Business Insight
Digital Healthcare

Why this Bangladeshi founder built a mental care app for young generation

Jinny Kim
March 6, 2024

Depression, anxiety, ADHD, and more. Mental health issues are becoming more common in the modern world. Social distancing after the pandemic has deepened the problem of social isolation and loneliness. In other words, mental health is no longer a stranger. 

However, it's still not easy to talk about mental health. Especially in Asia, there is a strong culture of taboo around discussing mental issues. This poses a barrier that makes it more difficult to recognize and resolve mental care concerns.

(Credit : HubPages)

Relaxy, a Bangladeshi mental healthcare app, aims to solve this problem.

It offers its services in the form of a community app to increase access to mental health treatment infrastructure while also encouraging more people to approach mental issues with an open mind. Through the platform, users can browse content on mental health and schedule sessions with experts

The Relaxy team has attracted attention for using digital technology to address mental health needs of youth in Bangladesh.

As a result, Relaxy has been featured in the United Nations' global partnership program, Generation Unlimited, as part of its efforts to expand support for young generations aged 10-24. Founder and CEO Jahnnobi Rahman was named to the Forbes 30 under 30 list in 2023. 

How is Relaxy solving the mental health problem in Bangladesh through its mobile app? What inspired her to start a business with such a service, and how is she expanding the business globally?

Asia Tomorrow caught up with Jahnnobi Rahman to learn more about Relaxy's founding story and plans for the future.

(Source : Relaxy)

How Relaxy became Bangladesh's rising mental care app 

1. Could you explain Relaxy in detail - introduction and description of the service?

Relaxy is an app that allows users to share their psychological challenges without suffering from prejudice or stereotypes. The service helps them get assistance from professionals on a temporary or ongoing basis.

Thus, from the user's point of view, this is a service that lets people share personal experiences and receive psychological care anytime, anywhere.

 

2. Could you tell us a bit of your reason for coming back to Dhaka and founding the company? 

My co-founders are old friends of mine. I met CTO in 2018 while studying computer science at Rajshahi University of Engineering & Technology. I then made friends with the current COO in 2019. 

The three of us then got together and started working on the idea of starting a business while doing school projects. We originally got to know each other at a startup idea competition event, which I attended with our CTO (and met our COO there). 

At that time, all three of us had different ideas. We discussed, compromised, negotiated, changed, and became a team. 

In 2020, the co-founders participated in a venture competition held by UNICEF and became the National Champion. At that point, the concept was not Relaxy. Instead, we created a gaming app to build soft skills for youth up to 18 years old. There was also an idea for a mental health care service, but we didn't end up building it.

(Source : Relaxy)

3. What was the direct reason for you to start the business? 

In late 2020, I was diagnosed with a depressive and anxiety disorder. To top it all off, one of my co-founders was diagnosed with ADHD. It was a very dark time for everyone. 

I was working part-time and studying at the same time, so I didn't have much time. Plus, since I didn't live in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, it was hard to get out of the city. Even if I made an appointment, it would be months later. Finding the right specialist wasn't simple either. 

There is also a social stigma around mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and ADHD, which makes it more challenging to access related services. 

In Bangladesh, mental health treatment gap (TG) is 92%. Yet 29 million people suffer from mental illness. It's tough for them to get to a professional for a variety of reasons. It's even tougher for them to get help consistently. This is where the treatment gap comes in. 

*Mental health treatment gap: gap between the number of people who need treatment and the number of people who receive it.

(Source : Relaxy)

4. Your business idea was born out of your own personal experience and frustration. 

The direct reason for creating Relaxy was that I didn't want other people to go through the same struggles.

At the time, it was so painful. I couldn't even do basic routines, and it was getting worse and worse. Some of my friends laughed at my situation and joked about it, which only intensified my symptoms. 

I realized that there was a need for accessible mental health care services. This is when I decided to do something about it. With my background in computer science, this problem intrigued me from a technology-based service perspective, and I started digging deeper into solutions. 

