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Fitness, Wellness and Innovation with Sunil Rajasekar (Mindbody)

Fitness, Wellness and Innovation with Sunil Rajasekar (Mindbody)

Miguel Amado
Website Planet’s Miguel Amado talked with Sunil Rajasekar, CTO and President of Mindbody, a wellness services marketplace that is growing exponentially connecting small companies and professionals with interested clients. We talked about the market, what changed in 2020 and Mindbody’s plans for the future. Check out the interview!

Mindbody offers fitness and wellness services in one app for everyone and a software for business owners too. What is the most important one and profitable for the company? Is there synergy between them?

The company started building software for the yoga industry around 20 years ago, when boutique fitness was just starting out.  Over time, we’ve grown our modalities along with the customers. Now there’s Pilates, Cross Fit, other types of wellness activities focused on meditation.

Our belief, as we’ve looked at this evolution more closely, is that there are seven dimensions of wellness. It’s not just about working out: there are social, physical, emotional, occupational, intellectual, environmental and spiritual dimensions that need all to be balanced.

Today, we serve the boutique fitness industry with what we call integrative health, including acupressure, acupuncture, salons and spas. We view it as overall wellness. So, I wouldn’t say one of our products is more important than the other.

From the consumer perspective, the marketplace app is a way for consumers to come to the Mindbody app and discover services across these dimensions: find new businesses, new modalities and ways of fitness. We’d like to see this as one place for you to get access to all of this, as opposed to going to ten different apps.

After the increase of interest for fitness and wellness of the last years, how can you differentiate from other companies in the business environment? 

Our mission at Mindbody is to help people live happier, healthier lives by connecting them to wellness. The pandemic has been challenging to all, but we are seeing some positives come out of it. Some of our research shows 60% of consumers see wellness and fitness as a higher priority coming out of the pandemic – that’s good.

We want to democratize wellness. This is the same principle of giving people access to healthcare and education. We view more people coming into this space as a good thing, because we still serve a small portion of the overall population and there’s a lot of room to grow! We’d be happy if all 7.5 billion people in the world engaged in wellness activities and would like to play a big part of it, but I think there’s room for more people.

When you ask about how we differentiate, I think you’re probably thinking of Apple Fitness and Peloton as new players. These are the larger names that have entered. I think their entrance is positive because they open up the market to more consumers, which makes it more vibrant for everyone. The key difference is that Peloton and Apple are both direct to consumer places, providing content direct to consumers.

We don’t create content: our business is to support wellness businesses to cater to consumers.  We give them tools to grow their business, enable online booking for them, managing schedules, run marketing campaigns and more. I’d like to view us as the operating system for wellness. We give everything needed to run a successful business, including helping find new clients and consumers through marketplace, and tools to grow your business.

2020 was challenging for everyone. Many small businesses offering presential activities were deeply impacted. How did you navigate in this environment having to adapt very quickly and hoping for the best?

Very quickly we realized the impact on the wellness industry would be huge, and that they would all have to shut down for what we thought to be just a couple of months. Our first reaction was asking ourselves what we could do to help our customers. The immediate thing we could do was to give everyone a fee relief.

The other thing we did was in terms of product adaptations to help customers – we created the Virtual Wellness Platform. Our customers are creative and resilient, and they were trying to find ways to serve their customers. We kept hearing about them offering classes at the park and using tools for virtual classes, which were not built nor optimized for wellness.

We released a virtual streaming solution custom-built for the wellness industry. It was integrated to our platform, so setting up a virtual class was just like setting up any other class. We added more features to optimize it for wellness.

For salon, spa and integrative health customers, we worked on a set of features around what we called “The Low Touch Journey”. Things like avoiding a situation of waiting in a room for 20 minutes when going to a salon with a bunch of other people in this environment. For instance, we added capabilities like a check-in through text and wait outside until getting texted back.

Mindbody has a strong set of core values and causes to support. How can the company actively help the community in those causes?

We spend a lot of time on education webinars, creating more of a community in our customer base. We have Mindbody One, which is an online community. Most of our customers don’t have a highly organized structure and the life as an entrepreneur gets lonely at times. You have the big responsibility of making decisions which could have huge implications. The sense of community created with Mindbody One has a big value, even though we directly participate.

What are the next steps for Mindbody?

We have a long way to go until we accomplish our mission. We want to be the operating system, providing a platform where wellness businesses that have expertise and passion can plug into the Mindbody system, so that we give them everything needed to run a successful business.

This year, we are working on lending services for businesses. We’ve also launched Messenger AI, an AI-driven chatbot, which helps them be more efficient. We will continue to focus on figuring out how to bring more customers into the ecosystem.

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