On March 22, 2020, amidst the announcement of a Janata Curfew in India, a dedicated group of yoga practitioners recognized the need for alternative means to continue offering lessons to a nation under lockdown. Leveraging platforms such as Zoom and YouTube, they began conducting daily sessions, providing solace and physical well-being during uncertain times. Saurabh Bothra, an engineer from IIT-BHU, and Pramod Yadav, a fitness enthusiast from Nagpur, guided viewers through simple breathing exercises, surya namaskar, and various asanas targeting different areas of the body. Little did they know that their humble endeavour would evolve into a thriving startup. Initially, the sessions were offered free of charge as a service to the community.
As the days turned into weeks, and the weeks into months, the number of participants steadily grew. By late May, the initiative had attracted an impressive base of 1,500 clients. The instructors decided to introduce a nominal fee after four months, as a means to encourage regular attendance and commitment. Surprisingly, even after the pandemic subsided and yoga and fitness centres reopened, the numbers continued to soar. Today, this grassroots initiative has blossomed into one of India’s fastest-growing wellness platforms known as Habuild. With a current membership of 42,000 active users and has trained over 1 million people worldwide, Habuild has earned approximately $2 million in revenue.
The name “Habuild” derives from the combination of “habit” and “building.” The company was founded by Saurabh Bothra, Sheetal Pungliya, Trishala Bothra, and Anshul Agarwal, with operations based in Pune and Nagpur. Trishala brings a background in both IIT-Bombay and London Business School, while Agarwal’s expertise stems from IIT-BHU and IIM Calcutta. According to Sheetal Pungliya, a tech professional from Pune, the core philosophy of Habuild revolves around the idea of committing to some form of exercise, even if it starts with something as simple as a 10-minute walk on a mat. Pungliya emphasizes that movement not only benefits individuals physically but also emotionally and interpersonally. Once individuals develop the habit of regular physical activity, they are more likely to embrace breathing exercises and meditation, and gradually progress to other fitness routines.
India’s wellness industry is experiencing significant growth, with a value of Rs 1,10,000 crore in 2017, projected to grow at a rate of 13 to 15 percent annually before the pandemic. More recent estimates by the International Market Analysis Research and Consulting Group indicate a 5.55 percent growth in India’s health and wellness market from 2023 to 2028.
Through research, the Habuild team discovered that while many people have a strong desire for good health, only a minority possess the discipline to consistently attend gyms or engage in sports activities. To address this, Habuild leverages Artificial Intelligence (AI) and is investing more in technology. The company has developed a system that simplifies the process of overcoming laziness and cultivating the habit of daily exercise. Surprisingly, a significant portion of Habuild’s clientele comprises women, highlighting their substantial presence and influence. Habuild sessions are conducted at specific times, and recordings are not provided—a seemingly inconvenient rule that has proven effective in generating positive results.
Habuild’s business model is disrupting the market in multiple ways. Unlike many startups, the company has opted against seeking external funding. Saurabh Bothra explains that the primary reason for this decision is that investors typically expect returns, which is not the main focus of Habuild. Instead, their primary objective is to reach as many people as possible. With a strong community-driven approach, everything Habuild does revolves around people and their well-being.
Referrals play a vital role in Habuild’s growth strategy. While traditional, this method of generating clients and revenue is slower and less predictable. However, in the long run, Bothra believes that referrals are the best way to build a brand. Interestingly, Habuild’s target audience seldom searches for the company on websites. Instead, they discover the platform through platforms like YouTube, Instagram, or WhatsApp, which serve as the primary mediums of communication for Habuild.
One of Habuild’s key strengths lies in its community-building initiatives. In addition to the daily yoga sessions, the platform hosts events focused on journaling, face yoga, and fasting. Saurabh Bothra, the face of the company, leads by example, engaging in daily exercise and embracing a yoga lifestyle. This includes practices such as consuming meals before sunset and observing maun, or silence, on certain days.
As International Yoga Day approaches on June 21, Habuild has set its sights on an ambitious goal. In collaboration with the World Records Union, the company plans to attempt a world record for the maximum concurrent viewership in live yoga sessions. They will launch a 21-day free online yoga challenge to engage participants worldwide. This innovative approach showcases the accidental startup’s unwavering dedication to spreading the benefits of yoga.
Looking ahead, Habuild has set a “practical target” of reaching 1 lakh (100,000) members by January 2024. The company continues to invest in technology, leveraging AI and community-driven initiatives to nurture and expand its user base. By prioritizing people and their commitment to a healthier lifestyle, Habuild is revolutionizing the wellness industry and inspiring individuals to prioritize their physical and mental well-being.
In conclusion, what began as a response to the challenges posed by the pandemic has transformed into a remarkable success story. Habuild’s journey from offering free yoga sessions to becoming a thriving wellness platform is a testament to the power of dedication, community, and unwavering commitment to promoting a healthier lifestyle. With its unique blend of technology, community engagement, and a focus on habit building, Habuild continues to empower individuals worldwide, making a lasting impact on the well-being of countless lives.