Challenges in Scaling Mental Health Startups in India - By Industry Experts

Jeenal Jain Jeenal Jain
Oct 5, 2021 7 min read
Challenges in Scaling Mental Health Startups in India - By Industry Experts
The opinions & views in this article are contributed by various industry experts in the mental health domain.

“Health is wealth” goes the famous quote. It is true that most of us take care or have grown to focus on our physical health, the mental health and well-being have always been alarmingly abandoned. The health of our mind is almost as important as our physical health and results in damaging aftermath if not proving to have the most perilous of effects on our body.

Though quite a few of the startups of today have been founded to focus on our mental health, scaling these startups has been quite a challenge. If you are interested in the mental health startups and the challenges faced by them, go through this StartupTalky article to know further about them!


Also Read: Top 5 Mental Health Startups in India that are transforming the industry


Dr. Anuneet Sabharwal | Founder & Director, The Happy Tree

Scaling Mental Health Startup
Anuneet Sabharwal - Founder & Director, The Happy Tree

Happy Tree is a de-addiction, rehabilitation, and mental health hospital based in New Delhi, with a particular emphasis on the rehabilitation of addicts.

In my (Anuneet Sabharwal) opinion, one of the main reasons why mental health startups haven't worked is because most of these startups are not founded by professionals in the field. Because they are not founded by professionals, the ins, outs, and subtle details that make or break a mental health or deaddiction business are not properly understood by the founders. Make no mistake, there is humungous demand. But the quality of mental health apps and businesses is not substandard. On the flip side, the mental health professionals who are doing a fantastic job, are simply not business or tech-savvy. So, while they are rendering excellent services to their clients, they don’t have the vision for scalability. The Happy Tree has been a roaring success within just 5 years in the mental health and deaddiction space. The industry needs a visionary who is also a professional practicing in the field, to take charge and build a scalable business.

Seema Rekha | Managing Director, Antarmanh Consulting

Scaling Mental Health Startups
Seema Rekha - Managing Director, Antarmanh Consulting

In the last 5 years around 500+ new mental health startups came into existence. Interestingly, the market for mental health looks very attractive to investors and they invest in technology-driven mental health startups led by non-medico/non-clinician anticipating an exponential growth curve, however, mental health is a complex and linear business model.

Unfortunately, technology, mobile apps, AI BOT, etc., can be a supplement not a solution when it comes to mental health help hence failing to create the right product offerings. Another set of startups led by clinicians sincerely lack growth and impact strategy. The B2C market demands a strong sense of vision, structure, and right implementation.

The global corporate wellness market size was valued at USD 52.8 billion in 2020 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.0% from 2021 to 2028. Hence attracting more and more players in the market who offer basic products like EAP (Employee Assistance Program) as their primary offering

However, EAP is a low-impact product and does not appeal to the business leaders anymore who are looking for concrete solutions. Another reason why Mental health startups are not taking off is because of the lack of product knowledge, industry knowledge, poor research & analysis, and a non-holistic approach.

In a nutshell, Startups are failing in creating the right products due to lack of understanding of the market, lack of industry knowledge, poor or no research, lack of appropriate training, qualified but untrained staff, less experienced team members, lack of innovation, investing in infrastructure than its people, trying to quick fix the infrastructural requirements, heavily relying on technology and social media.

Priya Kumar | Chief of Content & Founder, Genius Inside

The pandemic has worsened the mental health crises around the world and India was no exception. One in two people aged 18-29 years is possibly subject to anxiety and depression and another 17% are probably affected by it as per the latest reports. While it's been a phenomenal time for the startup ecosystem in India as is evident, we are yet to see a surge in mental health startups. Many Venture Capitalists understand and see a huge demand for mental health startups, however, very few want to invest in these endeavors as they think these business modules would not scale.

We want to change the way people approach mental health issues and their cures by developing an ecosystem that is safe and can make people feel like they are in good hands. At Genius Inside we thrive on aiding individuals in personal and professional transformation. We aim to be at the forefront of bringing change and battle the invisible but evident threat.


Story of Now&Me - How two college girls are helping people achieve mental health
Now&Me, a startup founded by Bani Singh and Drishti Gupta, is a free and genuine website where one can share one’s problems and emotions with strangers. Read how Now&Me can help you stay mentally fit and stress free.

Samreedhi Goel | Founder, SizeWise Fitness Studio

Mental health startups in India haven’t received the kind of response that the overall startup industry has received. This could be due to multiple reasons like lack of awareness, lack of support, lack of reach to all age groups.

Mental health as a point of conversation is gaining traction, but yet the mindset of multiple people is still to change, especially of the older age groups. It will take time for them to recognize mental health issues within them and in their younger generation and support anyone who needs helps to seek the same. This shift in mindset, however small it is, is prevalent only in the urban regions of the country, while other areas still do not give regard to mental health the same way they do to physical health.

Trust, sense of security, and breach of privacy are also factors that contribute to people not being completely accepting of mental health startups. While online counseling and therapy did see a rise during the lockdown, being completely open about having mental health issues is also stopping people from spreading the word about it.

For mental health startups to take flight in India as an industry, it is key that the mindset of people changes and awareness about mental health increases. Along with giving recognition to mental health at the same standard of physical health

Nitin Bindlish | Founder & CEO, Mom's Belief

Scaling Mental Health Startups
Nitin Bindlish - Founder & CEO, Mom's Belief

It’s been quite a while that mental health which was once a taboo is now an important subject of discussion. The startups dedicated to upscaling mental health have been trying to put their best foot forward to spread awareness about the importance of mental health and mental health issues. What is also worth mentioning is that the pandemic came as a silver lining and rendered a helping hand in increasing awareness about these subjects. Consequently, people not only know but are also trying to accept the need for mental health measures. But they do face their fair share of challenges. The spending capacity for mental wellness by people is not considered as it takes them time to accept that paying for a mental health issue isn’t a big deal. Just as other countries prioritize mental health, India also needs to look at greater investments in this domain. Another major hurdle is that experienced trusted senior talent is unable to cope with the new-age developments in this field. The age-old concepts won’t fit into the present times' industry landscape.

One of the major challenges for the field of mental healthcare is for people to accept the need for mental healthcare services, especially for the kids. This problem would amplify when kids will join offline schools and they will face obstacles in adapting to the changing environment. This is where courses helping in bridging the gap would emerge as a saving grace. We at Mom’s Belief are the largest mental healthcare providers in the Asia-Pacific region for children. We offer a plethora of programs & services for building emotional intelligence to interventions that help kids counter the challenge with the help of AI/ML. We ensure deep learning of actions, brain signals, and emotions for a quick, accurate, and insightful analysis of children dealing with developmental delays. On the whole, we aspire to empower each parent and touch a million lives with our offerings. (for regular and kids with developmental delays).

Conclusion

Though the mental health startups are striving to make their own mark among the startup companies of now, most of them are not able to reach their full potential due to the rising list of challenges that they are facing. This was thus an attempt to highlight a majority of them.

We hope you liked our article! It would be great if you let us know how you feel about it via your valuable comments and feedback. Also, let us know what else we can cover in this article and the upcoming ones.

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