Mimblu’s goal to make mental healthcare in India more accessible

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Many were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, which exacerbated their mental health crisis. But, access to mental healthcare in India is not easy. Data from the National Mental Health Survey-5 show that India has 0.75 psychiatrists per 100,000 people.

Yash Alhotra was formerly a Zomato and Expedia executive and was also afflicted by anxiety during the pandemic. He turned to therapy. He tells Economic pitch “I am a strong proponent of therapy” and believes that it, as all forms of healthcare, should become more accessible and democratised.

After talking to close friends with mental health issues, Yash decided that Mimblu would be launched in 2021. This will make therapy more accessible for all.

The startup is based in Mumbai and offers asynchronous text therapy via its app. Its certified therapists are also available.

Yash decided to concentrate on text-based therapy. According to a 2020 study done by the National Library of Medicine it has shown improved outcomes for people with anxiety and depression.

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Mimblu officially started its operations in January.

Shevantika is a practicing therapist with six years of experience in clinical consulting and joined the startup this August as Co-founder/COO.

Access to therapy

Mimblu allows users to chat with mental health therapists by sharing voice notes or video calls. These can be scheduled according to convenience and availability.

“Mimblu’s founder and CEO, Yash, says that text messaging is more popular than video and in-person communication, so it’s a very approachable and non-intimidating way to communicate with people.”

The app allows users to choose the issues they face, including anger management, anxiety and behavioural management. Mimblu connects users with therapists who specialize in their issues.

Clients can access the app anywhere they are without requiring additional space, such as for video sessions or to travel for in-person interactions. It’s also great for therapists because they can manage more clients at once,” he says.

It is available in both Google Play Store as well as Apple App Store. The app has more 10,000 cumulative downloaded and a rating of 4 stars.

Establishing a network of therapists

Mimblu currently has 15 therapists across the country. They are available 24/7 for chat and video calling. The platform offers asynchronous text-based therapy so therapists can reply to you up to three times per day.

Shevantika was among the first therapists who joined Mimblu, before she became a co-founder. Shevantika says that asynchronous text therapy can be effective for mild to moderate anxiety, depression and eating disorders.

“We want to change the way therapy is done. Asynchronous text therapy will likely result in a more focused attention on language, as it gives users more time to think about and reflect on their communication,” she said.

Talkspace found that over 85% of participants experienced positive changes after receiving asynchronous text-based therapy. This was for a period of two to four months.

To onboard therapists, the startup relies on word of mouth. They refer their colleagues. Before they are accepted, it checks their qualifications and years of experience.

Yash believes Mimblu is creating a ‘gig economy for therapists. “We are creating a network of therapists that can share resources, caseloads and findings and support one another, apart from the obvious financial aspect.”

Mimblu does not have any practicing psychiatrists who can prescribe medication. Its focus is on behavioural wellbeing, i.e. psychotherapy.

The Mimblu app is currently used by 8,000 users around the globe, with about 80% hailing from India.

The app targets Gen Z and millennials with 70% of its users being women. According to the startup, 90% of users prefer texting with 8,000 text sessions so far and 10% prefer video.

The market and the business

Mimblu uses a subscription model and offers plans for 14, 30 or 60 days to connect over chat with therapists. Users have the option to switch therapists if necessary. They can only do it once per subscription.

The founders did not disclose their earnings but the startup uses a revenue sharing model. Therapists share 50% of the revenue. Its services are cheaper than traditional in-person therapy sessions, they claim.

A traditional 45-minute in-person therapy session is priced between Rs 800,000 and Rs 800,000 according to the prices quoted by Bengaluru’s Rebuilding Minds, Karma Centre for Counselling and Wellbeing and Sharda Clinic.

Shevantika says that text-based therapy has many advantages over traditional therapy. Traditional therapy can take weeks to get to therapists, while text-based therapy is quick and easy. It’s also more affordable and accessible.

Mimblu also has a pilot program with corporations to offer its services their employees.

The startup is competing with text-based therapy startups like Talkspace and Better Health. It also offers Practo, which allows in-person therapy. Yash said that the team’s work is “purely focused on accessibility and approachability for therapy”.

Emergen Research estimates that the global market for mental wellness was valued at $401.30 billion by 2021. It is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 3.5%. According to Data Bridge Market Research, the global telemental market was valued at $109 million in 2021. It is projected to grow to $710 billion by 2029.

Future plans

To bootstrap the startup, the founders have invested $20,000 of their personal savings. The startup is currently in discussions with investors to raise pre-seed capital to scale operations and hire tech positions.

Mimblu plans on being an end-to-end platform for behavioural wellness. The company is currently developing a progress tracker that will allow users to track their progress and communicate with their therapists via the app.

The startup also aims to scale across multiple English-speaking regions.

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