After losing 2 family members to diabetes, 16-year-old Avni Madhani takes the entrepreneurial plunge to address the diseaseAparajita Choudhury
Two deaths in the family brought about by diabetes motivated Avni Madhani to better understand the lifestyle disease and its implications for Indian people. During her research, the 16-year-old realised that many people in India do not have a detailed understanding or knowledge on how to overcome the challenges that cause diabetes.
She found language, especially, to be a major barrier, as few websites disseminate diabetes-related information in Indian languages. Diet playing a major part in managing diabetes, she also found it worrying that many Indians do not have a reliable database of the nutritional values of different Indian dishes.
Avni discovered that a deep-seated level of unawareness among the masses about the composition of a healthy diet and lifestyle triggered problems such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
A strong urge to solve this problem of lack of information led Avni to launch The Healthy Beat in January. She claims it to be a first-of-its-kind platform to access nutritional knowledge and a database of caloric values of Indian foods and to adopt necessary lifestyle changes in diet and exercise to manage diabetes. The website is available in English and Hindi.
Through The Healthy Beat, users can check their ideal weight, learn about food groups and suggested daily servings, and find their recommended calorie intake. The platform allows users to track daily consumption choices by searching the right amount of calories, carbohydrates, protein, fats, and dietary fibre in a variety of foods.
“The Healthy Beat is a non-profit community service project, and I got the financial support from my parents to put up and host the website. I read and used information from the book Understanding Nutrition by Ellie Whitney and Sharon Rolfes. Additionally, I used charts published by the Department of Health in USA and Canada along with the Nutrition Society of India, South Asian Heart Center, and Diabetic Association of India,” quips the teen, who is currently studying at Saratoga High School, California, US.
Hardships brings you closer to the goal
Since each region in India has its own unique cuisine, assembling a comprehensive list of Indian dishes posed a challenge for Avni. A detailed research on popular Indian dishes and perusing menus of different Indian restaurants helped Avni create a list of healthy foods.
“In the US, the Department of Health has an extensive database of the most popular food items found in supermarkets with their full nutritional breakdown. However, it is hard to find such a database for Indian foods. I went to local Indian supermarkets and recorded calories from the boxes in the prepared/frozen food section. Also, the Nutrition Society of India has published some data, which I incorporated in my website.”
The Healthy Beat is focussed on providing information on nutritional, metabolic health, daily consumption tracking, and exercise guidelines. It hosts a feature called 'Build Your Meal', where users can add different items on a platter to determine the overall nutritional value of their meal.
According to Avni, The Healthy Beat has over 20,000 users since it went public in India early January this year. Since Avni started this website as non-profit venture, she does not have resources to extensively track the active users. However, Google Analytics allows her to track the number of users.
"Right now I am spreading awareness only through social media and I have not explored the realm of advertising. As of now, it is a bootstrapped non-profit venture. However, I am on the watchout for incubator programmes for early platforms such as mine. Participation in conclaves and conferences like TiE 2016 are also great ways of meeting potential influencers," says Avni.
Niche market due to rise in numbers
According to Public Health Foundation of India, nearly 44 lakh Indians aged between 20 and 79 years are unaware that they are diabetic, a condition that can expose them to heart attack, stroke, amputations, nerve damage, blindness and kidney disease.
Currently, India is home to 62 million diabetics, an increase of nearly two million in just a year. India is second only to China, which is home to 92.3 million diabetics. By 2030, the number is expected to cross the 100-million mark.
A handful of startups has set up shop to address tracking and management of chronic diseases like diabetes by leveraging technology. BeatO offers comprehensive diabetes care at home and has had 40,000 downloads so far. It is a hardware device for diabetes management and wirelessly transmits blood glucose readings from a glucometer onto a smartphone. Bengaluru-based Diabetacare has so far served 31,643 patients by partnering with 65 clinics.
Website: The Healthy Beat