Bootstrapped startup Better LYF wants to be your 2 am friendNeha Jain
Set up in 2016, Better LYF provides a 24/7 helpline for stress and anxiety-related concerns and claims to have conducted over 32,000 conversations across 35 countries.
Vikram Beri, 33, was dropping his wife Anumeet, who was pursuing her master’s degree in psychology, to her place of internship in November 2014. However, Vikram couldn’t help wonder why the therapy centre she worked in was in a posh but obscure area of Delhi. He spoke to a few of her clients and realised that they weren’t comfortable being seen in public or didn’t want anyone to know they were visiting a counsellor. Apart from the stigma, he also found problems in the process of booking slots, fixing appointments and reaching the centre.
To help people deal with the day-to-day stress that life brings, Vikram launched Better LYF in November 2016. The 24/7 helpline supports people through difficult life transitions like breakups, marital concerns, academics and even the social anxiety of moving into a new city or country.
Research shows that one out of five people in India is afflicted with stress, which affects overall health.
Vikram says, “Most of us struggle with stress and anxiety due to life transitions, whether it is failing an exam, work-life balance, a tough boss or lack of confidence. We want to help people deal with and recover in an anonymous and convenient manner.”
Better LYF, formerly called Dial My Angel, intends to reach out to people in an anonymous manner through calls or chat. Any disorder that falls into the mild to moderate nonclinical areas of stress can be taken up by Better LYF.
Why Better LYF?
According to a WHO report, one in four people across the world has been or will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. Around 450 million people currently suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
Initial research showed Vikram that there was a high dropout rate at these therapy sessions.
“After two-three sessions, clients do not show up for follow-ups,” he says.
An ISB graduate, Vikram realised that most times people waited for the problem to become bigger before they sought help.
“You may not want to talk about a tough day or a bad fight. Many wait for several tough days, several fights, and a series of failures before seeking help,” says Vikram, adding that early intervention can help prevent several serious concerns.
In severe cases, clients are advised to visit a clinical psychiatrist. He says, “We suggest clinical intervention for some clients and they can come back to us for supportive psychotherapy.”
How does the platform work?
Once you visit the website, you are given two options – chat or call. On making your choice, the first service/talk is free. Many times, people get their queries answered in one call or chat. The time duration of calls depends from case to case. However, sometimes you may need to sign up for more sessions.
In India, the charge for each session is Rs 249; for overseas calls, the rate is $25. The duration of the call/chat varies on a case to case basis. The team claims to have done 32,000 consultations in 35 countries. Apart from India, Better LYF has local phone numbers in four other countries - UK, US, Canada and Australia.
The startup has over 11 counsellors and all calls/chats are conducted by certified psychologists. As a requirement, all counsellors need a master’s degree in psychology along with experience and intensive training.
To maintain anonymity each user is given a unique ID and password. However, one needs to submit their email ID or phone number in case they lose their passwords.
Better LYF has recently also built an interactive wellness exercise. Here, one can go through a series of steps/questions and gets instant replies. The psychology-based approach helps one find their way, the team believes.
After each session, clients are asked to review the success of therapy on their platform. Better LYF claims to be rated 4.8 on 5 on their IVR and feedback calls and says it has witnessed a 45 percent monthly growth rate.
Currently bootstrapped, Vikram says Better LYF clocked Rs 1.5 lakh in revenue last quarter. On an average, the team claims to conduct 125 calls and 150 chats every day.
The biggest challenge
However, even today, people aren’t open to seeking therapy as there is a lot of stigma associated with it. To build awareness, Better LYF has created awareness-related content on their website.
“We collaborated with comedian Amit Tandon; he talks about peer pressure in a humorous manner for people to accept such issues and not ignore them,” Vikram explains.
About 40 percent of the concerns Better LYF tackles are related to relationships and work.
According to a report from Optum, 46 percent of the workforce in India suffers from some or the other form of stress. That’s why Better LYF has conducted sessions in corporates to create awareness.
The market for mental healthcare
According to a survey conducted by CPA in 2012, approximately 77 percent of the patient population that received psychotherapy benefited or remained generalised anxiety disorder free after treatment. The many benefits of therapies to cure a variety of disorders will drive market growth.
Mental healthcare is still in its nascent stages and has started to see an influx of startups lately. Several organisations like YourDost, Over a Cup of Tea, The White Swan Foundation, Live Love Foundation and HealthEminds are among the many striving to break the stigma associated with mental illnesses.
What sets Better LYF apart is the instant reach they provide to all age groups.
Is self-help the way forward?
In the future, Better LYF is focusing on building a chat bot and investing in wellness programmes across the world.
“We are planning to build a high engagement tool where people can interact with the machine. More and more people are looking for ways to self-help, and we are working on it,” Vikram says.
Better LYF is also looking for investments to scale up operations. With its team of experts, the startup hopes that it can ensure a stress-free and Better LYF life for everyone.