In the busy schedules of our everyday life, usually, we don’t find time to take care of ourselves. We don’t even care for our health many a times. This leads to many health problems such as stress. We see people around us who are stressed due to job pressure or relationship issues. It is often noticed that most of these people are not willing to talk about their problems fearing social implications. Focusing on this particular issue, YourDOST, an online counselling and emotional support platform, emerged as a dost “Friend” for those who really need someone to share their problems with.
YourDOST: A friend in need is a friend indeed
YourDOST is an online counselling and emotional support platform designed to foster mental wellness. It anonymously connects the caller with the right expert consisting of psychologists, psychotherapists, counsellors, life coaches, career guides, and people with rich experience, who understand peoples’ problems and guide them while maintaining complete confidentiality in individual sessions (through free online chats).
The platform which is available to people via its web platform (www.yourdost.com) and also on mobile through its mobile app on Android and iOS platforms, currently has 400 experts and offers all its users 24×7 access to experts through its various modes of communication. Users can have one-on-one sessions with experts through messages and live chats; book appointments with experts for voice and video calls; connect with multiple people and experts on forums and blogs.
The professionally well trained counsellors and experts at YourDOST are helping users learn how to deal with difficult times such as stress related to financial problems, depression, self-image and also support those in quest of self-improvement like developing healthy personal relationships, maintaining work-life balance, building confidence, dealing with peer-pressure and more. With the use of technology, this wellness startup wants to make experts help widely and instantly available to people looking for emotional and mental well-being. YourDOST aims to reduce the stigma attached to seeking help for mental wellness in our country.
The Driving Force
The conventional Indian society tends to associate the term “mental illness” with madness and insanity and communicating feelings of weakness and vulnerability as a sign of weakness. Therefore, most people facing unpleasant situations prefer to keep their problems to themselves because there is a fear of being misjudged and misunderstood. All these conventions have led to a society where talking about mental illness is nothing less than a taboo. YourDOST conceptualized an idea and launched a venture which solves the three problems in the Indian scenario:
- Awareness: Many people in India are not aware of symptoms of depression and tend to carry on with their life without realizing that they need help.
- Access: In Indian society, reaching out to a counsellor for therapy to come out of depression and related issues, is considered a matter of shame and damage to the family’s social status. These matters are kept under wraps and hence, issues worsen at times.
- Support System: In India, people cannot really talk about their concerns and identified mental ailments without the fear of being misunderstood or misjudged. These issues become more serious as they enter a downward spiral.
It took four years to convert the idea into business and in December 2014 the company launched its platform on its website.
Founders, Team, and Mentors
Co-Founder and CEO Richa Singh comes from an interaction design background with specialization in User Experience Design from IIT Guwahati. Prior to YourDOST, she led the product development for Webfluenz for 3 years and also worked with D.E. Shaw & Co and o9 Solution in Interaction Designer and Product Management roles.
Puneet Manuja, another Co-Founder, Chief Strategy Officer & Chief Marketing Officer, is an IIM Bangalore alumnus. Prior to YourDOST, he has served McKinsey & Company and worked in different sectors like Pharma and IT.
Prakhar Verma is one of the Co-Founders and Chief Technical Officer who comes from a Computer Science background from BMSCE Bangalore. He joined the technical team of Capillary during its early days and led the journey of making Capillary as one of the pioneer in CRM.
Along with the core team members from premier institutes like IIT, IIM and from a few top companies like Flipkart, MuSigma, Vodafone etc., YourDOST has mentors and advisors like Sanjay Anandram and Phanindra Sama who have built scalable Indian companies; Dr. Archana Tyagi who has served as a counsellor and coach at high stress border areas in countries like India, Afghanistan; Dr. Mazumdhar who has been the expert behind building HealthcareMagic and many others.
Funding and Revenues
The startup with its unique business idea grabbed an amount close to $400K (INR 2.5 Cr) in 2015, from investors like Phanindra Sama, Redbus founder, Aprameya Radhakrishna, TaxiForSure founder, Aneesh Reddy, Capillary founder, and Nagesh Grandhi of Hyderabad Angels. YourDOST has recently raised $1.2 million (INR 8 Cr), as a part of its pre-Series A round, led by SAIF Partners and previous investors.
With the raised funds, the company wants to scale up its efforts and have a pan India presence with a great portfolio of experts on the platform.
With an operational cost of 25 lakhs per month the company earns its revenue from the chargeable services like voice and video calls and booking appointments. YourDOST works on a freemium model as some of its services are available for free, like chats, forums, and messages to experts.
Market and Future Prospects
As per the report titled “India Wellness Industry Outlook 2016”, the wellness industry in India showcases good prospects in the near future and is anticipating the inflow of several foreign wellness chains in the form of franchisees with the long term partnerships or alliances with wellness marketing institutions present in India. The size of the wellness market in terms of revenue is around 10.9 $ billions.
YourDOST data reveals that around 26,00,00,000 Indians suffer from mental health disorders, about 36 percent suffer from depression, an estimated 51 percent of corporate India suffers from high levels of stress, and 42 percent Indian private sector employees suffer from depression.
Seeing this alarming situation, YourDOST plans to focus on the Indian market and crack it completely and become a one stop solution for people’s wellness; be it personal, professional or academic. The company also plans to make money by increasing its reach in the country, spreading awareness about depression and the need for counselling, increase conversion rate on the website and get more users utilize paid services. It is also planning certain experiments like premium chats with most accomplished counsellors and more.
Competition and Competitive Advantage
In the Mental Wellness Tech sector, YourDOST is the first and the largest player fulfilling the need of the mental and emotional wellness. Other players include ePsyclinic, Health-E-Minds, and Type A Thought. YourDOST is playing all safe with its competitive advantages like being the first platform in the space of mental wellness helping users through voice calls, video calls, chats, messages, forums with its 300 experts available 24×7, unlike its any other competitor till date.
Though successful in their business, the founders still remember the difficult days when they had problems in building their platform and in scaling the technology. But with the help of few psychologists and Prakhar Verma, CTO and Co-founder of the startup, everything settled in time.
Success and Achievements
The story began in 2014 with a team of three members, one expert and 1-2 sessions per day. Today within one and a half years the company has conducted 800 one to one sessions daily serviced by 400+ experts on the platform. Currently, the startup has a full-fledged team of 25 members and more than 4 lakh users who are getting benefits from it.
By vouching on their experienced team and the huge untouched market segment as its strength and learning from the past experiences, YourDOST is hopeful to face any challenge in the future.
Rewards and Recognitions:
- Featured in Top 15 people of 2015 by Economic Times
- Nominated in Women of Worth by NDTV and L’Oreal in 2016
- Selected for Zone Startups Accelerator programme, first of its kind exclusively for women entrepreneurs
- Selected as an INK Fellow (INK is India’s foremost platform for cutting-edge ideas and inspiring stories)