Launched by a 37-year-old woman after a 10-year battle with infertility, this startup disseminates information, creates awareness, and provides tools to help couples make empowered decisions.
Infertility has become quite common these days in men and women, in urban as well as rural areas. It’s one of those things everyone knows about, but not many are willing to talk about.
Gitanjali Banerjee was one of the millions of women in India who went through the painful infertility journey. An alumnus of Jawaharlal Nehru University, Gitanjali earlier worked as a content marketer for brands like Educomp, Airtel, MakeMy Trip, and Policybazaar. She comes from a middle-class family and got married when she was 23 years old. After a year of marriage, the next milestone awaited – motherhood. However, this was just the start of a 10-year long infertility struggle.
After five miscarriages, three molar pregnancies and an unsuccessful IVF attempt, Gitanjali finally had a successful pregnancy after her second IVF attempt and is a mother of a three-year-old son, Athindra.
But she never forgot her struggle and decided to help other women like her, building a holistic ecosystem to facilitate fertility wellness through Infertility Dost in 2016.
“Initially it was very difficult for me to talk about my journey. For years, tied in societal handcuffs of ‘what others will say’, I sat over this idea for about two years. I finally decided to just go ahead, come what may,” says Gitanjali, the Founder of Infertility Dost.
Her platform focuses on disseminating information and creating awareness about infertility, and educating people about this sensitive topic. By sharing true stories and community building, Infertility Dost aims to create hope, assurance and a connection among patients.
The startup provides complete handholding to members with counselling and plugging in premium services, such as connecting with the right doctor or clinic as per requirement.
“The biggest challenge with Infertility Dost is that we are working on a subject considered a huge taboo – everyone knows about it but no one really talks about it, making it an even more complicated problem to resolve. The medical issue is smaller and easier to manage, but the emotional part is a rollercoaster struggle,” Gitanjali says.
Aiming to resolve existing challenges
A 2015 Ernst & Young report Call for Action: Expanding IVF treatment in India – EY, reveals that India has over 27.5 million infertile couples, of which less than one percent seeks advice or evaluation. Further studies have revealed that the success rate of pregnancy in the number of couples seeking treatment treated is about 18 percent.
With her platform, Gitanjali aims to address several challenges that couples face while dealing with infertility, including lack of clear information, psychological issues, provision of a healthy social environment, facilitating communication, sorting through the unorganised health sector and providing a support system.
The platform helps infertile couples with end-to-end management for becoming parents, from preventive healthcare (for infertility is highly induced by lifestyle changes) to natural fertility, pre-IVF treatment, adoption and even supporting the couple’s decision to remain child-free. Infertility Dost aims to empower a couple to take the right and informed decisions.
The Delhi-based startup is backed by a small team of five members, including two consulting nutrition and Ayurveda experts, Dr Nidhi Aggarwal and Dr Swathi Shastry. The platform also has in-house counsellors to guide a patient through the infertility journey and works with a group of women who have volunteered to help the platform.
Disrupting the healthcare sector
Industry estimates reveal that India has about 27.5 million infertile couples. Apart from this country, infertility is also a serious problem in Singapore, Japan, and Scandinavian countries. The estimated market for its offerings is about $400 million.
Though the Indian healthcare market has huge potential for infertility, only a few online platforms offer a holistic approach to fertility wellness. Established doctor discovery platforms like Practo, Lybrate, DocApp are helping patients find a diagnosis to all healthcare issues, including infertility. Another platform similar to Infertility Dost is Ela, but it focuses more on ovulation tracking, fertility calendar and period tracking.
Gitanjali believes Infertility Dost has an edge over similar offerings on the market.
“The buddy ecosystem created by our army of women volunteers will foster patient retention, providing us the competitive edge.”
Plans for the future
Infertility Dost, which works on a freemium model, is currently bootstrapped and plans to raise funds soon. Going ahead, the brand plans to build a tech-enabled platform to enhance communication and counselling for complete management advocating fertility wellness in India. It will also provide alternative treatment options like Ayurveda, acupuncture, and nutrition.
So far, the startup has reached about a lakh people through the website, social media, and events. Infertility Dost has also partnered with The Times of India, Medela, Cloudnine and Geneva Women Care (a Swiss-based IVF clinic) for a few outreach campaigns.
With infertility on the rise in India, it’s clear that the path is clear for this dost.