The social taboo around mental health and wellness seems to be disappearing in India with large number of people taking help and employers providing mental health and wellness support to their employees.
McKinsey estimates the global wellness market worth more than $1.5 trillion in 2021, with an annual growth of 5 to 10 per cent. Indian mental health and wellness startups have garnered over US$ 28.24 with the decade’s highest investment in 2021. The investment came in just three rounds. The highest investment made earlier in the segment was in 2019 of around US$ 12.36 in 7 rounds of funding.
According to market experts, it’s not bad for a country that ranks 139 out of 149 countries in the Happiness Index. Anxiety disorders in adults have increased from 11.0% in Jan-Jun, 2019 (NHIS) to 41.1% in January 2021 (Household Pulse Survey). They predict that the growth in segment is fuelled by corporates hiring mental and wellness startups for their employees to shun the stigma and get help whenever they required. The Human Resource department are even employing special budgets for the segment since last year.
For 2021, employers are investing most in mental health (88%), telemedicine (87%), stress management/resilience (81%), mindfulness and meditation (69%), and COVID-19 risk intake/wellness passport (63%) programs. With three out of five rising stars closely linked to mental health, it is clear that companies are extremely focused on and dedicated to supporting mental well-being. These programs have been growing in popularity in recent years, and the unique challenges created by Covid-19 have only accelerated the demand for mental health solutions.
One of the investors on condition of anonymity said, “Technology has turned out to be a boon. You don’t have to leave your place of comfort (home) and can access all the health for your mental wellbeing either through website or mobile apps. Moreover, startups are offering different kind of options like talking, texting which is helping people to break their inner inhibitions and dole out their emotions.” He adds, the rising anxiety and pressures due to new normal are making these startups as the most promising bet.
However, Kanika Agarwal founder of Startup Mindpeers says, “I am going to play devil's advocate here. The truth is investors in India are still not convinced of the scalability of mental health startups. The businesses who have been in the mental health space for the last 5-6 years were not able to scale because they were traditional businesses. They had therapy as their foundation and therapy alone doesn't scale because of high stigma, you don't have enough mental health professionals and things like that. Now, there is a scope of new models that are coming in and investors are exploring more. But it still is a very nascent industry. Investors are trying to learn a lot about it. There is a lot of knowledge that they are trying to gain from mental health tech founders.”
According to data available, the three top mental health and wellness providers in India’s startup ecosystem are Ultrahuman (provides meditation practice for mind and body transformation), Whysa (an AI-based chat bot for managing mental health) and the Inner Hour (provides online counselling for psychological problems).
Seema Rekha, Managing Director, Antarmanh says, “Investors are betting high on technology driven mental health startups for its exponential growth curves. Potential for technology driven mental health services user base is as strong as google services users. Technology driven mental health services are growing manifold post pandemic. Users seek information, knowledge, Audio-video resources and chats, brief calls, later face to face sessions if required.”
Antarmanh is primarily into corporate wellness. They are getting enquiries from many corporate, government organizations, Schools, and Universities for our services and interestingly new EAP organizations for outsourcing us. Our free helplines see a high rise in mental health challenges in senior citizens and teenagers due to lockdown. The number of calls on company has grown over 12 times post covid.
The global corporate wellness market size today is 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. Moreover, during 2016 to 2020, the number of individual sessions increased 66% on mental wellness applications.
Another Corporate wellness startup is NYOU. Its Co-founder Sonal Gadhvi and B Bhuvaneshwarii say, “We work closely with promoters, management, senior leaders, and core teams, with a unique combination of consulting and training programs. Our six- pillar approach is designed to target each element of personal transformation based on our unique SEIIS Model- Spiritual Quotient, Emotional Quotient, Intelligence Quotient, Image Quotient, Social Quotient - so you can take charge, and begin to lead a truly extraordinary life.”
Kanika adds, “Our highest customer base right now is people between 24-40 years. These are mostly professionals who are struggling both with their personal and work life. These are people who have now come to terms with the fact that there is going to be no work-life balance. They will need to learn how to take out time from their schedules for their own personal lives and most of these people are at an early intervention stage. Which means they are not going through anything clinical right now but they are on the verge of getting on to the other side which is the treatment side. So a whole lot of us are catering to these people who are on the preventive side, early intervention.”