How Entrepreneur Teju Is Spreading Smiles By Early Detection Of Stress

Posted: June 8, 2016

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Here is an inspiring tale of Teju of nSmiles, from once being depressed to helping others on how to identify depression and when to seek help.

Life is never a straight line for anyone and the only constant thing is ‘change’. A tough change is when a person is challenged with dealing with trying situations and people, which can sometimes push him/her into depression.

We all go through difficult phases in our lives, of which – some forget whatever has happened with time, some succumb to it, and there are some others who learn lessons and manage things well when faced with a repetition. However, very few of us, not only learn from that experience, but also strive hard to give a hand to others who need help in similar situations.

One such person is Teju, the founder & CEO of nSmiles – a company that offers tools that help a person in stress to understand if he/she already needs help or what aspects one needs to focus on for self-help. 

Why is mental health the chosen field for Teju?

An engineer and counsellor sounds like an offbeat combination to start with. Though Teju was an engineer by profession, life had other plans for her. She says, “There came a point in my life when I got into depression, didn’t know I was depressed although I knew what depression was. I then resorted to medication and understood how the side effects made me lethargic. Post recovery, after effective counselling, I wanted to help others. Hence I learned coaching and counselling.” That is how her journey of aspiring to heal people’s stress took its initial steps.

She started counselling and coaching people much before she had plans for her own venture. In fact, she has 8 years’ experience in dealing with mental health issues and 4 years into counselling others. During these years, she hasn’t charged anyone anything. Post the success of the app, they got serious, and formally registered nSmiles. She adds, After nSmiles, we use scientific methods to assess and give a person help in the areas he/she needs to focus on.”

What made the journey seem natural?

Once Teju made an entry into the world of counselling, she began working to develop a mobile app, called Happy Being. With the app in place, she made stress management to be just a click away. Teju adds, “Based on our learning, with the help of my husband, we created an app called, Happy Being. Here we have included all the best techniques that help people make themselves positive.

The Happy Being App has got more than 1.5L downloads and was on global top charts. More than 80,000 of positive feedback across globe spoke good about the concept and the need for instant help.

With the confidence gained, she participated in a startup weekend event to sample the idea and it was a huge success too! Teju recalls, “We worked on the feedback from Happy Being app and created a prototype for a Startup Weekend.  As winners from Bangalore, we participated in Global Startup Battle 2014 and were announced runners-up in Do the Kind Track. (only start up from India so far). This gave us confidence that we were in right direction to realize our mission. Later, while designing our current assessment suites to understand behaviour and need for a product, we have conducted interviews with more than 3000 urban population.

No turning back!

The kind of accolades received from the startup event were more than enough for her move swiftly forward in her journey. Talking about nSmiles, she says, “The one word we wish our customers could relate with us is trust. Hence we put lot of effort in bringing standard and reliable techniques learned and practised by our psychologist over his 35 years’ experience.

Our mission is early detection, prevention and effectively managing any stress that arises from family, work place or circumstances or life events. We wish to improve the quality of life of every person who’s juggling between different priorities and bring a true smile on her/his face by empowering them to work on the problem that’s causing the stress.

nSmiles caters to different age groups. It took 3 long years to design these solutions. Their objective is to help as many individuals as possible but not cause damage to anyone. They do take utmost care about a person’s privacy and comfort.

Teju adds, Coming up with our first of its kind Wellness Assessment suite, be it combination of assessments, creation of IP, standardising, report generation in an non-threatening way and presenting it using technology, all these have taken more than a year of our efforts. It is extremely challenging. What keeps us going is the satisfaction that we have come up with a tool which is quite affordable and can measure one’s emotional health in an accurate way.

We are sure that people now can assess their emotional health in 30 mins, at their comfortable place and time, with complete privacy. They can get information  on understanding their emotional health status, along with understanding when is the time a person should seek external help and what factors they should work on themselves to achieve results in life.”

What exactly does nSmiles offer?

Currently nSmiles has two products on offer – 1. Happy Being app. 2. VLEAPS Assessment Kit

Teju says, The VLEAPS Assessment Kit from nSmiles comes for a very affordable charge. It assists the user in discovering their gaps or strengths in a non-threatening way and encourages the individual to take focused action in a voluntary way. The one important question the assessment kit answers is “Is my Stress impacting my health?” Happy being app can help a person in identifying his emotions and effectively turn them into positive. The app is free.

Can depression strike twice?