We designed Relaxy to enable a community of supportive members.

It aims to be an anonymous and non-judgmental place to share psychological challenges. Users can also participate in counseling sessions through the service. The co-founders understand the need (for this feature) because of their own experiences. We care a lot about the community's support base.

(Source : Relaxy)

How to scale a mental care app into a business

1. Which part did you want to change in the current public or private mental care service or apps?

What makes Relaxy different is that it empowers users to be proactive in solving problems

Other apps tend to focus on prevention rather than solving current conditions. But Relaxy helps users share their daily mental challenges based on the fact that they are in a difficult situation right now.

We've thought about the user experience of getting encouragement through the app, and (as we'll talk about later) we're also launching a data-driven solution to help users with their struggles. 

 

2. Could you break down how you raised your seed money and how you set up your initial team & business?

We received $13,000 Innovation Grant from startup competitions like BIG by ICT division & iDEA(https://www.big.gov.bd/), Huawei startup incubation program (Relaxy were the second runner up), National champion of imaGEN venture by Generation Unlimited, UNICEF. 

Also the team is based on a $49,500 equity financing round backed by esteemed investors from Unicorns and Fortune 500 advisors in global healthcare technologies. 

Relaxy extends its impact beyond the digital realm. Collaborations with PHWC, Sajida Foundation, BANCAT, and WeVolve BD showcase Relaxy's commitment to a comprehensive mental health ecosystem.

(Source : Robi)

We seeks to "democratize mental health care" by targeting the mass market. That's why the company has strategically made partnerships. 

For example, the subscription-based partnership is the country's one of largest telecom Robi Axiata Limited(25 million monthly active users) and unicorn startup ‘MFS Bkash Limited’ (which is penetrating the largest active MFS user base). 

Service-based and capacity building partnership is with UNICEF, PHWC(Psychological Health and Wellness Clinic), Sajida Foundation, and BANCAT (to serve critical cancer patients with quality mental healthcare and digital community support). 

(Source : Green Delta)

Among the partnerships, Green Delta insurance is to offer insurance coverage with mental health coverage to SMEs and MSMEs. In short, we're building multiple partnerships to grow both our services and business. 

As a result, Relaxy now crossed 60,000 downloads, 13,000 daily active users (DAUs), and 10,000 subscribers. In just one year, the number of users joining Relaxy increased 14X at the end of 2023.

3. Relaxy seems to be attempting a lot of different approaches to mental care services. 

We expand our business to B2B. For example, we are offering mental care services to employees of our partners. It includes not only counseling, but also providing behavioral solutions. 

Right now, Relaxy serves organizations of 100 people. In the long run, we projected to offer our organizational well-being app to 16 companies (from large to medium software companies to MNCs, Banks serving 7000+ employees) in order to eventually scale the business model beyond subscriptions toward B2B. 

In addition, in Bangladesh, there is a community app that brings together families of patients suffering from highly fatal diseases. We've partnered with them as well.

There was a need for mental health care for the families of patients, because they are the ones who are facing mortality. Likewise, Relaxy would broaden partnerships between these platforms. 

Finally, mental health care is also linked to health insurance. We are also planning to bundle new insurance offers.

(Relaxy achievements in 2023, Source : Relaxy)

4. How do users actually respond to these mental health services?

Relaxy has a 70% retention rate. Over 60% of our new users come from organic acquisition.

Average of 66% of users experienced mood improvement when using Relaxy's chat-based personalized therapy sessions. We've been working on finding the market fit for our product since the beginning. So far, these metrics show that we're on the right track.

5. How did you contact your mental health experts? Would you please share your standards to pick them as your experts? 

We are very keen on bringing in experts, so we have partnered with a local mental health hospital in Bangladesh that follows international standards. 

One of our investors also owns a clinic. Actually it was a strategic investment from an expert. Also, we partnered with UNICEF on the platform to develop online courses (premium sessions). 

