“Stress has now become a part of everyday life." According to reports of survey conducted by Cigna's 360 well being survey in 2019, more than 82% of the population in India is suffering from stress and the age group of 35 to 49 years are most affected with around 89% reporting stress. 80% of the patients struggling with mental issues do not seek treatment due ignorance, stigmas or family reputation.
Hence, Richa Singh founded YourDOST, a platform to provide assistance as an ‘Emotional Wellness Coach’, where one can seek assistance being anonymous when being confused, hurt, sacred and emotionally unstable.
Despite not being a psychologist, why did Richa come up with the idea of ‘YourDOST’ ?
When Richa was at IIT Guwahati in 2008, her hostel-mate committed suicide. This incident made Richa very upset. Later on they came to know that she couldn't handle the pressure of heavy syllabus and wondered whether her low scores would get her a decent placement.
They had psychologists on the college campus, but students were hesitant to go ahead to seek help. That incident became the eureka moment when Singh decided to set up YourDOST with her colleague Puneet Manuja, with the only technical knowledge and a strong aim to stop people from committing suicide and helping those facing emotional trauma and distress.
Co-founders realized that rather than setting up two or three clinics they should use the route of technology, which could help address the issues of stigma, and lack of accessibility and awareness. It provides anonymity, as well as spreads awareness fast through online portals, and is accessible 24x7.
YourDOST - Make your Mental Health a priority
YourDOST, launched in 2014, is an online platform for counselling and emotional wellness with the use of cognitive behavioural therapy, or CBT, telephonic calls and chat-based counselling by experts. These experts are psychiatrist, life coaches, psychologists, career counsellors and even entrepreneurs offering career guidance.
As per Richa, they receive broadly three kinds of issues –
● Relationship issues, both pre-marital and post marital from younger crowd.
● Concerns about balance in work & life, office stress from young professionals and career confusions.
● Anxieties and fears of young entrepreneurs.
Overcoming the major Challenges :
1. The stigma of mental health - Due to the massive societal stigma around mental health care and the fear of judgement, physically meeting with a psychiatrist and counsellors is not considered a viable option by many.
● Services at YourDOST are private, anonymous & confidential while communicating through social media and appropriate steps have been taken for spreading awareness and educating the importance of mental health and emotional wellness through blogging.
2. Lack of benchmarks for hiring experts - In India, there are no available benchmarks for assessment of experts.
● YourDOST set of standards and assessment procedures were incorporated for evaluation of experts.
3. Ensuring the quality of counselling sessions - Major challenge was to know whether users are receiving right service and are they satisfied.
● A supervisory system was developed and feedbacks were taken after sessions to ensure the best services.
Revenue Model :
Working on a freemium model, individuals can receive counselling from experts free of cost over texts.
However, voice calls are charged Rs. 400 per session and video calls are charged Rs. 600 per session. Each session runs for a period of 45 minutes.
YourDOST, as of now, has raised over total fund of $1.6 million from 2 finding-rounds. Its latest Series-A funding round in Jun 2016 was for $ 1.2 Million from 6 investors lead by SAIF Partners.
The Road Ahead :
In the future, the startup plans make their consulting more scientific and personalized, where the platform through the data could predict and suggest preventive care measures for certain individuals.
“Through our efforts, we envision creating a happier India, an India where mental health is considered at par with physical health in terms of importance, where stigma has been shattered, and an ecosystem exists which people can freely approach to receive professional support in times of emotional and psychological distress.”, says Richa.