‘There is still a huge untapped market for mental wellness services in India’

ePsyClinic.com is a new concept for dealing with mental health problems. Shipra Dawar, Founder & CEO, ePsyClinic.com shares the concept behind her business model and plans for the company in India, with Raelene Kambli

ePsyClinic.com is a new concept for dealing with mental health problems. Shipra Dawar, Founder & CEO, ePsyClinic.com shares the concept behind her business model and plans for the company in India, with Raelene Kambli

What is your opinion about the mental health scenario in India? How well is it dealt?

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Shipra Dawar

There is a staggering gap between the demand and supply of mental health services in India. There is an exceptionally high need for “an all acceptable, acountable and accessible” structured mental and emotional wellness (not illness management) service designed for today’s India and yet there is a near vacuum at the supply side. Today, over 50 per cent of all working people in India face chronic stress. Over 42 per cent people working in the private sector face depression or anxiety. India also has the maximum number of people who have suffered at least one major depressive episode. About 80 per cent of all Indians at least once go through a major life stressor that often throws them off-balance emotionally and leaves them in a prolonged state of  unhappiness. Yet, less than five per cent of people facing these issues seek help. Apart from stigma, there are three supply side reasons for this. First and foremost, the providers of mental health care are speaking the language of symptoms to generate awareness. Nothing wrong here as this is fairly the regular practice. However, with issues of mental and emotional wellness, the knowledge of the symptoms alone is not enough, because the person facing these issues often cannot understand that he/she is experiencing these symptoms and more so at the initial level. Second, there is a gap in terms of lack of accountability for positive mental wellness outcomes. Third gap is of accessibility. People often wish to consult and work with a mental wellness professional at night/early morning, while they are at home or at work and that too in a private and completely confidential setting, but they can’t.

What is the need of the hour in this area?

As I was discussing, the triple ‘A’ gap has to be dealt with. We need to have mental wellness services that are acceptable, accountable and accessible to the person in need of these. We need a more open, dialogue-enabling and client (not patient) centric approach for mental wellness. Mental wellness should in no way be different than physical fitness and wellness. We are seeing young talented people taking away their lives. That’s a very sad state and we need to change that. In order to do this, we need to reach out at the time of the beginning of an issue, with accountability and accessibility so that we are able to make a difference. And this Triple ‘A’ goal is what precisely formed the basis and the inspiration for developing and launching ePsyClinic.com.

Tell us about ePsyClinic.com and its offering?

ePsyClinic.com is India’s leading and largest completely online and positive emotional and mental well-being mega clinic. We, at ePsyClinic.com, are speaking the language of not just symptoms but also of life situations, triggers, emotions that the person can easily connect with. We are training our providers extensively for positive mental wellness outcome delivery, we research extensively on issues of our target audience to devise services, thus making our mental wellness services accountable. We are online with all possible modes (video, audio, text chat, telephone) so we are accessible at any place, at any time in a completely private and anonymous setting.

We are here to make people truly happy and in a state of well-being, using scientific and world class therapy, counselling, positive wellness focused psychiatry and psychology services. Anybody facing major stressors in life due to work, relationships, caregiving, loss of loved one, parenting, sexuality, pregnancy etc. and/or facing anxiety or depressive symptoms can consult and avail complete online management of the issue from India’s and world’s top mental healthcare providers at the comfort of their own locations, and in a completely private and anonymous setting. Our providers are intensively trained in-house by ePsyClinic.com for delivering positive emotional and mental wellness and health outcomes. ePsyClinic.com only cares about one bottom line and that is complete well-being of its patrons.

Speaking about technology for delivery of our mental and emotional wellness services, ePsyClinic.com has instant, one-click and later online consultation through secured and in-built video call, audio call, text chat and in-mailing service along with proprietary and exclusive real-time shareable online planners, thought diaries, record and alert system to manage client’s complete wellness process.

Unlike other online health providers world-wide, we don’t just aggregate mental healthcare providers and their clients (mostly with very few direct client visitors) by providing a technology platform. Rather, we hire best of mental health care providers, train them extensively for superior online delivery and positive outcome, develop specialised mental wellness services and concepts, software and online tracking programmes and market our services as well as our providers, directly to larger customer base while taking full accountability of the care and therapeutic services provided.

Can you explain how the concept of an interactive platform using audio, video, chat and messages work in the Indian context?

