IIT Kanpur alumni, Puneet Lamba and Hirendra Choudhary with their friend Nickunj Arora (a Johns Hopkins & Yale University product), were motivated to do something about the fitness problem when some of their close friends and family members experienced health issues because of a sedentary lifestyle and unchecked eating habits.
In September 2015, they started CrankOut, with an aim to specifically tackle the nutrition problem since it is the most decisive factor in driving overall health.
CrankOut is a health and fitness tech startup with a mobile platform that acts as an 'actionable nutritionist' in your pocket. The platform creates your fitness profile and asks you for your goals, and then enables you to shop for 'nutritionally engineered' packaged food products and starts sending relevant notifications and reminders to help you achieve you those goals.
Although there are thousands of fitness tracking apps, CrankOut solves the problem by making it dead-simple for consumers to replace their usual eatables with a customised, ready-to-order list of healthy food products (think calorie-counted, portioned and content labeled food classified with nutrition tags e.g. Low Fat, High Protein etc.), all on a single platform.
To find out more about CrankOut and its growth and expansion plans, we caught up Puneet Lamba, Co-founder, CrankOut.
Embarking on an entrepreneurial ride
One of the key trends I had been observing all across the globe was the advent of preventive healthcare i.e. measures for changing day-to-day behaviour to lower the chances of a health decline, as opposed to optimising treatments for the patient when it may already be too late. Coincidentally, I was further motivated to solve the nutrition problem when one of my family members developed a health complication which was tracked back to generous eating habits. So in a way, the combination of my learning with what I had personally experienced is what directed me to take up entrepreneurship and come up with a scalable solution to this problem. In retrospection, I think that if a person begins with an attitude of learning constantly and aims to genuinely address a problem, entrepreneurship becomes a natural step in their career trajectory.
Overwhelming feedback from the customer
It has been around 9 months since our full-scale launch and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. We have validated our business model resoundingly with a >50 per cent customer retention rate, profitability on a per-order basis and more than 10,000 orders till date. Health and fitness have a huge community component to it, and our users have been active enough to make their voices heard and push us to create our own brands of nutritious food products as already mentioned.
Many of our users have been ordering almost daily for months. One interesting story I am proud of is that of a user who was one of the first ones to order more than 25 times in a single month. We decided to reward him with some goodies and offers. He expressed how much of an impact CrankOut had made on his health, and eventually ended up working pro-bono with us!
Inspiration that keeps me moving ahead
My sources of inspiration are my parents and the entire previous generation that worked hard to provide young Indians an incredible platform to succeed. Coming from an average middle-class family, I have always marvelled at the inspirational spirit of the common man and his determination to make a better life no matter what the odds are. Seeing how millions of Indians are now slowly taking the center stage in a global economic landscape, I am confident that this century belongs to us and it motivates me to contribute to the resurgent India story.
The startup that made my life a bit easier
Hands down, it has to be Uber. I am a passionate Uber user and love how they have gone global by consistently innovating to make the commute easier for their customers. I remember an incident from two years ago when I had booked a normal cab to catch a late night flight from Chandigarh airport.
I was already running late and as is often the case, the cab company canceled my ride at the last moment. Without any alternative, I installed the Uber app in a rush. To my surprise, I found multiple Ubers only a minute away from me even though the service had launched in that city only recently. I made it to my flight well in time and have never used any other cab service since that day.
My team’s respect for what they do can be elucidated from the fact that we partnered with Uber in 2015 for our launch campaign called ’No More Excuses’ where we gave CrankOut customers discounted Uber rides to gyms and fitness centers.
My family has always been my biggest anchor
All entrepreneurs face some tough moments, and it is important to have an emotional cushion to fall back on. That is where my family has always been my biggest anchor, not only when I decided to start my own venture but in all my endeavors since I was a kid. My father has always encouraged me to try new things and ensured that I had the best of resources available even when it meant aiming a bit too high.
My mother is not even bothered with the business at all, and her only concern is my health and peace of mind. I have an elder sister who is the only one to prod me on how the startup is going, and she is actually quite proactive in trying the products herself and providing valuable early feedback. So each of them have tried in their own way to help me and CrankOut be the best version of ourselves. I am immensely thankful for that and hope to keep making them proud.
My mentors were my customers
Even though we were guided in our journey by many experienced individuals, I think our true mentors were the CrankOut customers themselves. The thing with theoretical wisdom is that it is always available in plenty, but once you get to executing ideas in the marketplace, every assumption or insight needs to be tested from scratch. So I always reiterate the advice I have stated earlier, which is to make your user the god. To reiterate, my biggest learning has been to pay special attention to how the users react to your solution. The cues are all out there, you just have to look.
My business mantra
Listen to your consumers, they are the ones with dollars in their pocket and ignoring their feedback is a recipe for disaster.
Though my journey was a bumpy ride, yet I managed to scale-up
A major challenge that all Indian startups face is that the average Indian consumer puts a huge price on each rupee spent. More than in any other part of the world, Indian customers look for validated value for money and it becomes difficult at times for a startup to convince users to pay for services while retaining them as returning users.
For us, it was not just about selling potential customers on our startup idea or product mix, but rather convincing them that they needed a change in their behavioral pattern to achieve a better health. We did this by making body fat measuring devices and fitness assessment kits available for free at all our promotional activations. We created multiple visual cues such as a fitness scale that compared people’s fitness levels to well-known personalities and celebrities to make it easier to comprehend. We also publicly rewarded potential customers who were fit or were able to do certain endurance tasks, thereby seeding the idea in the mind of everyone who was watching. These strategies have showcased the value of our offerings to our potential users and worked well for us, we have never resorted to discounts or offers to bring in new customers or retain existing ones.
This what I would like to advise to aspiring entrepreneurs
My foremost advice to beginning entrepreneurs is to rigorously test each feature of their product or service offering before placing big bets and launching it on a large scale. This holds true whether it is a service, a tech product or something else. Many times, we are so driven by our passion for solving the problem at hand that we ignore the user (read payer) during creation and design phase. Naturally, this often results in offerings that are not valuable to users and so sustainable monetization becomes difficult. So the idea is to formulate the product or service incrementally at each step and only consider adding those features which genuinely help users and for which they are willing to pay at some point.