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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

Calorie tracking app aims to whet investors’ appetites

Creator’s success with diet regime was inspiration that led him to help others, as he tells Gillian Duncan  

The Weightmonitor app provides calorie counts along with paid nutritionist advice. Chris Whiteoak for The National
The Weightmonitor app provides calorie counts along with paid nutritionist advice. Chris Whiteoak for The National

Dev Khosla is a healthy weight now, but back in college he was obese.

For a while, he had no interest in losing weight. But when he saw his new friends get into fitness, he decided to try.

“I told my mum, who is a well established nutritionist, that I wanted to start losing weight and we started a phone and Skype diet plan, which worked really well for me,” says Mr Khosla, from New Delhi in India.

“So I thought I could create a programme, professionalise it and customise it and offer it at compelling prices, I am sure we could benefit other people.”

And he did. He developed Weightmonitor, an app which offers nutritional advice and helps you track calories. The app was a success in India, and soon people were also signing up in the UAE.

“As you already know, there are a lot of Indians in the UAE so we were seeing a lot of organic demand from one friend to the other friend, like a friend reference,” he says. “People are losing weight. People have been using the scoring programme which we launched, which is basically the main selling point of the programme. What it does is once you have a target to reach every day it keeps you motivated to achieve a higher score, independent of your food habits. That has been a great validator for us.”

Mr Khosla moved to the UAE just over a year ago to launch Weightmonitor UAE, which has two elements – a free calorie-counting service and paid nutritionist advice. For Dh499 per quarter, users receive access to a personal nutritionist who puts together a personalised diet plan.

However, when the app was launched in Dubai based on the same paid for model as in India, the company did not see a lot of success initially.

“We had to change it to a model where people come in and feel the product, see the product, without having to pay for it immediately. You can lose weight by using the free [calorie-counting] service and go on to use it for the rest of your life or pay for the premium element [which also gives you access to a nutritionist].”

The app now has 1,500 users and Mr Khosla is on the verge of raising a Series A round of funding.

“We have been able to demonstrate a proof of concept to a suitable investor,” says Mr Khosla. “We have already been talking to a few venture capital funds, so we are in the process of engagement on that side.”

They may not need much persuasion.

“Anything that has a proof of concept, anything that is scalable and anything which has a barrier to entry is something that excites a VC,” he says.

VentureSouq, an angel investing platform, says there has been increased interest from investors in health and fitness tech start-ups as the size of financings and valuations in both the Middle East and the US have increased significantly over the last five or six years.

“This is not surprising given that people generally are starting to take better care of themselves through healthier eating and exercise, and technology is starting to increasingly intersect into people’s lives including health and wellness,” says Suneel Gokhale, a partner at VentureSouq.

The global mobile health, or mHealth market, which includes the fitness tracking sector, is expected to reach US$102.43 billion by 2022, according to Zion Market Research.

“Weightmonitor UAE is a very good example of this fast developing start-up space and is an ideal fit for the emerging UAE entrepreneurial ecosystem,” says Ramesh Jagannathan, the managing director of the innovation and entrepreneurship platform StartAD.