Why We Invested In Portl

Kalaari Capital
6 min readJun 22, 2021

“The best investment you can ever make is in your own health”.

Covid-19 has fundamentally changed the lives of individuals all over the globe. Among other things, the pandemic has a caused a significant behavioural shift linked to our attitude towards fitness and healthcare.

Firstly, individuals are increasingly paying attention to staying active and healthy. Secondly, many outdoor activities have shifted indoors, leading to a boom in remote work and indoor workouts.

On the venture investing side, we have seen an increase in funding in specific emerging themes within fitness.

Key themes in fitness tech today include connected fitness equipment, wearables, corporate wellness platforms — all of which had accelerated adoption during the pandemic and are poised to continue growing.

Roughly 6% of fitness tech deals in the last six months have been in India, a close second to China.

What’s driving growth in fitness trends in India?

  • Growing younger population, higher discretionary spending, PPP $1.8K in 2012 to $3.3K in 2023
  • Rise in lifestyle diseases, leading to a bigger focus on fitness
  • Following the pandemic, digital fitness is growing fast at ~25% CAGR and will capture a large portion of the total fitness market
  • Consumer behaviour linked to home/ digital fitness will persist long after the pandemic

Some of the current challenges we see in India’s fitness space

  1. Repeat Use Behaviour / Adherence: Adhering to a fitness regime can be challenging. Traditional gyms have very low retention rates — roughly 75–80% of gym users drop out of memberships.
  2. Personalisation: Less than ~10% of gym users have personal trainers. Gyms have limited timings, a shortage of equipment (occasionally with wait times), and an overall lack of personalisation.
  3. Space: Over 70% of gym users in India also work out from home but do not want to fit multiple machines or gym equipment in their homes.
  4. Diversity of users: Current gyms or workout classes limit the diversity of age, gender, and fitness level.
  5. Lack of Access: Gyms are concentrated in city centres, with higher penetration in Tier-1 and Tier-2 cities. Today, there are roughly 6M active gym users in India (<0.5% of the population). We believe only 9% of the total addressable market for fitness has been tapped in India and a player able to solve for geographic access will be able to penetrate a large portion of the market.

What is the India opportunity in fitness?

The lockdown has also shown us that fitness is an indoor routine as much as it is an outdoor experience. In India, the digital fitness market is expanding rapidly, roughly 25% every year. The average annual spend on fitness is Rs. 26,000–30,000 per user, and the total fitness market size is $18B.

We believe India’s fitness journey is going to leapfrog from traditional fitness, such as gyms, casual team sports, and workout classes, to connected home fitness following the pandemic. Technology is going to play a large role in the way the Indian consumer stays fit and healthy — from tracking progress, to monitoring vitals, engaging with a fitness community and even receiving personalized feedback and training.

Globally, we have seen connected fitness take off following the pandemic — Peloton expects annual revenue to reach $4.1 billion and Mirror is expected to hit $250 million in revenue this year. Other startups such as Tempo or Tonal are also defining the fitness experience for a niche audience. Even in China we have seen Fiture, a connected fitness device company, growing exponentially while catering to local consumer needs. However, no player has disrupted this space in India yet and there exists a need to create a product that amplifies the fitness experience for the Indian consumer.

Why Kalaari invested in Portl

1) Technology & Product

Portl brings together the best of hardware, fitness software, and social connectivity. Portl is a digital platform device that combines advanced sensors & proprietary fitness technologies with AI to create holistic health solutions for consumers and athletes. Portl provides comprehensive fitness programmes, telemedicine, form correction & postural analysis for a personalized health & wellness experience through Portl and Portl Pro.

Portl Pro is a strength-focused, high-tech cable machine with a digital weight system, while the Portl Basic+ is a dedicated workout station for streaming live and on-demand workouts, as well as individual coaching from personal trainers which leans toward cardio and group fitness.

Portl aims to disrupt this at-home fitness experience by stacking personalized training and interactive workout classes on top of hardware with cutting-edge UX.

2) Market Opportunity

Portl has vast fitness possibilities — leveraging personalized data and preferences to deliver fitness regimes. The device allows users to tap into a network of popular, alternative, and trendy exercises that can be led by instructors around the world at a user’s convenience.

They also has the ability to go beyond fitness capabilities using hardware interface, computer vision, and audio functionality to deliver telehealth solutions. The device can tap into user data to deliver a wide range of digital healthcare solutions and enhance online interactions with medical professionals.

We at Kalaari strongly believe Portl has the ability to shape the way customers manage fitness and well-being at home. Overall, the product will help customers adhere to workout routines, improve access to world-class fitness content, and help personalize each user experience.

3) Team

Portl is being built by a team of product designers and developers that excel at electronics, hardware engineering, and artificial intelligence with a passion for sports and innovation.

When we first met Indraneel and Vishal, their clarity of thought and commitment to the vision stood out. Indraneel and Vishal did not just want to build a replica of a home-fitness device we have seen in other markets. They wanted to create a product for the specific needs of the Indian consumers — solving for some of the most crucial pain points in fitness. Pain points linked to adherence to fitness routines, personalization of workouts, increased access to equipment and content.

Both the founders have extensive experience building 3D technology and computer vision-related solutions. But, most importantly, they are both passionate sports and fitness enthusiasts. Indraneel played competitive cricket in the past and understands the nuances of sports training and the fitness journey.

From Indraneel, CEO of Portl: “As an early-stage startup, it was very tempting for us to grab the first deal that came our way. However, we were also aware that choosing the right partner would be one of the most important decisions that we’d make. Going into our discussions with Kalaari, we immediately knew that they were the right fit for us, and we’re excited to have them be part of our journey towards making Portl the leading home-fitness provider in the country.”

We at Kalaari are excited about playing a role in Indraneel and Vishal’s vision to shape India’s fitness journey and we cannot wait for Portl’s launch. Portl will begin pre-orders at the end of 2021.

Kalaari Capital is an early-stage, technology-focused venture capital firm based out of Bengaluru, India. Since 2006, Kalaari has empowered visionary entrepreneurs building unique solutions that reshape the way Indians live, work, consume and transact. The firm’s ethos is to partner early with founders and work with them to navigate the inevitable challenges of fostering ideas into successful businesses. At its core, Kalaari believes in building long-term relationships based on trust, transparency, authenticity, and respect.

If you are an entrepreneur (or know an entrepreneur) building a company in the Health & Fitness space, please write to us at health@kalaari.com

Wish to work with Portl? They are actively hiring for software developers, computer vision specialists and product marketing talent. Drop an email at careers@portl.co

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Kalaari Capital

A venture capital fund investing in early-stage, tech-oriented companies. At Kalaari, we believe in empowering visionary entrepreneurs building for India’s tomo