[Startup Bharat] How Thiruvananthapuram-based HabitStrong is motivating people to develop good habits

Founded by former Mckinsey & Co. consultant Rajan Singh, the startup aims to develop habits for people across age groups.
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We have all heard the phrase early to bed and early to rise, the magical effects of waking up at 5 am, meditation, and regular workouts to keep our stress levels under control. But we seldom make it a point to actually do these things.

Not having enough time is usually our biggest defense. But people who are able to incorporate these practices in their daily routine cannot talk enough about their benefits.

Habit Strong, a Thiruvananthapuram-based startup, is trying to help people build these habits. Launched in August 2020 by Rajan Singh, the startup conducts online live sessions throughout the week. These sessions are majorly focussed on building habits including waking up at 5 am, digital deaddiction, and focus building, among others.  

Rajan Singh, who earlier ran an edtech startup ConceptOwl, started the firm after realising the impact of such habits in his life. 

The journey

A former police commissioner, Rajan was always focussed on work. The trend did not change much when he joined Mckinsey and Co. in New York, after serving in the police force for over six years.  

“When I was serving in the IPS (Indian Police Force), I always wanted to be on top of my work. I wanted to perform well like we all want to. There was a point where if I was awake, I would only be thinking about work or doing the work,” says Rajan. 

But having a similar lifestyle for over a decade, while being in the IPS and then as a consultant, Rajan decided to change things up a bit.  

Credit: YourStory Design

He started working out regularly, made meditation a practice with journaling also becoming a part of his life. The effects of these practices also formed the basis when the Wharton School MBA-graduate was trying to figure out a new idea for his startup. 

“During the pandemic, we were running an edtech startup called Concept Owl, where we taught Maths and Science to kids in smaller towns. When we started hearing from parents that their kids were smart but they were either not in the habit of studying or would not practice regularly, we really started thinking about habit as a whole,” says Rajan. 

After brainstorming, Rajan and his team decided to move away from the edtech startup and started running experiments and testing different ideas. These would usually be setting up bootcamps to set up a 5 am morning routine, digital deaddiction, and building focus among other things. 

“When we started in 2020, around the first wave of the pandemic, we did not even have a website. Forget a website, we did not even have a brand,” says Rajan. 

Running the bootcamps under Concept Owl, their edtech brand, the session started gaining “stunning response”. This led to Rajan starting HabitStrong, a startup that conducts live sessions for different kinds of habit building activities. 

How does it work?

Every session typically consists of 40-50 people with an instructor. Most of these sessions are conducted by Rajan himself for at least the initial two or three months or till the time they are perfected.

People opting for these sessions mostly include working professionals aged between 25 and 35 years. They go through a screening process, where the platform asks multiple questions about the individual, their profession, and the amount of time they can dedicate to the chosen programme, among other things. 

“We do exclude a few folks during the screening process because our bootcamps are not easy to keep up with. We want people with a certain level of motivation to opt for these programmes because there is a better chance of them keeping up with it," says Rajan. 

Currently, the team of less than 10 members conducts at least four sessions every day. These are run on a subscription basis and the duration can last between four weeks to three months. Sessions are conducted on weekdays as well as on weekends. People can choose to attend either or both batches.

The market and plans ahead

Rajan and team raised $500,000 from Indian Angel Network, in 2019, for Concept Owl. So far, he claims to have used these funds for HabitStrong as they did not feel the need to raise more money. 

According to the team, the cost varies from programme to programme, and ranges between Rs 2,500 and Rs 4,000.

While there are not many known startups that are specifically focused on habit building, people can get access to self-help either through books, YouTube videos, or by following digital influencers.

After operating for over a year, the startup is now planning to accelerate its brand and add more users. 

Edited by Megha Reddy

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