According to the law of accelerating returns, the adoption of wearable device technologies has been much faster than any other disrupting products or devices for mankind. This is the reason why big brands are betting high and try to fit themselves into the wearable technology market. We have seen many smartphone companies, such as Apple, Xiaomi, etc., trying to make inroads by aggressively launching their wearable products.
The global wearable technology market is expected to reach a whopping $57billion market cap with a CAGR of 16.2% from 2016-2022, according to Allied Market Research. Wearable devices can be used in multiple sectors, which is the reason why the market is quite large. Industries such as healthcare, defense, fitness & sports, etc., use wearable devices for multiple applications. Among the different sectors, smartwatches, fitness & sports have a CAGR of about 19% from 2016-2022.
According to MarketsandMarkets, the sports tech market will reach $31 billion by 2024, with a CAGR of 20.4% from 2018-2024. Murugesh also explains that they focus on physiology, which accounts for 30% of $30billion. Physiology involves training, performance improvement, and coaching of athletes. Speaking of adaptability, the total wearable devices used by the Indian sports athletes and coaches account for only 2% of the overall market. With the continuous support to sports leagues like IPL, ISL, PKL, and others, corporates see this as an opportunity to make money, by making them adopt technology to gain greater insights about the players’ performance.
As a first-generation entrepreneur, the bootstrapped URUFIT is the second startup for Murugesh after he successfully exited from Bison Agro Farms Pvt. Ltd. in southern Tamil Nadu. Also, having worked as a fund manager at Reliance capital asset management and HSBC asset management, the founder quit his job as he found that the 9-6 routine is not meant for individuals like him.
“My immediate interest was fitness, which I have been following for the past 20 years. I strongly believe technology is the way to drive fitness among Indians.”
Murugesh further says that our perspective towards fitness is limited to only going to the gym. Being a person who is so keen on keeping himself fit, Murugesh wants to bring change in the perception of fitness, with the use of technology. The team conducted market research about the idea and found the gaps in the market and came up with a unique solution that is predominantly designed for the Indian physiology.
“When we started interacting with the stakeholders and institutions, they found it very exciting because they knew that this technology would enable the athletes and coaches to drive insights about the fitness of the athletes.”
The data helps them to improvise training and analyze their recovery patterns.
Talking about the company name “SCERMLIND” the parent company under which the URUFIT brand comes, Murguesh explains that they underwent tremendous challenge. They zeroed on the name, which is derived from the names of different parts of the human body like the Skeletal system, Cardiac system, etc. Coming to the brand, they wanted a small word and found URU, a legendary metal which is the strongest metal in the Marvel Comics Universe.
URUFIT plans to release the product for sports athletes in their first version. The product has two main components, such as hardware and the URUFIT Ecosystem. URUFIT Ecosystem consists of AI, Predictive analysis, Signal processing and data lake (Data Lake is a storage repository which can store large amount of structured, Semi-structured and unstructured data). The hardware part is the wristbands and data lake stores a large amount of data that is tracked. The AI and Predictive analysis kicks in, once the data gets collected. Athletes can use the data only through an Android app (at the moment) and coaches can check the data using the web application. The company has built a machine learning models which will be used to derive insights about energy expenditure, training, recovery, etc..
The product is fine-tuned to 25 hertz-optimal frequency to collect random data seamlessly. It also filters out all unnecessary data collected by the system. The company uses PPG sensors and actuators to monitor the heart rate of the users seamlessly. In the first version, they will limit themselves by providing only basic features such as time, heart rate, etc. with only Bluetooth mode for data sync. It has simple UI with key functionalities to avoids distractions.
Since URUFIT is building a product that is more science-related and also needs a sports focus approach, they are working with institutes such as Centre for Sports Sciences (Chennai), Inspire Institute of Sports (privately run institutes) which focuses on training athletes for international sport. IIS has the best infrastructure for athletes, where URUFIT is working with them in terms of collecting data and testing the product to market (Athletes wearing URUFIT devices)
“We are working with them in collecting data from the athletes. The biggest question is why somebody has not launched a product? Though we are a highly populated country, we don’t have relevant data out of which we built a product,” the founder elaborates on the collaborations. URUFIT collects continuous heart rate data combined with activities and lots of features, which is put into building machine learning models for analyzing the data. Research towards sports is limited, as we have less than 15 sports laboratories throughout the country.
NASSCOM helps the company in providing affordable space and networking. Also, IIT-M helps the company with validating the product.
Lack of Awareness: When talking about futuristic technology, people do not like technology that they are not aware of. With the advent of technological advancements, Murugesh hopes to bring more education and awareness to the people in less time.
Initiation of Talks with Investors: The founder feels that, there are investors and incubators who are still skeptical about startups with a business model other than present models like the aggregation model. As a whole, the ecosystem’s support is needed to raise money in order to bring innovative products to the market.
