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Curefit will be tested

Mukesh Bansal’s Curefit has all the funding it needs, but little semblance of a strategy.

Since long before it became commonplace for venture capital investors to publicly praise their portfolio companies, Vani Kola, the managing director of Kalaari Capital, has been building up Mukesh Bansal. At conferences where Kola speaks about the ecosystem, she’s often called Bansal the smartest entrepreneur in India. Other names that would feature sometimes are Kunal Bahl of Snapdeal and more recently Harsh Jain of Dream11, but Bansal is a constant fixture.

Kola and Bansal go back more than a decade, when late in 2007, Indo-US Ventures (now Kalaari Capital) put a tiny cheque into Bansal’s fashion e-commerce startup Myntra. Some six years later, when Flipkart acquired the company for $300 million, Kalaari got its biggest exit ever. Not surprising then that when Bansal started again with Curefit in 2016, Kalaari came on board on day one. And the story of Bansal’s intellect took on a legend of its own, fanned regularly by the likes of Kola.

Cut to today—earlier this month, Bansal’s Curefit laid off 800 employees, announced salary cuts across the board, and exited a number of smaller Indian cities. The national lockdown in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic meant the company’s core gym/fitness centre business Cult.fit was left with zero new revenue (no fresh subscriptions) for two months and counting; even as restrictions on most businesses were eased, gyms found no succour.

But while the coronavirus is an existential crisis for industry after industry, for Curefit it might be the moment that everyone realizes the emperor has little in the way of clothing.

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