From counselling to nutrition, and hassle-free hospital appointments, these women founders make access to healthcare easier, smarter
YourStory is the outreach partner for SheLeadsTech from Facebook
What if you wanted to seek advice from a mental health professional but were wary of the associated stigma? Then again, what if you could ‘visit’ a therapist from the comfort of your own home? Today this is possible, thanks to technology.
Wearables, telemedicine, AI, robotics, and similar digital technologies have not just become integral to every touchpoint for accessing and delivering healthcare, but are also impacting long-ignored areas such as mental health, nutrition, and preventive care.
While the rapid penetration of smartphones and the internet in India has accelerated the adoption of technology in healthcare, startups have been a key driving force. Here are three entrepreneurs talking about their healthcare ventures, their entrepreneurial journey and what continues to motivate them.
From left: Simar Preet Kaur, Therapy 1 on 1; Sugandha Agarwal, Docttocare; Harshita Dilawri, Know Your Nutrients
Simar Preet Kaur, Therapy 1 on 1
When she worked in the corporate sector Simar Preet Kaur, an engineer by education, experienced anxiety spells. “When a colleague advised me to visit a therapist, I was hesitant. At the same time, I realised I was not alone. People around me were experiencing professional and personal challenges that affected their mental health and well-being. But the taboo associated with mental health prevented them from taking the necessary action.” So Simar Preet decided to take the entrepreneurial route to eliminate the stigma associated with seeking help for mental well-being, and provide assistance to those who needed it.
She founded Therapy 1 on 1 in September 2018. Based in Noida, Therapy 1 on 1 is an online emotional wellness platform where anyone can discuss their issues with professional psychologists via calls, video calls and chats. “This is secure and more convenient than traditional therapy. We are reachable 24*7 and also provide the option for users to stay anonymous,” she says.
In less than a year, Therapy 1 on 1 has provided assistance to more than 300 people. Simar Preet says, “We still have a long way to go, but we are determined. One of our goals is to reach out to the non-metropolitan population.”
They’ve been getting good customer feedback, which has been a morale booster. “We have clients telling us that they are feeling better and that seeking assistance was the best decision. To know that we had a role to play in this helps us step up our efforts.”
Talking about the challenges, she says, “I don't have a background in psychology so getting a grasp of the sector, considering the diversity of needs and subjectivity of issues, was challenging. However, interacting with psychologists and people in the health sector helped immensely and that understanding evolved over time.” Today she is more concerned with operational challenges than anything else. “Sometimes, it is technical issues, sometimes it is about hiring the best psychologists, and sometimes it’s making sure that we are delivering on our promise of providing instant support.”
Talking about the disruption in the healthcare sector led by startups, she says, “With support from the ecosystem, startups can further accelerate the revolution in healthcare, which has begun in India.”
According to Simar Preet, Therapy 1 on 1 has seen such support from Facebook SheLeadsTech India, a unique programme to encourage women entrepreneurs in the country. “SheLeadsTech India has been of great support, with access to various free tools, meetups, mentoring sessions and a great chance to meet exceptionally amazing people”
She continues, “The programme helped me meet, network and have meaningful conversations with more people working in the health-tech sector. The Ask Me Anything (AMA) sessions and conversations with the Facebook SheLeadsTech team members has helped me ideate and iterate my startup plans. For instance, I got to meet startup leaders like Shradha Sharma and Sumit Jain, and have one-to-one conversations and understand more about investment and funding. As a first-time entrepreneur and as an early stage startup founder, I wanted to understand more about funding and these conversations helped me.”
Sugandha Agarwal, Docttocare
Why should people in tier-2 cities be deprived of access to quality healthcare?
Sugandha Agarwal often asked herself this question. Having faced this reality when she was living in Bijnor, a small city in Uttar Pradesh, she decided to quit her corporate career in programming to start Docttocare in 2016. “It was clear that I wanted to work on a healthcare startup. Having worked for companies like Oracle and Infosys, I knew I had the insight to build a mass-market product. But I had underestimated how challenging it would be to separate the personal and professional life of an entrepreneur. Yet, the journey has been fulfilling.”
Headquartered in Bengaluru with a branch in Delhi, Docttocare is an online healthcare portal that enables users from non-metro cities to access and book an appointment with doctors and hospitals located in major cities. “The Docttocare app handholds the users through the entire process of identifying the right doctors, hospitals, scheduling appointments on the desired date, and even making arrangements for transport and the stay. So users can focus fully on
receiving high quality treatment and off-load logistical challenges to the experienced
Docttocare team,” explains Sugandha.