Time to Market: To build a product like a wearable device that is unique, it requires time and money. Faster time to market is still a big challenge for this sector.
Pricing: Presence of low-cost devices from different players such as Xiaomi, Huawei, etc. pricing it right, is a challenge. Even though the cheaper alternatives doesn’t have similar offerings as that of URUFIT, people usually tend to compromise on price over offerings. Considering the price-sensitive Indian market, URUFIT has plans to match the demands of the target population.
Gaps: Building a unique product will always call for gaps in the initial stages. But, the founder is very optimistic about clearing the gaps in product development. When asked about the challenges in continuously monitoring the athletes’ heart rate during the dwell time like charging time, etc., Murugesh said that it doesn’t play a significant part, but they are continuously working on it to nullify the gaps in the process.
Computation: The energy expenditure calculation is a bit generalized in almost all wearables. Walking freely and walking with a dead weight will both show the same calories burnt, as it takes only the distance covered into consideration. URUFIT takes a different approach and uses heart rate variability to identifying the occurrence of intense activities and computes energy expenditure accordingly. It’s a great way to reduce errors and help the computation to be as accurate as possible. The data cannot be as accurate as a million dollar room calorie meter in a research laboratory, but that makes sense considering the limitations wearable have in terms of computational capability, size constraints, price and others.
The wearable technology market is flooded with many players because the market size is really large. If you look at health tech, the size of the market is trillion dollars, so it’s definitely advisable for a larger company to focus on that because they have the resources to crack that.
“We are building a product that is exclusively designed for the Indian body type.’’
“When it comes to understanding physiology, our body type is completely different from other ethnicities (significant research has been conducted to establish this claim). We definitely can’t compare our BMI with other ethnics like Africans or Europeans. Also, our lung capacity, muscular, skeletal structure, etc. are different”, Murugesh explains when asked about how they are different from the others.
Companies like Apple and Fitbit, etc., focus on the consumer market. These companies will give information only from a user’s standpoint. For example, calories burnt from jogging. Whereas, URUFIT focuses on niche areas such as sports teams, federations, athlete communities. Heart Rate is the key indicator of what’s happening in our body. It is an important parameter to know about the autonomous nervous system. We can understand the information by pulling out heart rate data.
Since we can able to compute heart rate variability, our device can also automatically detect the activities of the athletes. Currently, for the first version, we focus on activities such as Training load, rest, running, walking, sleep paces, deep sleep, light sleep, stress recovery, Recovery time, Vo2Max, etc. These are not available at gadgets, which are priced at a lesser value.
The company is planning to have a beta launch with close partners and a few athletes. They are planning for 200-250 devices for beta launch, whereas the commercial launch is planned before February.
The umbrella of products for the next 2 years…
Sports version: Focus on sports fraternity Enterprises: Products for Enterprises- 18 months after the beta launch, as the market is Huge.Consumers: Preventive health tech. Products
The founder feels that targeting enterprises and consumers will be their biggest strengths, where they can scale faster. Few companies have shown intent to incorporate technology into their training.
URUFIT is looking for investment to launch different versions of the product. They have plans to invest a significant amount in research and come up with unique products in the future.
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My space (Thoughts about the company)
Partnership: Building a wearable device that is specifically targeted towards the Indian audience requires detailed research and experimentation. The first reason why we believe with this company is the kind of collaboration they have with institutes such as IIS, CSS, IIT. In addition to these big names, the startup also partners with Dr. Sivanthi Aditanar College of Physical Education, IEDP, IIITDM. This helps them to validate their product and understand the real pain points of athletes to come up with a product that shows insights about their real problem.
GDPR Norms: It is very interesting to know that URUFIT is GDPR compliant. The company follows a futuristic approach, where they are putting serious efforts in handling the data. We believe that this is the winning formula where people are more conscious about their personal data.
Focus on Athletes & Female fitness: When big companies start focusing on consumers, URUFIT is unique in its own way. With the onset of IPL, ISL, Pro Kabaddi, they are continually engaged in one or more sports, which is why the company focuses on athletes and sports enthusiasts.
Product- URUFIT has planned two versions of the product. For the first version, they focus on sport centric wearable devices. In the next version, they focus on consumer products similar to other wearables, but as a preventive healthcare companion. To be successful in a crowded place, the company clearly has a road-map and timing to release the products. If timely investments coincide with favorable market conditions, there is no doubt that this startup becomes a great success in the near future.
The Team had a wonderful Chai pe Charcha Dosa pe Discussion with Co-founder Murugesh Kumar. We thank him for his time, sharing the startup story.
By Unique Startups Team (Ram, Kevin, VK, Sethuram, Ranganathan)