Image: Selvaprakash Lakshmanan for Forbes India
Puneet Manuja and Richa Singh | 29, 29
Co-founder & COO, co-founder & CEO, YourDOST
Category: NGOs & Social Entrepreneurship
A series of experiences of peers falling prey to depression—and not seeking help—got Richa Singh interested in the subject of mental health. The final tipping point was when “in college, a girl who stayed two rooms away from me committed suicide as she thought she wouldn’t get a job through college placements,” says Singh, 29, an IIT Guwahati graduate. After college, she started working in the Hyderabad office of investment firm DE Shaw & Co. It was here that she, along with colleague Puneet Manuja, 29, began researching mental health in earnest in 2009. Manuja, an MBA from IIM Bangalore, had himself been through depression when he couldn’t get a job despite being a gold medalist engineer at NIT Calicut.
“We spoke to thousands of people through focus group surveys and emails, and realised that a big chunk of the population is suffering from mental illness, but is afraid to speak about it,” says Singh. The duo started documenting the interviews on a blog in 2012. Although the blog was popular, they realised that if they wished to have an impact on a larger group, it had to be through an online platform where people could anonymously approach experts. Consequently, they launched a website, YourDOST, in December 2014. The platform has three layers—self-help (educational content to build awareness), peer-to-peer (stories of people who have been through difficult times) and one-to-one (speaking to experts). While text-based counselling is free, voice and video counselling costs Rs 400 and Rs 600 respectively. Today, YourDOST has 750-plus experts, conducts 1,200 sessions per day and has helped 9 lakh people. Based in Bengaluru, the startup currently employs 25 people.
(This story appears in the 17 February, 2017 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)