On Monday, emotional wellness and counselling platform YourDOST announced raising $1.2 million, as a part of its pre-Series A round, led by SAIF Partners (which contributed $1 million). Seven other existing investors, including redBus Founder Phanindra Sama, TaxiForSure Founder Aprameya Radhakrishna and others also participated in the round.
The funds will be allocated to scale their operations and for roping in senior executives to build their senior leadership team across domains of marketing, technology and operations. According to co-founder Richa Singh, the team plans to hire four members to their senior leadership and add six associates to the mid-management team. The team count currently stands at 22. With the current funding, the firm also plans to set up its research division.
Started in December 2014, YourDOST is an online counselling and emotional support platform designed to foster mental health. It anonymously connects individuals to experts, including psychologists, psychotherapists, counsellors, life coaches, career guides, who can understand and guide them through completely confidential individual sessions.
Earlier, in September 2015, the firm had raised their seed round of $400,000. Working on a freemium model, individuals can receive text-based counselling from experts free of cost. Voice calls, however, are charged Rs 400 per session and video calls are charged Rs 600 per session. Each session or appointment runs for 45 minutes.
Two months ago, the firm also started tying up with B2B clients to help better the emotional wellness of employees. As of now the firm has three partners, one of which is IIT Guwahati. The platform has more than 350 experts on board, serving close to 800 sessions on a daily basis. This includes text, video calls and voice calls. However, Richa says that texts still are a predominant part of the overall sessions. The platform boasts of having served approximately 4,00,000 people pan-India, already.
The platform also witnesses 3,000 visitors daily across all properties (online, Ios and Android app). It has various content and discussions on career counselling, relationship advice amongst others to provide the right guidance to individuals. This is what differentiates the startup, according to the founders.
According to reports by WHO, 250 million people in India go through stress or other mental ailments. Further, according to ASSOCHAM, 50 percent of corporate India is under chronic stress. Hence, we have a huge market potential lying in front of us. Hence, it’s our endeavour to reach out to more and more people and become the market leader in this space.
In the future, the firm plans to make their services more scientific and personalised to their customers. This means that through data, the platform can predict a pattern and work towards suggesting preventive care solutions for certain individuals. Further, the firm also plans to start programmes or modules for problems which are seen recurrent amongst clients.
But when asked whether B2B will be the next turning point for the business, Richa says no. She says that they would like to be called a B2C company. She firmly believes that instead of YourDOST knocking the doors of these clients, it’s the duty of the HR and admin departments of a company to decide whether YourDOST’s solution can really add value to their organisation. She says
Stress is becoming a part of an individual’s lifestyle. Similarly, we want to make YourDOST a lifestyle product where you don’t think twice before going to your wellness coach. It should be as effortless as a going to maybe a fitness coach. So, in the future, you will see us bringing out that perspective in our product.
The company also plans to expand its footprint to similar markets like India by next year.
The other founders include IIM-Bangalore graduate Puneet Manuja, Northeastern University alumnus Satyajeet Nandekar and Prakhar Verma, a computer science graduate from BMSCE, Bengaluru.
India is home to the largest number of depressed individuals, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) study. Further, the WHO World Mental Health Survey 2010 also lists suicide as the third largest cause of death in 15 – 35 year olds, with India accounting for 32 per cent of the world’s suicides.
Today, with the need to create awareness of seeking help in such cases, several organisations like The White Swan Foundation, Live Love Foundation, and HealthEminds among many others are striving to break the stigma associated with mental illnesses.
Other startups like Gurgaon’s ePsyclinic, Ahmedabad’s OoWomaniya and Mumbai’s Type A Thought are taking advantage of the anonymity of the online world to convince patients to seek professional help.