This woman entrepreneur’s app aims to help people sleep better with relaxing content in regional languages
Born and raised in a small town, Lawa, Rajasthan, which has a population of only 5,000 people, Surbhi Jain struggled with basic education facilities while growing up.
“My government school didn’t even have teachers for important subjects like science or maths. For most of my school years, I studied on my own, as my town did not have good private tutors,” she recalls.
After securing good grades in school, her parents had to face opposition from her conservative neighbourhood to send her to Kota for IIT-JEE preparation. With their support, she got admission at IIT-Bombay for a degree in metallurgical engineering.
As part of a traditional Marwari family where entrepreneurship is a given, Surbhi recalls that dinner table conversations always revolved around business and new opportunities. She aspired to be an entrepreneur too, and exposure to the startup ecosystem at IIT-Bombay only strengthened her resolve.
After completing her BTech, Surbhi worked in in companies like Opera Solutions, Holachef, Kae Capital, and xto10x Technologies in operations, as a venture capitalist, consultant, etc.
In 2021, being infected by COVID-19 changed her career trajectory, and led her to become an entrepreneur with Neend, a sleep app.
Surbhi explains, “My entire family and I got infected and I lost my sleep over it. Before that, I had always been a sound sleeper. I was also infamous among my friends for sleeping anytime, anywhere. But in the months post-COVID, when I was unable to sleep properly due to multiple reasons, for the first time, I could feel how difficult it is for folks who are not able to sleep in general. This made me realise the intensity of the problem and at the same time look at scarcity of the right tools and solutions to solve the problem.”
Months of research led to the development and launch of the Neend app, which offers sleep stories, Nidra-inspired stories, and relaxing music to aid sleep.
“Our sleep is impacted by multiple factors across our lifestyle, physical health, emotional health, and external environment. And that varies with different individuals. We have started with relaxing content like bedtime stories, music, and meditation for users to relax because relaxation is the biggest step before sleeping. Neend is a sort of one-fit solution for everyone, which works irrespective of the reason people are not able to sleep,” Surbhi says.
Neend started with off with content in Hindi and English.
“Our idea is to offer content in regional languages as we believe when it comes to relaxation, a sense of familiarity and the ability to passively consume plays a huge role. Through a lot of user interviews we have understood that people who use English as a day-to-day language also prefer to listen to something in their mother tongue when it comes to relaxation and sleep. You don’t need to put efforts to understand, and can passively consume it which would help you to wind down instead of making your brain active,” she says.
Content that is easy to consume
Surbhi has worked with multiple experts and creators to develop content for. She points out that while apps developed abroad may have a following in India, they may not necessarily be relatable.
“I went to sleep every night hearing my grandmother tell me stories. I have understood that when you try to fall asleep, you want to listen to something very passively, as compared to attentively, so the content now available is very contextual to the Western market, whether it is the accent or the setting of the stories. I believe if the language is your mother tongue, it becomes easier to consume,” she emphasises.
After releasing its MVP on YouTube, the app has seen huge organic growth and has clocked 10 million listens for its content in the last couple of months. It has 80,000 downloads, mostly organic.
Surbhi points out that sleep is a huge market.
“Netflix considers sleep as a competitor! We are starting with free content to build awareness around the problem and helping our users. As of now, our platform is free. But soon, we are planning to launch paid subscriptions for personalised solutions where we would onboard experts to help users to understand the why, what, and how of the problem and solution.”
Currently, all content on the app is free to use.
While she counts Calm/Headspace as her global competitors, the difference is that Neend is building vernacular, more personalised, and outcome-driven products.
Surbhi started Neend with a personal investment of Rs 5 lakh and later raised $700,000 from Better Capital and entrepreneurs like Kunal Shah.
“We are doing linguistic expansion right now and launching in Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, and Bengali. We are also trying to launch a couple of relaxation-based products to help users to destress/relax and sleep better,” Surbhi says.
Edited by Teja Lele