HYDERABAD: Last year, some of my friends who were also the strongest women I knew, were going through a difficult time in life. One of them was nearing separation from her partner and the other one, a divorce. They reached a level where they even contemplated taking their own lives. I saw all this, went home, and looked online for a platform that helped women with their mental health issues and legal support. To my chagrin, there were none. This is what sowed the seeds for United We Care (earlier United For Her),” says Shumita Kakkar, Founder, United We Care. In an interview to Manju Latha Kalanidhi, she shares more about her venture.
The app-based platform was founded in January 2020 with a mission to help people overcome issues affecting their mental peace. It integrates social, mental, financial, and legal support systems for men, women, youth and children and LGBTQ+ who are going through separation or facing a difficult time in their lives. They have a large number of professional psychologists, life coaches and lawyers to support them and have raised seed funding from friends and family round. It is an initiative which aims to be the support system that is usually missing in the fast-paced digital world of the day. Excerpts.
What made the founders create an app like this?
While earlier our target audience was women undergoing such issues, we now help anyone facing mental stressors to get the support they needed without having to run from pillar to post. For instance, we enable them to get a lawyer at the right time and place and at a nominal charge. While this is one part of the solution, the other is offering them a platform where they can speak to someone without worrying about the stigma they may face or being judged.
How many downloads so far for the app?
4000+ downloads, 88%repeat users and that too all organically.
What kind of issues are typically resolved by the app?
Mental health services are a huge marketplace especially in a country like India. There are various platforms providing access to therapists and counsellors one can speak to. However, with so many options to choose from, a person seeking help may get confused on who to get in touch with. We help people who seek support get in touch with the right person. We believe in both the profitability and cost aspects. We started our journey to solve a big problem and ensure that we are able to touch millions of lives to create a positive impact. United We Care has experts who have a specialization in dealing with issues pertaining to the LGBTQ community, personal relationships, child psychology etc.
All experts undergo training on how to be extremely empathetic while dealing with users from different groups. For instance, they are sensitized about issues pertaining to marital discord, financial stress caused by Covid-19 or economic slowdown, and also various racial or LGBTQ concerns. This sets the brand apart from its competitors as the usual practice is to simply connect the users with the available experts. All our partners do pro bono work and this is part of our contract. We undertake a competitive analysis for every expert who comes on board.
There is a three to four step process undertaken as part of their background check and our services come at a lower rate than most of the marketplaces. We also godeeper to understand the causes of stress, anxiety and depression, and provide support. Our advanced AI and ML pairs you up with the right person after asking few simple questions. You can then choose to do a voice, video call or just chat. We will also be launching our emotional health virtual assistant Stella soon who will be available to chat or talk to our users 24x7. Stella can help with Basic CBT (Cognitive behavioral therapy) CAT (Cognitive analytical therapy), humanistic, interpersonal or couple therapy. She will be a one-of-her-kind assistant with multiple decision trees and the ability to move negative sentiments to positive conversations.
What do you think we can all collectively do towards helping those suffering from mental illness?
I think it is imperative to raise a lot of awareness around mental health issues, since that is the first step towards removing the huge stigma that exists currently. Depression and anxiety or other mental health issues are not just a temporary phase of sadness experienced by a person. They are serious concerns and one must learn to understand and recognize signs as also be empathetic towards what a person must be feeling. Open conversations can happen only when the stigma is removed and people facing these issues are able to open up to others without the fear of being judged.
What kind of issues does Hyderabad suffer from and if there are any data and patterns?
When it comes to Hyderabad, about 25% of our users are below 20 years of age and 36% fall in the 20 to 29 age group. The issues for which users commonly come on the app are depression, anxiety, stress, relationship and family matters, career and future, or work-related stress.
Shumita Kakkar, is the founder and director of United We Care, and founded the platform with Ritu Mehrotra, Country Manager - India, Sri Lanka and Maldives at Booking.com and Kitty Mehta, VicePresident, Commercial - North America Cluster at The Body Shop