The startup has already established partnership with 15 prime hospital chains in Bengaluru and New Delhi, including Manipal, Hosmat, People Tree, Marvel and Apollo.
In her journey to build a world-class healthcare company, she has faced several challenges, from hiring the right team to finding healthcare providers who were willing to sign up. Over time, they addressed most of the challenges. As of May 2019, they had clocked 50,000 appointments through the platform. “Raising funds was the other problem we solved. While starting up, I did not realise that being a solo female founder would be an inherent disadvantage. I got a reality check when a prominent angel investor bluntly mentioned this fact. He didn’t even delve into business and I was rejected outright. But being a female founder gives you additional
strength, you always have the fire within to win. Months later we found an investor who supported us.”
To further accelerate the startup’s growth, Sugandha has leveraged the support of programmes like the NASSCOM 10,000 Startups programme and SheLeadsTech India. “Joining the SheleadsTech programme was a great opportunity. Networking with other women founders helped me get insights on how they were tapping funding and investment support. I was also able to see the value in mentorship.”
Sugandha reiterates that technology is the only way to make healthcare accessible, considering the highly skewed doctor-to-patient ratio in India. “Healthtech startups have taken baby steps in that direction today. But as we delve deeper, IoT and wearable startups as well as analytics startups will play a key role in making predictive healthcare a reality for India.”
Harshita Dilawri, Know Your Nutrients
After completing her Masters in Therapeutic Nutrition, Harshita Dilawri worked in leading private hospitals. “That’s when I realised that people with medical issues need special attention and close monitoring of their diets beyond their hospital stay. But most relied on their own knowledge or that of family and friends. I also realised that I had the ability to leverage my learnings to help people in a personal capacity.”
So she started a Facebook page to raise awareness and also provide easy access to people who were looking for diet-related consultations. When she saw her clients benefitting because of her diet recommendations, she began working on setting up a consultation clinic, and went on to start up Know Your Nutrients in 2013.
“Today, my biggest challenge is not only establishing the brand. I am also creating awareness among people on why they should not succumb to diet plans prescribed by gym instructors who don’t have any degree in therapeutic nutrition. The copy-paste model doesn’t work for everyone. Diet plans need to be frequently monitored and one should adopt a scientific approach.”
Harshita is a passionate nutritionist, diabetic educator and a metabolic balance coach, with a background in both therapeutic nutrition and food science. She is also an active member of the Indian Dietetic Association and Indian Diabetic Association,
Harshita believes that with growing awareness about health, fitness and nutrition, ventures like Know Your Nutrients will have more scope in the future. As a new-age startup in India’s healthcare sector, Harshita believe that technological interventions in the space are helping both practitioners and patients. “It will also pave the way for personalised healthcare,” she says.
Harshita is a part of the SheLeadsTech community and believes that programme such as this provide the necessary support, especially to first-time entrepreneurs. “It makes a difference when you see other women entrepreneurs battling the odds and emerging successful. When many others share the challenges you face, you realise you are not alone. That gives you more strength to do what you are already doing right. Also, because SheLeadsTech is not just about one meetup or one motivational session, but also includes regular meetups, online AMA sessions with experts, and regular interaction with the community, you stay connected and inspired.”
In 2017, Facebook India launched a unique programme created to encourage women entrepreneurs in the country. Based on the belief that when women succeed, we all win, the SheLeadsTech community has today grown into a thriving group of over 600 women who come together to exchange ideas, offer each other support, receive mentorship and address the unique problems that women entrepreneurs face. Being part of this community gives women entrepreneurs access to tools, mentorship, and resources to help overcome some of the barriers they face, and build a successful business in technology.
Facebook SheLeadsTech gives women entrepreneurs access to multiple tools and resources including FbStart, a technical support programme from Facebook, through an exclusive community of global startups, free credits to tools, training on Facebook Developer Tools, and services from dozens of premier partners including MailChimp, App Annie, and Amazon. The community also gets to participate in a series of online and offline events such as workshops, speed dating sessions, AMA sessions etc.
If you would like to join this enterprising community of women entrepreneurs, click here.
Watch this video to see how SheLeadsTech helped WONK, India’s first tutor discovery and booking app, to scale up.