By Chandini Monnappa
BENGALURU (Reuters) - Indian gym and wellness startup cure.fit has laid off as many as 800 of its staff across the country and permanently closed a number of fitness centres to cut costs amid the world's biggest coronavirus lockdown, sources familiar with the situation said.
Founded by two former Flipkart executives in 2016 and backed by Singapore state investor Temasek Holdings, the company's cult.fit business quickly attracted a large fan base thanks to state-of-the-art group fitness sessions and celebrity endorsements, opening centres in more than 130 locations across India.
"The lockdown has affected all our business offerings and we do not see the situation improving for quite some time," a cure.fit spokesperson said in a statement.
"This unprecedented situation has forced us to close operations in small towns in India and the UAE."
Cure.fit, which had expanded into Dubai last June, said it has downsized its employee base across markets and initiated pay cuts across all levels.
The Bengaluru-based company closed all its fitness centres at the start of the lock down but has now decided not to reopen several in smaller cities, six sources aware of the developments -- including fitness trainers and centre managers -- told Reuters.
Cure.fit said 90% of its cult trainers continued to be with the firm but did not reveal how many people it employs.
According to one person who was part of the talent acquisition team, the company had roughly 5000 employees across India, including those at its cure.fit and eat.fit units offering medical services and healthy eating options.
The layoffs come from across the business, the sources said.
"I cannot face my family, how will I survive when it is not clear when this lockdown situation will end or when people will start to hire again?," said Surjit Singh, a 27 year old boxer from West Bengal's Kolkata who was employed as a trainer in Bangalore and joined the startup 11 months ago.
Other employees who were let go said the company was planning to move all its classes online. The app already offers virtual personal training sessions.
Cure.fit, founded by Mukesh Bansal and Ankit Nagori, also launched a grocery delivery service in cities like Bengaluru, Delhi and Mumbai last month as India went into lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Around 100 of the former employees discussed what steps they might be able to take in a WhatsApp group reviewed by Reuters, worrying about being unemployed due to the ongoing lockdown.
(Reporting by Chandini Monnappa in Bengaluru; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Chizu Nomiyama)