When it comes to mental health apps, Indian products like Evolve, “being” and “jumpminds.AI” are slowly making inroads in the market with increasing user engagement and growth. All three apps were ranked among the top of Google Play’s “Best of” awards for 2021 thanks to growth fueled by pandemic anxiety.
Anshul Kamath, the founder of Evolve, agrees that mental health awareness has increased dramatically during the pandemic. “Previously, mental health was seen as something synonymous with mental illness like depression. However, today everyone realizes that just as we focus on our physical health, we also need to take care of our mental health regularly,” he told indianexpress.com during a email interaction.
Varun Gandhi, co-founder and CEO of ‘being’, quantifies the spike saying that “over 100,000 new users joined from April to December 2021”, most of them organically.
Kamath also credits Google Play for the success. He says they have also conducted nearly 60 alpha and beta testing experiments on the Play Store over the past six months to better understand their users. Gandhi agrees that being featured on “Google Play Collections” has helped boost their growth for them.
The pandemic has also led to an increase in usage and time spent on these apps. All three apps claim to have seen a slight increase even as the third wave began in December. For Evolve, the average time users spent on the app also increased, while “Be” claims growth continued through January 2022.
The three apps have a different approach. Evolve helps users with their mental well-being through interactive content based on cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Users can work on a specific issue they are facing using the app. It has nearly 100,000 users from all over the world and is built on a freemium model with a mix of free and premium elements. Some of the content is free forever, although it also offers an annual and monthly subscription.
“A person going through a breakup or burnout has contextualized sessions based on the specific issue they are facing. These virtual sessions are interactive and designed to simulate how a therapist or life coach would work with them in person. Apart from that, users can also do daily bite-sized practices for their daily care and mental well-being,” Kamath explained. The app has an exclusive interactive interface, designed to simulate in-person sessions led by a therapist or life coach.
Meanwhile, the completely free jumpingMinds.ai (jM) app is designed more for the daily stress users face. It’s more about users finding and talking to their peers about common issues. “Unlike the majority of gamers who use a therapy-driven strategy, jumpingMinds has taken a user-driven approach to making wellness easy, accessible, and fun. It’s a unique community platform of its kind, featuring state-of-the-art technology that provides an anonymous secure space,” said Ariba Khan, Founder and CEO of Jumping Minds.
Khan says 75% of people who contacted the app felt better after just one conversation. Discussing ‘The Friends Therapy’ approach they take, she explains that one of the challenges in mental health and wellbeing is low user retention, along with high stigma and lack of mental health professionals. The idea of the application is to create “an interactive, safe and empathetic network of friends” who will listen to the user and support him.
To “be”, over 65% of the audience is in the Gen-Z age bracket. A majority of its users have never done therapy or are not yet considering the same thing, according to its founder and it is this gap that they want to fill. The app also offers sessions called mini-therapies, which are small interactive sessions about how you feel right now. “These mini-sessions help users really identify what they’re feeling and why they’re confused about their feelings,” he said, pointing out that they were designed by mental health professionals around the world. whole world.
It also claims to have better audience diversity and has 65% female users, while 60% of users are based outside India, mostly in the US and UK. Anxiety & Stress, Relationships, Depression, Focus & Productivity, Loneliness & Sleep were the top 5 general issues the Being app helped with. Although the app is free for the first four months of 2022, it also plans to start with monthly and annual subscription fee models.
Evolve also focuses on people who identify as LGBTQIA, which Kamath says is an underserved section. The company ran a few experiments on Google Play Console testing during Pride Month last year, which included an inclusive logo and branding. This led to a big increase in conversion rates, according to its founder. The app features content tailored specifically for members of the community, including interactive introspections on embracing your sexuality and coming out to loved ones.
But the developers of these apps know that offering mental health counseling through an app is not an easy problem to solve. According to Kamath, there are challenges around customization and measuring progress. He admits that a single generic solution does not suit all users.
“Understanding users through purely digital interactions and being able to customize the solutions that work for them is a huge challenge,” he admitted. But what works in their favor is that these apps are affordable. In his opinion, they can be “a great first line of solution for people to use”. In fact, therapy sessions are expensive in India. Most qualified therapists charge between Rs 1000 and more per session and most insist on weekly sessions.
In many cases, these apps advise users to go beyond that. “We have a curated list of experts that users can connect with. Some of these services are free and some are paid. However, the type of user who downloads an app is usually someone who wants to explore a solution virtual, so a very small percentage of our users end up taking advantage of this option,” Kamath said.
Gandhi also admits that personalization is easier said than done and that even a therapist takes a session or two (sometimes more) to understand what is going on before offering advice. “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 also be willing to pay,” he said.
In addition, 1-3% of users of the “being” app are referred to its network of mental health professionals for appropriate therapeutic support, either in counseling or clinical psychiatry, as needed. “We also recommend our users to participate in certain mental health communities and support groups, as these activities – of connecting, sharing and being open with people – can be very useful. Additionally, our mini-therapies, regardless of the discomfort being treated, involve activities that connect you with real life,” Gandhi emphasized.