Richa Singh was born and brought up in Bhopal.
“I really enjoyed and pursued dancing, painting, swimming and table tennis. I was always considered a jovial person and had a lot of friends confiding in me.”, says Richa.
After completing school, she went to IIT Guwahati to pursue a Bachelors in Design. Richa’s life changed in the year 2009, when one of her hostel mate committed suicide due to anticipation of bad placement.
“None of us had any clue of her suffering before she took this drastic step. I strongly felt that it could have been avoided, had she sought some help. That is when I realised that even though we had counsellors and psychologists in the campus, hardly anyone was seeking their support.”
“When I started working, I noticed people around me were stressed due to job pressures and relationship issues. However again, most of these people were not willing to talk about their problems fearing social implications and for the fear of being called mentally ill.”
“In this period, I discussed the idea with my co-Founder, Puneet Manuja, who had faced similar experiences. He had faced placement pressures even though he was a gold medallist in his batch of NIT, Trichy. We brainstormed together and created our first business idea and that’s how YourDOST began in the year 2014.”, recounts Richa.
YourDOST is an online technology platform created for the emotional well being of people. The platform has around 1000 experts – psychologists, counsellors, career coaches, relationship advisors and more. It is available to people via its web platform, and also on mobile through its mobile app.
The platform offers all its users 24×7 private, confidential and anonymous access to experts in various modes – they can have one-on-one sessions with experts on messages & live chats (real time); they can book appointments with experts for voice and video calls; they can connect with multiple people and experts on forums and blogs. These services are available on a freemium model – some of these services are currently available for free while others are charged.
YourDOST has touched more than 12 lakh lives as of now. “On a daily basis, we carry over 2000 one-to-one conversations.”, adds Richa.
Talking about the major challenges while starting up, Richa says,
- The stigma of mental health – According to the Indian government’s estimates, about 1 in 5 people in the country need counselling, either psychological or psychiatric. Physically meeting with counsellors is not considered a viable option by many due to the massive societal stigma around mental health care and the fear of judgement. As a result, only 1 out of 10 people who need counselling, end up seeking active therapy.
We overcame this in two ways – First, by making sure that our services private, anonymous & confidential, and communicating that to our audience through social media and secondly, by spreading awareness and educating our audience about the importance of mental health and emotional wellness through our blog and social media.
2. A lack of training in mental health & emotional wellness – I don’t personally come from the field of emotional wellness and mental health, which was a major challenge I faced considering I was diving head first into this industry. If I had better knowledge about the field and the industry sooner, I would have done one or two things in my career much earlier. It took me a lot of years and a lot of research to understand it better.
3. The lack of benchmarks to hire Experts – No benchmarks exist in India which we could use to help us assess Experts we were hiring. We overcame this by developing our own set of benchmarks, standards and guidelines, which all are applicants are assessed by.
4. Ensuring the quality of counselling sessions at YourDOST – It was a major challenge to make sure that all our users were receiving the best service possible. We developed a supervision system to ensure that.
In the initial stages, we used a lot of negative reinforcements in our communications. For eg. “Are you stressed?”, “Are you going through a bad breakup?”, “Are you having marriage troubles?”, etc.
Our failure was to not realize that the negative connotations that stem from these put people off and drove them away rather than encouraging them to approach us and utilise professional counselling services. This was our learning. Once this realisation dawned upon us, we made sure that this was corrected.
We received this testimonial from a user – “You guys are saving lives. One of them was mine.”
This is our biggest achievement.
“Through our efforts, we envision creating a happier India, an India where mental health is considered at par with physical health in terms of importance, where stigma has been shattered, and an ecosystem exists which people can freely approach to receive professional support in times of emotional and psychological distress.”, says Richa.
Richa’s advice for women entrepreneurs is ‘Dream big & believe in your dream, and you will shatter the glass ceiling.’
If there’s any problem that you truly believe in solving, the world will conspire to make it happen.
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