Beyond these huge partnerships, we're also reaching out to mental health professionals in Bangladesh individually to collaborate. Now that Relaxy is well known, it's much easier to engage professionals. The process of screening, scoring, and onboarding them is now fully automated.

(Source : Relaxy)

Making a small startup succeed in a global market

1. How many employees work at Relaxy and what kind of positions do you have?

The team is still relatively small. We have a total of 15 people.

It consists of the executive team, tech team, content team, and in-house healthcare advisors. We also have international market advisors, data privacy and security experts. The technical team is the main focus of the company. 

The tech team is also responsible for R&D.

First, they work on improving the user experience of the app to ensure it's more positive. For example, 66% of Relaxy users have gone from negative to positive sentiment. As a team, we're committed to increasing that percentage even further. 

Second, we're also working on a new feature called 'AI case manager'. It anticipates mental health issues that may arise in the future. 

Based on the stories and data coming from the community, the tech team builds a mood-based data map in real time, mapping the data to understand the emotions in the stories. If there are any alarming points, experts can intervene and prevent possible extreme situations.

2. It's impressive that such a small team has tried so many different things and accomplished so much. What could be the internal and external reasons for Relaxy's growth? 

In Asia, there is a tendency to stigmatize people with mental health issues in general.

However, internally at Relaxy, the co-founders and team members are very open about their personal experiences with mental wellness. The people behind the product are genuine about the vision of Relaxy. I believe that's the reason why our users feel safe and comfortable using our product. 

Externally, partnerships are a key factor. Plus, the character of the app is so easy and lightweight. It's like social media but anonymous, which makes the heavy topic of mental health relatively approachable. People want to sign up and subscribe to Relaxy because it matches them with mental health professionals and personalizes it. We see a pattern of daily use. 

3. How do you feel about going global? And have you already acquired the global users? 

About 16% of our users are already based in the global market. There are many people from Indonesia, India, Singapore, etc. who use the app for free (sentiment sharing community).

(Source : Relaxy)

These countries have the common cultural intersection of APAC. Therefore, we expect that the business model that Relaxy is currently operating in Bangladesh can be replicated. 

Of course, there will be some differences in details, such as subscription model plans, as we enter each country. We also acknowledge that we will need to establish partnerships based on local conditions. 

Until 2024, Relaxy is focusing on the Bangladesh market. In 2025, the company will scale to other Asian markets, including Indonesia, Vietnam, and Nepal etc

4. I'm looking forward to Relaxy's rapid growth overseas. 

We see the need for Relaxy because the APAC region is rapidly growing and experiencing many of the same side effects. 

We consider that the hustle and bustle of urban life, transportation pressure, career stress for young people, and a competitive society contribute to mental health issues in APAC cultures. Users (especially in Asia) have to cope with ever-increasing internet speeds and unstable economic conditions. As internet accessibility peaks, there is also a side effect of rapid change.

Relaxy is (and always has been) on a mission to solve mental healthcare issues so that users are psychologically supported and gain sustainability

(Source : Unsplash)

5. What is your short-term goal of Relaxy?

First, we need to successfully close our next round of funding. We are in extensive discussions with global and local investors to deal with a number of issues. We are also targeting 5,000+ B2B partnerships this year. Lastly, growing our subscriber base from 10000 to 50000 this year is also a short-term goal for the Relaxy team.  

6.What's your ultimate goal in your business? 

I want to build the largest mental health care app in APAC. 

Despite having different languages and unique cultures, I believe that each country in the Asian market shares certain similarities. We want to reach out to experts in each region and gradually go global. Although there is still a long way to go, Relaxy's end game is to provide mental care services to APAC users in a seamless and hassle-free way.

Interview by May Jang

Written by Jinny (Underdogs)

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Jinny Kim
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Founder
underdogs. Media Manager & EO STUDIO. Freelance Writer