There are 60 million diabetics and over a 150 million hypertensive people in India. As the corporate culture in India grows, these diet and fitness related diseases are growing to epidemic proportions. Even the government has taken note of this and has reduced the BMI for the overweight limit to 23 and 25 as the limit for being obese as Indians as more prone to weight related diseases.
Most part of the problem comes from a lack of awareness. With the help of a diet chart, you can figure out the components that make a food and take a call
weather or not the food that you're eating is healthy. However, with respect to Indian food, no such list exists. Even nutritionalists make a gross approximation of the calorie count of say a Puri or a Chappati.From the duo that carried out the famous Rs100 a day experiment comes HealthifyMe. This is the problem that it is addressing. Drawing from a curated and comprehensive database of nutritional information of Indian food, HealthifyMe is a nutrition and exercise tracking tool. It is currently an invite only beta and we caught up with Tushar Vashisht, CEO and co-founder of HealthifyMe and one half of the Rs100 a day experiment.
Working for a Second Bottom Line
Tushar worked on the UID project and it is here that the entrepreneurial bug bit him; "I worked very closely with Nandan Nilekani and some very successful entrepreneurs in the UID project. I also met my Partner Matt (Matthew Cherian) here; we were room mates. In my discussions with him on starting up, we always agreed that we wanted to farm a business with a second bottom line, where along with money, there was also a social impact that the venture was bringing about. Health and education was one such area."
He reveals that the Rs.100 a day experiment was done to understand what it meant to be a below poverty line Indian. "During this experiment, we had made this Excel sheet with nutritional information of Indian food. When we went to various places speaking about the experiment, we'd show the audience this sheet and everyone would want it. After consulting various experts in the field, we found out that there really isn't a nutritional information database for Indian food. We worked with the National Institute for Nutrition to curate and build the list further and I believe that we have the worlds only comprehensive database of nutritional information of Indian food."
It is this database that lies in at the core of HealthifyMe. Combined with some heavyweight technology (ex-googler Sanjay and Chief Architect of UID project Pramod Varma advise them) and an intuitive user interface, HealthifyMe aims to be an effective and easy to use tracking tool for nutrition, specifically for India.
Awareness, Logging, Suggestions and Gamification
HealthifyMe is currently a web app which allows you to -
- Track your diet - Simply key in the food that you had and it gives you a calorie count and nutritional information of the food that you've just eaten. This is quite accurate with respect to Indian food; we even got nutritional information for Palak Paneer and Jeera rice on it. Based on some initial information that you key into the system, the system suggests a set number of calories that you must consume and each of your entries are entered against the limit. Furthermore, based on your food entries, the system also suggests what you should eat next.
- Log your exercise - This is quite basic, wherein you can enter the details of your exercise and it will tell you the amount of calories that you've burnt and remove that from the daily tally of calories that the system tracks.
Based on how regular you are at logging information on HealthifyMe, it rewards you with points and there is a central leaderboard where the users are given a ranking. Future plans include challenging friends using the system on losing weight etc. A mobile version of the app is in the making and will be released soon.
Will it work in India?
Weight in countries abroad is a very sensitive topic, while in India, this isn't the case. Tushar recollects "When I had first come back to India for the UID project, I put on 15 Kgs as a result of a sedentary lifestyle and Indian food. My friends had no problems in pointing it out to me. They'd directly say 'Tushar! You've grown fat!' which wouldn't be alright in a country like the US."
This could be a reason lending itself to the possible success of HealthifyMe. Gamification through leaderboards and challenges will also help it work in a corporate environment. But most importantly, what worked for us in the past week is its intuitive, clean and easy to use user interface. Simple things such as lists suggesting frequently entered food where the user just has to click rather than type his entry really make the platform a joy to use. The platform is also truly Indian; we have measurements in cups, Katori's and bowls, and even the amount of raw material used to make a dish can be customized, which helps keep the information as accurate as possible.
HealthifyMe also recently raised a Seed Funding from individual investors and are in the current batch of the Microsoft Accelerator. While it is difficult to say if this will be a successful business or not, it definitely has a great product and a team that knows what its doing and where it wants to go.
You can request an Invite to use HealthifyMe here