising fee! I get to devour healthful food for free, I get to do the whole lot that I want to do in life these days, and it’s all way to GOQii. If your interest turns into your enterprise, you by no means truly must ‘work’. That’s what occurred with Indiagames, with gaming being my old flame, and then when I became obsessed with a wholesome lifestyle, GOQii came to me.
Today I also get to invest in early-level startups, and I do it no longer to make cash however to present again to the ecosystem – if there was no one to fund me after I turned into 21 years antique, then I wouldn’t be here. This is why I am there at the startup activities and conferences, and it's miles to assist startups who require it. If I can make a distinction to even one doubtlessly precise concept, then I am content material.