Typography

In a society that has become increasingly preoccupied with having the latest technologically-advanced gadgets and apps for ease, entertainment and leisure, it is easy to forget that there are still billions of world citizens, especially children, who are suffering in silence from the lack of basic healthcare and nutritional needs. In light of this confronting reality, one man has decided to use his influence and platform to change this, beginning with his home country of India.

Telecom Review Asia managed to secure an interview with Aakash Ganju, the founder and CEO of the revolutionary app Saathealth, aimed at providing health and nutritional education to India’s poorer communities for the overall wellbeing of young children living in these areas.

Could you please tell us what inspired you to create Saathealth?

Saathealth was inspired by two independent but converging motivations. Firstly, our work in health technology over the last 10 years has given us a ringside view of the amazing evolution in mobile phone adoption and behaviors within low income communities. This shift, accelerated by India’s surge in data usage and the increasing use of artificial intelligence to address complex issues, unlocks unprecedented opportunities to reach and serve low income communities via their mobile phones, with world class products and services, at costs lower than ever before. This is a truly exciting development.

The second motivation for us is more personal. We are parents to two wonderful, young children and believe strongly that the initial 6 years are vital to build a healthy future for our children. Research from the world over bears this out. About 250 million children will be born in India between now and 2030, many of them in communities underserved for children’s health, nutrition and early learning. We believe there is an opportunity to reach and serve the needs of millions of children, leveraging the latest in mobile and AI technologies.

This is a great opportunity for us to build a brighter future for our children and preparing them to live up to their fullest potential. 

As Saathealth is catered towards children between 0-6 years old, with many of them belonging to poorer communities with no access to proper healthcare, nutrition or education, how does the app work in motivating the parents or families to seek better care for their children?

We believe raising healthier children is as much a responsibility of the community as it is of the parents. After all, we all as a society, collectively accrue the benefits of children living to their full potential. So, our solution is designed for the entire community to contribute to building healthier childhoods.

Our mobile app for parents of young children educates them on children’s health, nutrition and cognitive development using an entertaining, gamified format. Story-telling combined with a gamified journey is our most powerful tool to nudge parents towards better health and nutrition choices for their children.

These stories are built around identifiable characters and a storyline that our audiences can relate to. We have taken care to ensure that the narratives build upon the light-hearted nature of conversations, including subtle humour that you would see in most Indian families. These videos educate, engage with and nudge our users towards making smarter choices for their children.

Via our mobile app for merchants, we have also been able to negotiate discounts on health and nutrition products, that we can pass on to our families. So, our families have the knowledge, the resources and the incentives to choose the better healthier, more nutritious products for their children.

Choices are influenced by emotions, environment, and by how options are presented, young parents tend to be the most open to positive behaviour changes. So far, 79 per cent of Saathealth families reported that their knowledge about their children’s health and nutrition habits had increased since joining our ecosystem. Additionally 69% of our users report that they have increased their consumption of high protein products like eggs and lentils for their children since downloading the Saathealth app.

We are also tying up with a chain of primary healthcare clinics to offer access to high quality, discounted health services and pharmaceutical products. Our vision is that young parents should have all the knowledge, resources and the financial incentives to make superior choices for the well-being of their children between 0-6 years.

 

A number of partnerships were formed last month to enhance value for your users. Could you please tell us who your partners are and how these alliances will advance Saathealth’s goal of building healthier childhoods?

We look at partnerships as a means of building a consortium of organizations and individuals who share our passion for applying technology-led solutions to strengthen the foundation for our future. In this context, we are building partnerships with content, technology, service delivery, community, public health, mobile technology and data analytics teams. We are expanding our partnerships with local community merchants, to provide our users more options to access health and nutrition products for their children.

Our new partnership with a chain of primary health clinics will allow us to offer high quality, low cost access to health consultations, diagnostics and pharmaceutical products. We are expanding our partnerships with community-based organizations within our core geographies (Mumbai and New Delhi) to reach and serve young parents in other cities.

Through our community and advocacy partnerships, we hope to exponentially accelerate our digital literacy initiatives for women in urban low income communities. This is also vital to bridge the gender gap in mobile adoption and behaviours.

We continue to explore partnerships with like-minded #techforgood focused organizations to harvest our data so we can expand our offerings to our families. We have been fortunate to have bright, young engineering students intern with our product team, and have a chance to think through the opportunities they may want to pursue in the #techforgood space.

We are also advancing our conversations to partner public health focused platforms to expand and serve other health priorities of our users, including TB and preventive health. Over the next few months, we look forward to sharing more details of these partnerships.

Seeing that we are in an era of lightning-fast global digitisation, what do you think is the importance of integrating basic needs like healthcare, nutrition and other services on a digital platform, like you’ve done with Saathealth for children, especially for the urban poor?

The second half of humanity is literally coming onto to the internet, for the first time ever. These consumers will use the internet in dramatically different ways and conversely, we have an opportunity to serve and mainstream this population in an unprecedented manner. We see the mobile internet as the fastest technology to democratize in the history of mankind, offering us unique opportunities to improve the lives of billions of consumers globally.

While it is great that these consumers will consume entertainment and information on the mobile internet, it would be a lost opportunity if we did not leverage this powerful tool to also reach and serve them with needs considered basic, like health, education and financial products. Through our live dashboard, we understand how users are engaging with our app, consuming content and redeeming discounts at partner merchant stores. By using artificial intelligence we can optimize our intervention to nudge more users towards health choices. 

What was considered difficult to achieve even 5 years back, due to last mile challenges, is possible today. We must seize the opportunity to bring better, transformative products services to billions of new mobile internet consumers.

Saathealth celebrated its 1st anniversary on the 15th of August 2019. What projects or programs do you have lined up for the coming year? Any plans to expand your reach globally?

Our vision is to reach and build healthier childhoods for the billion children that will be born globally by 2030. We have started off with the densely-populated communities of Mumbai and New Delhi, though our learnings and a model that is equally relevant to young parents globally and we continue conversations around potential opportunities in other similar markets.

Over the next 18 months, our focus will be on 4 main objectives:

1.  Scale our user base to reach over 1 million downloads with rich engagement within our user base

2.  Leverage AI algorithms to optimize our offerings for our users – nudge them towards content and products that we know are more tailored to their children’s needs

3.  Continue to expand our product roadmap, with AI powered virtual health offerings as well as early education products to enhance learning and school readiness for low income consumers

4.   Demonstrate that we are creating sustainable value and impact for our users

We are humbled with the response our users have given us in the past year and the exciting opportunities our traction continues to unlock. Our team is excited about accelerating our initial work and leveraging the latest technology to serve the needs of millions of new mobile internet users.