InnerHour, a pioneer startup in online mental health-care impacts over 1000 lives in IndiaKalyani Pandey
This Mumbai-based startup has a team of trained professionals and psychologists to provide discreet counselling.
India’s healthcare industry has undergone transformation over the last few years. Growing awareness of mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression and stress, has led to many people now seeking help for tackling psychological disorders. However, India still has a long way to go in terms of setting up an all-inclusive mental health ecosystem.
According to research, insurance companies in India do not provide medical insurance to people who are admitted in hospitals battling mental health conditions. So how does a majority seek help when they are not provided with the basic financial support unlike in other developed countries?
InnerHour is a startup that is trying to reduce the gap between the mental health care providers and patients by providing therapy and consultation online. The company was started by Amit Malik and Shefali Batra, two psychiatrists having decades of combined healthcare management and clinical experience.
InnerHour aims to provide counselling and therapy that is easily accessible, anywhere and anytime.
The Mumbai-based company is a mental health platform that delivers psychological wellness to people, using technology as a tool. By doing so, it tries to empower people to live happier and healthier lives at work and at home. The company plans to become the foremost wellness platform in India by partnering with healthcare providers, corporates and schools.
Last year, InnerHour received an initial funding of $450,000 from Batlivala & Karani Securities India Pvt. Ltd, investment firm Venture Works and others.
The team at InnerHour comprises of 18 full-time members, including in-house therapists, healthcare professionals, a tech team, software developers and a small marketing & operations team.
Talking about the user base, Rahul Bareja, a business associate at InnerHour says,
As of today we have approximately 6,000 users. About 1,60,000 people have taken our assessment and we have about 300-400 client conversations a day. Apart from this, we have 1,000 paying clients.
Relationship issues, addictions, parenting, physical health, anxiety, stress and depression are some key problem areas that the InnerHour therapists deal with.
How does InnerHour work?
To connect with a therapist, an individual must first log onto the website, provide basic information about themselves such as name, age, and contact information. Later, the individual can then browse through the list of experts and select a therapist based on their preference. The clients have the option of selecting parameters such as languages, years of experience, and so on. Once they choose a therapist, he/she will have to set up the session by selecting the day and time of the session and choose one of three modes - call, chat, or video.
After confirming the session details, the person will have to make the payment via any online medium.
The charges for an hourly session over call, chat, or video start from Rs 500 and go up to Rs 1,500. The charges vary based on the number of years of experience; for instance, a therapist with 20+ years of experience charges between Rs 1500 and Rs 2,000, Rahul added.
One would wonder how effective the mode of online therapy is, when compared to the traditional mode of face-to-face counselling.
Research shows that therapy delivered online is as effective as therapy in person. For instance, in a 2013 study, Wagner, Horn and Maercker found that online therapy and face-to-face counselling were equally effective in helping individuals recover from depression. Similar effects have been found for anxiety, stress, trauma, and even eating disorders, Dr Malik, the founder said.
Talking about the impact, Pawan* (name changed to protect identity), a banker who has been an InnerHour client since April 2017, shared his views about the impact of therapy,
“InnerHour, as the word suggests, is literally an hour spent with oneself and guided by the therapist. Sweta Bothra (the therapist) over the last few months has walked the path helping me to rediscover my true self, empowering me with tools that is helping me to take corrective steps in life. The barriers of time and distance is broken by the cutting-edge technology that has helped me take sessions from anywhere in the world at a time convenient to me. Counselling, in my view, will help each one of us to bridge the gap between reality and our perceptions of reality.”
The road ahead
According to a report published by The Lancet Psychiatry Journal (2016), the burden of mental illness will increase more than China over the next 10 years. Only one in 10 people with mental health disorders are believed to receive evidence-based treatment. In the year 2013, about 31 million years of healthy life was lost due to mental illness in India.
Over the next five years, InnerHour will focus on tying up with corporates and schools to reach a larger number of people both- online and offline.
Given our ambition to work with large groups of people, we have already started work with corporates and schools and are building specialised product and service offerings for employers and schools.
"This will enable us to deepen our services offerings for them and support larger cohorts of people. Given the paucity of trained professionals in the field, we have already commenced training professionals and intend to scale this up to meet our own and the wider ecosystem’s workforce needs,” Dr Malik said.