Richa Singh, co-founder, YourDost, is a conceptualiser but is a revolutionary when it comes to the type of work she has chosen in her life. Building a platform that addresses one of the most peculiar issues prevalent today, Richa calls herself someone who wants to ‘create a happier society.’
Lonelier than ever
With the boom in digital platforms providing all kinds of services one can think of, the elephant in the room wasn’t being given its proper attention and that is mental health. India is on the verge of a mental health crisis. Per World Health Organisation, 7.5 percent of the whole population is having some kind of mental health problem. And unfortunately, most of these sufferers do not get a hand of support or an ear to hear their plight. Along the same lines, keeping the discourse active, I ask Richa, why India is so lonely? On which she says, “Even though we are connected more than ever, digitally. Connected to ‘like and ‘upload’ but not really to share our emotions. We do share things, sometimes how we are doing and similarly other things but the real emotions are never shared. That makes us lonelier.”
Richa’s unwavering quest for tackling fresher problems in life and excelling in them is an entrepreneurial skill that comes under, ‘must possess’.
For her, life is to check on the challenges, one after the other. “Early days, I wanted to get into an IIT. Till that time, it was all IIT, then when I got into it, I’m like huh, what’s next? There were Day 0 or Day 1 placements at my college and I wanted to get placed in them, which I did.” It didn’t happen magically for Richa as well, she resonates this innate alacrity to do something new and refreshing, “In my journey, I’ve always been hungry to learn. Be it painting, dancing, swimming, working with a small company or a larger one.”
Lot of people say I want to be my boss, have my schedule or make great money but I don’t think those are real reasons. I think why one should quit their corporate job is because they are being driven by something and they want to build on it. Nothing less than that.
College days are often crucial in developing an aptitude for doing business. Not just that, personality development for opening up to better possibilities in life is learnt these days. Richa remembers how living amongst the best gets the best out of you, irrespective of your chosen field of expertise. “There are no restraints in such a good place. You collaborate with anyone, in any department. It allowed me to collaborate and if I had some doubts regarding something, I had experts right there. See in entrepreneurship, one has to learn to collaborate or it becomes tough. And the power that you can do anything even if you don’t know much about it, gives you confidence.”
World of business requires networking and that means entering a social space where both male and female work together. Though, like in IITs, business circle too has an unhealthy sex-ratio. Having entered that kind of unlevelled arena, it pushed Richa to interact with the opposite sex and get comfortable in the process. On this, Richa tells Dutch Uncles, “It was a very big skill, I probably didn’t possess it earlier. Earlier I was a shy person. Though in a class of 300, being 12 in number, you learn to have your voice, contact the right people and collaborate with them.”
Entrepreneurship on a practical note, is not the first choice of many in any sample space. It is no hidden secret that there are more failures to count than successes in the entrepreneurial world.
Richa however, had the inkling that she is eventually going to take the path less travelled, “I knew I am confident enough to do things that matter to me. I do not go and seek approvals. In fact, once you do well, the world will come around you. Be it, friends or family.” she adds.
Richa’s life turns pages with a personal setback
For Richa, the turning point came with a personal setback in life during her time at IIT. “I lost a friend of mine to suicide while I was in college. She was fearing a poor placement. Now that is what pushed me in this field of mental well-being and health. We had counsellors, psychologists, we even had psychiatrists on campus but not many people go to them,” she shares.
That incident intrigued Richa about the dearth of a systematic approach in place for mental wellness. Despite having in-house consultants and psychiatrists, they were not approached in that unfortunate incident and things had to change. “I asked myself, what could I have done to change her situation? What psychologists do, why people aren’t seeking support. That as a problem statement looked like something I want to work for. I didn’t know it meant starting an organisation but that experience did shape why I started YourDost.”
Impact above comfort; the difficult jump
Richa admits that the comfort of corporate life at a good position is nothing short of lucrative. Though, as Richa’s life has been, where learning stops, Richa bids adieu. Along the same lines, she tells Dutch Uncles, “Some people do want that comfortable job. Holidays anytime, rest anytime, salary is good and assured, and if things get monotonous, join a new one. Though, I wanted more from my life. I wanted to make an impact. Question is, the impact can be inside an organisation as well but what I wanted to do could not be done through my corporate job, our domain was different.” As I stress more on the actual reason why young entrepreneurs jump the ship from the cushions of corporate lives, she remarks, “Lot of people say I want to be my boss, have my schedule or make great money but I don’t think those are real reasons. I think why one should quit their corporate job is because they are being driven by something and they want to build on it. Nothing less than that.”
Richa’s prudent approach in trying to allay the fears of her parents regarding entrepreneurship by keeping communication smooth with them is a lesson for young entrepreneurs. “I did the reasoning with my parents. How I will manage things, why they shouldn’t be disheartened. A lot of people say ‘hamare ghar mein koi nahi hai aisa’ but it is our job to make an effort to explain, if at all they matter. It remains your decision, in six months to a year, things will turn well and they’ll come to you.”
