3 Indian apps with different approaches to ensuring peace of mind

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The rise of mental health apps in India: Indian products like Evolve, ‘being’ and ‘jumpminds.AI’ are slowly making a breakthrough in the market with increasing user engagement and growth

When it comes to apps for mental health, Indian products like Evolve, ‘being’ and ‘jumpminds.AI’ are slowly making a breakthrough in the market with increasing user engagement and growth. All three apps were ranked among the top in Google Play’s ‘Best of’ Awards for 2021 thanks to growth fuelled by pandemic anxiety.

Anshul Kamath, Evolve’s founder, agrees that awareness about mental health has gone up significantly during the pandemic. “Earlier, mental health used to be seen as something synonymous with mental illness such as depression. However, today everyone realises that just like we focus on our physical health, we also need to take care of our mental health regularly,” he told indianexpress.com over an email interaction.

Varun Gandhi, Co-Founder and CEO at ‘being’, quantifies the spike by saying that “more than 100,000 new users joined from April to December 2021”, most of it organically.

Kamath credits Google Play for the success too. He says they have also run close to 60 alpha and beta test experiments on the Play Store over the last six months to understand their users better. Gandhi concurs that being featured on ‘Google Play’s collections’ helped boost their growth for them.

The pandemic also meant that the usage and time spent on these apps increased. All three apps claim they saw an uptick even as the third wave began in December. For Evolve average time users spent on the app also went up, while ‘being’ claims the growth has continued well into January 2022.

Different approaches

All three apps have a different approach. Evolve helps users with their mental well-being through interactive content based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Users can work on a specific problem they face using the app. It has close to 100,000 users from across the world and relies on a freemium model with a mix of free and premium elements. Some of the content is free forever, though it also offers an annual and monthly subscription.

“Someone going through a breakup or a burnout has sessions contextualised to the specific problem they are facing. These virtual sessions are interactive and designed to simulate how a therapist or a life coach would work with them in person. Apart from this, users can also do bite-sized practices every day for their daily self-care and mental wellbeing,” Kamath explained. The app has a proprietary interactive interface, designed to simulate in-person sessions conducted by a therapist or a life coach.

Meanwhile, the jumpingMinds.ai (jM) app, which is entirely free to access, is designed more for the everyday stress that users face. It is more about users finding and talking to their peers about common problems. “Unlike the majority of players who employ a therapy-first strategy, jumpingMinds has adopted a user-first approach to make wellness easy, accessible, and fun. It’s a first-of-its-kind community platform empowered by deep technology that offers an anonymous safe space,” Ariba Khan, the founder and CEO of Jumping Minds said.

Khan claims 75 per cent of the people who reached out to the app felt better after a single conversation. About the ‘The Friends Therapy’ approach they take, she explains that one of the challenges with mental health and wellness is the low user retention along with the high stigma and lack of mental health professionals. The idea of the app is to create “an interactive, secure and empathetic network of friends” who will listen to the user and support them.

For ‘being’, more than 65 per cent of the audience is in the Gen-Z age group. A majority of its users have never done any kind of therapy or are not yet considering the same, according to its founder and it is this gap they want to fill. The app also offers sessions called mini-therapies, which are bite-sized interactive sessions on how one feels at the moment. “These mini-sessions help users truly identify how they feel and why they are confused about their feelings,” he said, stressing that they have been designed by mental health professionals across the world.

It also claims to have better diversity in the audience and has 65 per cent of women users, while 60 per cent of users are based outside India, primarily in the US and the UK. Anxiety and stress, relationships, depression, focus and productivity, loneliness, and sleep were the top 5 broad-level issues that the ‘being’ app helped address. While the app will be free for the first four months of 2022, it too plans to start with monthly and annual subscription fee models.

Evolve is also focusing on individuals who identify as LGBTQIA, which Kamath is convinced is an underserved section. The company ran a few experiments on the Google Play Console testing during Pride month last year, which included an inclusive logo and branding. This resulted in a big surge in conversion rates, according to its founder. The app offers curated content specifically for members of the community including interactive introspections on embracing one’s sexuality and coming out to loved ones.

The limitations

But the developers of these apps know that offering mental health advice via an app is not an easy problem to solve. According to Kamath, there are challenges around personalisation and measuring progress. He admits that a generic one-size-fits-all solution does not work for all users.

“Understanding users through purely digital interactions and being able to personalise solutions that work for them is a huge challenge,” he admitted. But what works in their favour is that these apps are affordable. In his view, they can be “a great first line of solution for people to use.” In fact, therapy sessions are expensive in India. Most well-qualified therapists charge anything from Rs 1000 to higher per session and most insist on weekly sessions.

In many cases, these apps do advise users to go beyond. “We have a curated list of experts with whom the users can connect. Some of these services are free and some are paid for. However, the type of user that downloads an app is generally a person who wants to explore a virtual solution so a very small percentage of our users end up availing of this option,” Kamath said.

Gandhi too, admits that personalisation is easier said than done and that even a therapist takes a session or two (sometimes, more) to understand what’s going on before they offer any counselling. “Another challenge is the willingness to pay, especially in the context of most people in India. But if we find a way to solve the other challenges, people will understand the value and will be ready to pay as well,” he said.

Further, 1-3 per cent of ‘being’ app’s users are referred to its network of mental health professionals for proper therapy support for either counselling or clinical psychiatry depending on the need. “We also recommend our users participate in certain mental health communities and support groups as these activities – of connecting, sharing, and opening up with people – can help a great deal. Also, our mini-therapies, irrespective of the discomfort being addressed, involve activities that connect you with real-life,” Gandhi stressed.

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