In Conversation With Tarun Gupta
Tarun Gupta is the Co-founder of Lissun - A mental wellness startup
1. Please tell us a bit about your background?
I have now worked for more than 15 years out of which the last 7 have been across marquee Indian and global start ups like Uber, OYO and Snapdeal In these companies, I have led multiple industry-shaping initiatives as an intrapreneur. I’m a post graduate from Indian School of Business and pre MBA spent time in the US working with Sapient.
2. What inspired you to start Lissun?
The Biggest driver to starting Lissun was my own experience with mental health issues and how the current solutions didn’t work for me. At the end of 2017 our daughter was born extremely prematurely in the 27th week of conception and spent 3 months in the NICU before we could bring her home. As you can imagine this situation caused extreme anxiety for both me and my wife with uncertainty around everything including the child’s survival. We didn’t understand what was happening and were learning new terms everyday that we didn’t understand. While we had a strong support system to fall back on we realised we needed some professional help to cope with out situations or we ourselves would fall sick. The solutions out there didn’t work for us for multiple reasons and that’s when the idea of doing something in this space was born. However the personal situation was such that I could not start at that time. During the second wave of Covid when I saw so many people reaching out for help and again struggling to find a solution that works for them I decided to take the plunge and reached out to KV who I knew always wanted to start up.
3. What problems are you looking to solve through Lissun?
LISSUN is your full stack emotional and mental wellness platform. It helps you live a better quality of life by providing comprehensive wellness programmes, in-house quality therapists, access to user communities, self-help and virtual tools powered by AI and machine learning. This is done via various platforms such as app, website, phone support, and physical clinics.
Our app is free to download, and the self-help tools, tests, and programs are prepared by certified experts. Anyone can avail them free of cost for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. Whenever needed by the clients, LISSUN connects them with its professional therapists, clinical psychologists, and psychiatrists
While the solution is one half of the equation, there are other problems that exist in the mental health space in India that Lissun is looking to solve. We define them as 6A’s:
1) Awareness – more than 80% of people who suffer from mental health issues don’t even know that and never seek treatment unless the mental health issues results in physical symptoms
2) Acceptance – People are aware but unwilling to accept that they can also suffer from mental health issues. The false notion that “I am strong”.
3) Access – Beyond metros access to psychologists is limited
4) Anonymity – Due to the stigma people don’t want to be seen consulting a mental health professional and hence need a solution that can be delivered anonymously
5) Affordability – Current costs for treatments are high
6) Assurance (Quality) – Very difficult to gauge the quality of mental health professionals due to non enforcement of standards
Lissun is solving for all of these through its product and Go to Market stratgey
4. What is Lissun's revenue model?
We work by integrating mental health into larger healthcare or places where clients can benefit from mental and emotional wellness support. We partner with healthcare institutions to provide mental health services to their patients
We currently charge for therapies/counselling done by practitioners of LISSUN. We also have corporate clients for who we run Wellness as a service for their employees .
In future, we are planning to introduce group bookings, and launch subscription of the product.
5. What makes the app stand out from its competitors?
LISSUN provides a full stack wellness program based upon the symptoms and severity of a person’s problems and not just standardised tools that work as a one size fits all. These can be evaluated literally free of cost using the self-help tools and tests created by our professionals. Based on that, every patient is provided a wellness program that is specific to their needs. LISSUN tries to help an individual in long-term recovery and not just for a short-term feel good, so that they can feel better and go back to living their normal lives.
Besides, the app helps even those who may have a mental wellness issue (like anxiety, stress, depression, etc) but are unaware of it right now, or are prone to developing it in future by reaching out to such patients through our unique GTM of partnering with institutions where these patients may be in high stress situations like hospitals and individual doctors.
6. Have you raised funds before and are you looking to raise funds in the near future?
Yes, we are a seed-stage start up and have raised a pre seed round from Angels and Early stage institutional investors.
7. What are the brands' long and short term goals?
We have set clear short- and long-term goals for the brand. In the short-term, we would like to expand our partnerships with doctors and institutions and so that more and more people who are in high stress situations and need mental health consultation can be identified and treated.
Additionally we have also gone ‘phygital’ with launch of our first offline center in Muzaffarnagar, U.P. We will launch more such centers in the months to come.
In the long-term, we want to be the default choice and on stop shop for all mental wellness needs for individuals and institutions in India and beyond. We aim at penetrating deeper into tier 2 and tier 3 cities, where there are very there a few certified clinical psychologists/counselors per lakh population.
8. How many hospitals and doctors have you partnered with till now and how many more are you planning to add by this year's end?
We have tied up with more than 500 doctors, 10+ hospitals, 10+ IVF centers as well as Large dialysis chains and are ramping these numbers up. We have reached out to more than 1000+ healthcare stakeholders across the spectrum from individual healthcare practitioners to institutionalised care. The entire picture certainly infuses a lot of satisfaction and joy in us. By 2022 end, we aim at going to 3-5 times the current numbers.
9. Are there any specific reasons for you focusing on Tier 2 and tier 3 cities?
The level of awareness regarding mental health solutions is limited in these areas, hence the scope to help people is huge! Also, there are very few certified clinical psychologists/counselors per lakh population here as compared to metros but the need is very high. We want to ensure quality treatment for everyone across the country
10. What is the average ticket size for sessions through LISSUN?
Session starts from Rs 700 onwards and the average ticket size is around 1000.
11. Are there any Covid related trends or spikes that you have noticed?
The onset of covid has made us understand the urgency and importance to focus on mental health. Statistics reveal that almost 20% of Indians are suffering from some or the other kind of mental health issue since the start of the pandemic. So yes, there is a natural spike and an upward trend.
12. What are the reasons, in your opinion, that mental health startups haven't seen the same level of success as other industries' startups?
Mental health is one of those topics in India, that nobody wants to talk about in the open. Also the level of awareness in the country about mental health issues, their symptoms etc. is very low. As a result more than 90% of people who suffer from these issues never get diagnosed or treated. Traditional ways of reaching out to these people digitally do not work and hence innovative GTM’s are needed.
Another issue is that despite the realization that came with the pandemic, people are still hesitant to accept that many a times, support is needed to keep mental health robust. So this is the main blocker, but with the help of government initiatives like national tele-mental health programme, and fundings, mental health tech industry would see a boost. Private players also need to do their bit in increasing both awareness and acceptance.
13. What problems did you face at the initial launch phase?
From an entrepreneur’s perspective, the early days demand more than what the following period would. In the initial stage when you are struggling to even establish your existence, you need people who would stick with you and help you build the idea. On the implementation side, challenges were to change the mindset of the people regarding seeking help for mental wellness, and normalizing the talk around it. You constantly have to prove yourself and when no one knows you, you are looking for that one chance.
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