Online technologies like video, audio and chat are powerful but to use them for healthcare delivery requires a different skill set and this is true in the global context. Video, audio chat or messages can become the basis of forming a connection between the provider and the client in an ongoing manner just as face-to-face visits. However, cues present in online conversation, be it video, audio or chat are different from face-to-face physical cues. Hence, the providers have to be separately trained in gauging a client’s online cues to formulate an effective management/treatment strategy. ePsyClinic.com is a leader in this regard. We have a very tough hiring process and we test a candidate specifically for online healthcare delivery skills along with larger clinical skill set.

We also have a three-week training programme, developed in-house, for perfecting use of impersonal mediums of psychiatry and counselling services. Until and unless a provider passes this internally, they do not appear on portal. Technology is an enabler in the real sense only when the use of it is mastered for delivering quality care.

Also the real value of being an online mental wellness provider is beyond the communication technologies. The online planners, diaries, client situation intake and record, real time communication in between sessions are the real value generators. ePsyClinic.com has devised many of these proprietary tools and is working to create more such tools with feedback and knowledge flowing from the market.

Speaking of the Indian context, India today is globally recognised as an early adopter of new technologies, new processes and new business models. The only dampener is the connectivity issues that we have to face, especially in tier II, III and IV cities. But with 4G and other advances, these issues will be sorted in the near future.

What are the business prospects that you see in India?

India is a huge potential market as there is a real dearth of services like ours that could help people effectively deal with life stressors, mental stressors, performance and emotional issues.

Over 50 per cent of all working people in the private sector in India face either chronic stress, depression or anxiety. About 30 per cent of their family members face similar issues. So out of around 30 million people (employed in private sector and their families), 12.5 million people are dealing with major mental stressors and issues. However, less than five per cent of these 12.5 million ever seek help due to lack of awareness, issues of accessibility, lack of specialised services and last but not the least- prevalent stigma. This is our core client base for the first year. And the latent but strong need for wellness services is the underlying opportunity around which ePsyClinic.com’s core offering has been structured. Beyond this, there is still a huge untapped market for mental wellness services in India (it has the highest number of people with chronic stress, irrespective of their profession and location). We will expand to the larger mass market with the right set of services and channels as we grow.

How do you plan to market your product?

Our main goal for the first year is to make people aware that our services exist and that they can truly help them in becoming happier, healthier mentally and emotionally. We already know that there is a huge demand out there, so if people know, they are going to reach out to us. So to achieve this we are following a CCCC plan i.e. content, communication, connection and creativity to market our service

Content: We are creating and distributing a lot of free content through our web portal, social media, other print magazines and our own booklets. The content is in the form of self-help articles on themes of daily stressors, life situations. We also are constantly developing webinars, relaxation audio therapies, educational videos and positive brain stimulating activities.

Communication: The essence of our service is  honest dialogue. To actively market our services, we have to initiate these conversations. So we are doing a lot of live experiential events at corporate parks, select malls in metros. We, of course, also do a lot of social media based activities to communicate and reach out.

Connection: Whether at the live events, or through our content or a 24×7 quick free live consultation with the mental wellness providers, or paid consultation on our web portal, we are making honest, well-meaning and resonating connection with our client base. This connection drives more people to us and also is generating a positive word of mouth for our services.

Creativity: Our marketing strategies are always unique and we try to come up with things unheard of in this industry. Live experience events for a service like mental wellness were unthinkable. There have been workshops, but asking people to come and experience how therapy and consultation could help them deal with their issues at their work places and at malls hasn’t been done anywhere else in the world. We could cut stigma fair and square through these events. Like this, we will continue to adopting new, creative and exciting marketing strategies.

What are your immediate plans?

In the next few months we will be doing many things to woo our clients and increase our user base. To do this, we have the following action plan:

On the tech side:

  • ePsyClinic.com’s android and iOS app development is nearing completion and will be launched soon.
  • We are also creating specialised self-help monitoring and solution providing apps.
  • We are improving and doing R&D in-house for making our video call services also available on lower bandwidths, keeping focus on connectivity issues that our clients in India could face especially in tier II, III and IV cities. That will be our focus.
  • Ours is a very complex technical product. It is not just an e-commerce platform, it is an e-communication, e-solution and e-management platform. So we are working to improve our technology, make it more user-friendly and scalable.
  • We are also introducing automated and one-click telephonic consultation facility for people who do not have advanced phones and/or who are more comfortable with telephonic consultation.

On the retail side: Online yet offline emotional wellness places (Stay tuned for our retail strategy with a twist!)

On the service improvement side: Now that we are getting real feedback, we are incorporating that to consistently improve the quality, delivery and end value of our service.

raelene.kambli@expressindia.com

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