Changing times in the wellness industry
The involvement of tech in the health and wellness industry is on the rise. Richa believes that the preventative side of tech’s involvement is good, though the reactive side of it needs to improve in the future.
Money in the wellness industry, especially mental health, despite penetration of web-based services, isn’t a cake walk. “For investors to back something, they want to know if there are similar companies in that geography which have done well. So, it becomes like a thesis or reference point for investors. In the end, they are expecting return on investment. At the moment, I don’t think there is any organisation which has done extremely well, which could have given them a thesis to validate. So thankfully, the questions have changed from, why is it for profit? Why not an NGO? The question is today, how big it can get,” she adds.
At YourDost, Richa and team have tried to cater to the emerging demands of multiplicity of options when it comes to online mental health wellness sessions. “We have options to go anonymous, name yourself anything, options to reveal the identity and come on a video session. So, from text to audio to video, YourDost gives all the options per comfort.” she shares. What has changed in the last few years when it comes to mental health solutions like YourDost? “We have moved on from calling such initiatives an NGO, or not a real thing. Now there is a lot more education. There are policies from the government which have been supportive. With the pandemic, corporates are also finally learning the importance of mental well-being of employees,” she answers.
While the industry might have changed for better, one thing that remains constant is the treatment of women in business. Richa remembers how once an accomplished person remarked his appreciation for her work with a jibe, “I like your work but you aren’t married. What if your husband doesn’t allow you to work?” Richa thinks a lot of investment doesn’t come a woman entrepreneur’s way because of this mindset. She also asserts how competitive aggressiveness is not appreciated in the society because of the upbringing of a girl child. “There are subconscious biases in society. As well as our upbringing that teaches us to be ‘good’. One who doesn’t argue, one who says yes to all. So, we are not brought up in a way that is helpful when we grow up and do business. A lot of women struggle in being assertive or the ability to think big because of this.” To problems such deeply rooted, Richa believes a healthy support system consisting of near and dear ones can be the essential strength for a woman entrepreneur.
Face of YourDost
Today, from Youtube videos to the total digital footprint that YourDost has accumulated, a large chunk of it is gilded with the face of the company, Richa Singh. She presents, gives interviews, she explains and she tells the story. For an entrepreneur, being the first in line is quintessential. The hero of the concept, the person behind the idea, the one to face the cameras. It takes confidence. Richa puts confidence as ‘absolutely necessary’. She believes that entrepreneurs should forget that there will be a tiara moment. And that no one is going to come and crown you. “I wasn’t comfortable back then. With practice you get better. This same confidence you need in launching your product and showing it to people too. I understood later after a talk with an entrepreneur that we start small and start taking feedback and take criticism as inputs. That is the way forward,” she asserts.
Looking back with a reflective tone, Richa notes certain moments of her life that she marks as important events, “Selection at national level for table tennis was one. I never thought I would be playing at nationals. I was good in other activities but to do well in some sport, it gave me a lot of confidence. Second, my selection in IIT. That was a milestone in itself. And then my first job selection. Along the same lines would be YourDost’s first round of funding and the day we hit our profitability as a start-up. We knew we became sustainable.”
There are subconscious biases in society. As well as our upbringing that teaches us to be ‘good’. One who doesn’t argue, one who says yes to all. So, we are not brought up in a way that is helpful when we grow up and do business. A lot of women struggle in being assertive or the ability to think big because of this.
YourDost has touched one lakh members already. Richa hopes for a future where her company is able to encourage a lot more people to take care of their emotional well-being. “We have just scratched the surface. Many campuses are becoming happier campuses, a lot more organisations are becoming happier organisations. In the end it means, happier people.” she states.
Richa’s Dutch Uncle warning
For start-ups may seem like a quicker path to success, entrepreneurship is not about that. Richa forewarns them, “Entrepreneurship is a lonely marathon. Be prepared when you come here. You come to this side of the business with a purpose and not just for an early exit. Emotionally, physically you’ll be investing yourself for years to come.”
The end should justify the ambition with which an entrepreneur sets on. The best success in entrepreneurship is the ability to see the impact in front of you. Metrics of YourDost are a clear sign of change of mindset amongst people regarding mental health. That for Richa is not just a boost in her ambition but also a sense of relief. Guess who is ranking on top when it comes to the quality of sleep? She shares, “I sleep like a baby. In a competition, I would come first. No regret, nothing. The fact that the work I do is helping a lot of people, adds to it.”
Under Richa’s leadership, YourDost continues to be the helping hand in tackling a problem that is staring us straight in the eye. Amidst that journey, she remains a life-long learner. She concludes, “If nothing is left to do in life, hypothetically speaking, I would be travelling, learning and teaching people. I do it even now but if there is no work, I will be doing just that.”
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