Therapy over text: Mimblu's aim of making mental healthcare in India accessible
The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the mental health crisis for many. However, mental healthcare isn't all that accessible in the country. According to data from the National Mental Health Survey-5, India has 0.75 psychiatrists for every 100,000 people.
A former Zomato and Expedia executive, Yash Malhotra also found himself dealing with anxiety amid the pandemic and turned to therapy. “I’m a big proponent of therapy and believe that it, like all other forms of healthcare, should be normalised and democratised,” he tells YourStory.
After speaking to his close friends who have been facing mental health issues, Yash decided to launchin 2021 aiming to make therapy more accessible to all.
Headquartered in Mumbai, the startup offers asynchronous text-based therapy on its app from certified therapists.
Yash wanted to focus on text message-based therapy, which, according to a 2020 study by the National Library of Medicine, has displayed improved treatment outcomes for those with anxiety and depression.
Mimblu officially began its operations this January.
This August, Shevantika Nanda, a practising therapist who has six years of clinical consultancy experience, joined the startup as Co-founder and COO.
Access to therapy
The Mimblu app enables users to consult mental healthcare therapists through either chat, by sharing voice notes, or via video calls—which can be scheduled as per convenience and availability.
“With more folks comfortable communicating over text rather than video or in-person, it’s an incredibly approachable and non-intimidating format,” says Yash, Founder and CEO of Mimblu.
On the app, users have to select issues they are facing such as anger management, anxiety, behavioural management, low self-esteem, social anxiety, stress at work or home, eating disorders, and depression/feeling down, among others. Mimblu then connects them with specialised therapists.
"Clients can access the app from anywhere without needing additional private space—as you may need for video sessions—or having to commute for in-person interactions. Additionally, it’s great for therapists as they can manage more clients in a given time," he adds.
The app is available on both Google Play Store and Apple App Store, and has over 10,000 cumulative downloads, with an average rating of 4 stars.
Building a community of therapists
Currently, Mimblu has 15 therapists from across the country, who are available 24x7 for chat and video calls. However, as the platform provides asynchronous text-based therapy, therapists may reply about two to three times a day.
Shevantika was one of the first therapists to join Mimblu before becoming a co-founder. She says that asynchronous text-based therapy is effective in mild to moderate cases of anxiety, depression, and eating disorders, among others.
"We are trying to bring about a shift in the mode of therapy. Paying attention to language is going to be a likely outcome of asynchronous text therapy as it allows users more time to think and reflect on their communication," she says.
According to a study by Talkspace, over 85% of participants reported positive change after asynchronous text-based therapy for a two-to-four-month period.
The startup relies on word-of-mouth to onboard therapists, who give referrals to their colleagues. It vets their qualifications, years of experience, etc., before onboarding them.
Yash says Mimblu is working to create a ‘gig economy’ for therapists. “Apart from the obvious financial aspect, we are building a community of therapists who can share resources, caseloads, and findings, and support each other.”
Mimblu doesn’t have any practising psychiatrists on the platform who can prescribe medications and its focus is on behavioural wellness, i.e., psychotherapy.
Currently, 8,000 users from across the world are using the Mimblu app—with around 80% of them hailing from India.
The app’s target audience is Gen Z and millennials, with 70% of the users being women. The startup says about 90% of users prefer texting—with 8,000 text sessions hosted so far, and only 10% prefer video.
The market and business
Mimblu operates on a subscription model, offering plans for 14, 30, or 60 days to connect with therapists over chat. It gives the users the option to change their therapist if the need arises. However, they can only do this once during their subscription period.
For text-based plans, Mimblu charges Rs 2,139 for the 30-day plan, Rs 1,299 for the 14-day plan, and Rs 1,200 per 45-minute video session (all exclusive of GST).
While the founders declined to disclose the earnings, the startup works on a revenue-sharing model, splitting 50% of the revenue with therapists. They claim that its services are more affordable than in-person therapy sessions.
According to prices quoted by Bengaluru-based clinics Rebuilding Minds, Karma Centre for Counselling and Wellbeing, and Sharda Clinic, a 45-minute traditional in-person therapy session costs between Rs 800-3,000.
“The big pros of text-based therapy include an easy and quick connect to therapists (traditional therapy may require you to wait weeks or months depending on the practitioner you choose); it is more affordable, accessible and convenient—you don’t need to be at a specific place at a specific time,” says Shevantika.
Mimblu is also working on a pilot project with corporates to offer its services to their employees.
The startup competes with players like text-based therapy startups including Talkspace and Better Health, along withand which enable in-person therapy. Yash says what sets the team apart is that their work is " purely focused on solving accessibility and approachability for therapy."
According to Emergen Research, the global mental wellness market was worth $401.30 billion in 2021, and is expected to grow at a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 3.5%. The global telemental health market was valued at $109 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach $710 billion by 2029, according to Data Bridge Market Research analysis.
Plans for the future
The founders have invested $20,000 from their personal savings to bootstrap the startup. It is in talks with investors to raise a pre-seed round to hire across tech positions and scale operations.
Mimblu plans to be an end-to-end behavioural wellness platform. It is building a progress tracker, which will be able to help users track their progress with their therapist on the app.
Also, the startup is focusing on scaling across multiple English-speaking geographies.
(The copy was updated to correct a typo)