Teju says that it is possible that depression may relapse in some cases. She recalls, “Oh! It was a terrible experience when I was in depression. I lost interest in my life. I used to forget everything. I used to cry often for no reason and had palpitations.  I became obese and socially shut myself off completely. It took many years for me to recover. 

Even today, when in some situations, my fears come back. I have to constantly assure myself that everything is alright. Those fears haunt a person for long. If I would have anything like our assessment tool or an app to manage myself, I would definitely have taken it to test my health. I would have taken enough care about myself by understanding the areas of stress and how I can help myself better by reaching out to people who could have helped my recovery time to a large extent or I didn’t have to go through tough time all alone.

She also adds, “However, since the person is more equipped with tools to self-help after a recovery, the relapse can take longer. However, if a person already has mental health disorders like Bi-polar, Psychosis, ADHD etc., it can happen very often and only way is to take regular medication on time without fail coupled with therapy individually and also with family.

Joys and challenges go hand-in-hand

“Designing different means for a person to get self-aware about themselves and creating means to act upon them excites me a lot,” shares Teju.

As with any other company dealing with mental health in our society, Teju also feels that convincing people is the biggest challenge. She says, “Making Indian feel that psychology is my ally is very challenging. Many feel psychology is only for people who are mad.” Simultaneously, competition is not very stressful to her. She adds, “All the companies have come up to solve the problem, in their own ways. I respect and admire every player in this space, be it in prevention or management. The market is so huge that everyone gets their share.

However she has many joys to share like getting to work with many psychologists, being selected by IITB and Axilor for mentoring, her team’s infectious enthusiasm despite odds, when featured on AIR, etc. to name a few. Talking about her biggest joy she adds, “the feedback we receive on the work we do and how our products helped them exactly how we intend them to help – what better happiness than realizing our mission!

Her day at work

From the past few years, her team spends most of time in designing solutions by understanding the problems of the customer. Right now they are ready to market and have the sales cycle start again. Teju adds, “We are a startup of 5 member team, so we do everything from helping psychologists design assessments and coming up with packages, developing the technology, marketing, sales, customer validations and feedback. Depending on the need, we wear multiple hats!

Road ahead

Talking about her future plans Teju says, “Our immediate plan is to start selling our assessment suite and bring up the next solutions in our roadmap.

Most importantly she wants everyone who use their services to feel good about themselves. She adds, “nSmiles is my calling. I don’t consider it as a business. My dream is to have India stigma free of mental health. I am young and have catered next 30 years of my life for it. We will make all efforts to make reliable mental health care accessible and affordable.

Few tips to stay positive in life

Here are few suggestions from the expert herself on dealing with stress effectively and when to seek help, in her own words –

  1. Physical illness always gives some early signs. Mental health illness hits us in full force and from then, life will never be the same. It not only impacts one’s own functional and working capacity but also affects family conditions largely. It’s always good to be aware of different ways to manage our stress such that we stay fit mentally and physically.
  2. Signs of stress can be subtle but when one can put efforts in understanding/recognising feelings and emotions often along with pro-actively checking for mental health status, its becomes easy to reach out for right help at the right time
  3. Each person has a different way of coping with stress. One size doesn’t fit all. We need to come up with positive means to cope that works. For coping, first step is identifying when a person is stressed and try out things that can make him/her feel better. For me, its playing with my Son and taking my dog for a walk.
  4. People use alcohol or substance abuse for dealing with stress. It’s cool but temporary. Real happiness comes by having a well-balanced life-style.
  5. When it comes to selecting a source to seek help, it depends on what the person is looking for. Many companies do a fantastic job of offering instant help, while some of them are working towards more focused therapy. Based on the need, one can use their services. However, I would personally look for methodologies, knowledge and ease of reach.

Hobbies & learnings

Teju says, “I love cooking when free. Apart from it, I am a social catalyst. I volunteer my time for causes like waste management, Education of under-privileged or civic amenities or lake preservation. I am a trustee for a foundation, called Sahayoog. We have helped close to 6,250 underprivileged kids to get back to school with kits in the last 6 years.

With counseling, she has empowered around 7000 people so far and still counting the numbers. She has a simple advice to fellow entrepreneurs, “Focus always on the customers’ problem and how you can solve their pain area. Rest will follow.

Finally she adds, “In general I can say this. Every person is beautiful and is capable of taking care of him/her self or forgiving someone. Its only matter of empowering them to see beyond the usual self and help them removing those barriers that come in the way.”

Social media links

nSmiles website – nSmiles Club

You can follow nSmiles here – Facebook

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Image source: Teju.

Loves to click pictures, dance, cook, travel, craft, read and write!

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