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“When Your Investment Doesn’t Solely Focus On Money, But Is Also Backed By Passion, It Always Works Out In Long Run”

Actor Shilpa Shetty talks about her recently launched fitness and health app, Simple Soulful. She speaks about its growth plan, her investments in the start-up space, her mantra to beat stress and more

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What have been your biggest learnings in the last two years?
I've realised that you need to put in much more effort and resources when you are a start-up. The beginning is always the most important and crucial phase of a business. When I started as a brand ambassador for Mamaearth, I didn't know that. But, I had faith in Varun and Ghazal Alagh’s vision. Together, we have put in more work towards the foundation of our start-up. 

The past two years have been difficult for businesses across the spectrum. We have made mistakes, learnt from them, made amends, and weathered the storm. So, I’d say that my biggest learning is that determination, diligence, and acceptance are the keys to a successful venture.

How has the journey been, from an actor to a businesswoman?
As actors we always follow another person's vision, to create art. Acting was about adding personality, and a little bit of myself to every character that I have essayed in keeping with someone else's vision. But, I always had this urge to build something of my own. That put me on a path of investments and eventually a business empire of my own. Predominantly, I would credit my gut instinct that has worked for me with brands like the Simple Soulful App, my investment in Fast & Up, and now, the restaurant chain with Bastian. I believe that when your investment doesn’t solely focus on money, but is also backed by passion, it always works out in the long run. Passion and vision have been the driving forces of my journey. I believe that the brand has to outlive you and be bigger than your name.

Please tell us about your fitness app and the inspiration behind it.
Most yoga apps and channels are led by non-Indians and being a proud Indian this struck me as odd. When I saw people look up to me as a catalyst for some direction in their personal fitness journey, I took the opportunity to start my own YouTube channel and from there the idea of Simple Soulful App was born. It went on to become the first all Indian yoga app---more like a one-stop shop for people's fitness goals.

Today, the Simple Soulful App by Shilpa Shetty is a holistic health app offering solutions with yoga, fitness, dance, meditation and diet programmes, all designed by experts. I started this app to spread awareness about holistic wellness and encourage everyone to lead a healthy lifestyle. There are 70+ goal-based programmes, which include programmes to lose fat, control diabetes, and boost immunity. There are specific women-centric programmes like post-pregnancy weight loss and yoga to relieve menstrual pain. 

We are also launching artificial intelligence technology that will help users track form and postures, give scores, and keep a check on the calorie count. The best part about this app is that your privacy is of utmost importance to us. We do not record anything and there is zero data infringement. So far the app downloads are at 6.4 million (Android: 2.9 million, iOS: 1 million, Jio STB/MI TV/Android TV: 2.5 million), MAU: 3,50,000 ( Apple + Android mobile + Android TV).

What is the growth path you have envisioned for your fitness app? 
Growth is subject to the area of investment. Some are long-term, and some are medium to long-term, I don’t believe in short-term investments. A business is like a baby and has to be nurtured correctly and given the right resources to bloom. I invest in people and their vision, I invest in spaces that will make a difference, I invest in long-term sustainable businesses that are synonymous with my beliefs. 

Your views on the start-up space in India?
India is a country of opportunities. The brain drain we were facing has slowed down as more founders realise what India has to offer and especially in the start-up space. We have infrastructure and access to varied skill sets. Ours is a country that has over 1 billion people, and that’s huge even if it means 50 per cent of possible customers, that you can make a difference to. There could be no better time or place than India to launch products and services in, today. We excel in the edtech, fintech and e-commerce space. It is great to see India having the most number of start-ups in recent years. I am a strong believer in “Make In India“ and the start-up ecosystem our country offers.

What makes you pick the companies you want to invest in or are aligned with?
Primarily, I invest in people and their vision. Next, my decisions come from instinct---I go with my gut. Finally, I have to believe in the product or the thought behind it. Money is always the last thing on the checklist. If the thought works and the vision supports it, then the product will work. Mamaearth is an example of that.

What are your upcoming film projects?
My next film is Sukhee. I play the title role and the film is directed by Sonal Joshi and produced by Abundantia Productions. I'm also shooting for Indian Police Force, a web series for Amazon Prime Video, directed by Rohit Shetty.

How do you beat stress?
By doing pranayama and focusing on my breath. Also, by being aware and knowing that the solution is within you.

A book that has inspired you.
There are many. Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to A Long Happy Life is the most recent one.