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Self-Starter: HUMM’s Carina Kohli On Building A Judgement-Free & Affordable Women’s Healthcare Brand 

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While healthcare in India seems to be looking up, albeit at a snail’s pace, healthcare for women hasn’t really picked up. It is still ridden by the same archaic stigmas and taboos that have been holding back women’s healthcare since ages now. This, in turn, gives rise to mindless judgements that do women more harm than good, both physically and mentally. That is not all! Whatever little there is for women’s health are usually based in urban cities and are exorbitantly priced. It furthers the urban-rural divide in healthcare, making it inaccessible and unaffordable for the rural populace.

In collaboration with The Channel 46, Carina Kohli, the Founder of HUMM, shares valuable tips on building a stigma-free, affordable, and readily accessible women’s healthcare brand in India that is based on what people actually need rather than what she thinks they need. 

1. What is your educational and professional background?

I come from a family of entrepreneurs and have been inspired by my business-oriented parents from a young age. I studied business management with a focus in entrepreneurship at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. I have worked at a textile manufacturing company in a rotational role, where I worked in different departments such as finance, HR, and sales. I have also worked in my parents’ businesses in India, where I got hands-on experience of business and practical skills. These skills include team building and people management, accounting and finance, as well as strategy. 

2. What prompted you to start ‘HUMM’?

My personal experience sparked my passion for women’s health and health equality in India. I was diagnosed with PCOS when I was 13, and I faced many inequalities as a woman when it came to accessing judgement-free healthcare, information, and support. There were many areas of grey when it came to fertility and options for women. When I returned to India after university, I had a wake-up call to how inaccessible and unaffordable healthcare in India really is. There is an extreme divide in wealth and infrastructure, and also the apparent urban-rural India divide. 

3. Did you always know you wanted to work in this space?

I’ve been passionate about women’s health from a young age and I’ve always known I wanted to build something from the ground up, but it wasn’t until much later that I knew it would be in health tech. It was my research in this space as well as the insights I learned in terms of what people needed that encouraged me to start building.

4. What was your first milestone and how did you get there?

My journey has been almost 2 years to date. In early 2020, I interviewed 300+ parents and 30+ doctors to understand more about the market. In January 2021, I launched a content and community web app called Baby Space where users can access doctor-verified information and interact with other people in similar situations. Since it was the peak of the pandemic – new parents and pregnant women were afraid and isolated – they wanted answers.

Back then, I felt it was the need of the hour and people could get the information they needed. Baby Space grew to a community of 16,000+ people. We conducted a study of 640 mothers and parents as well as several focus group discussions, to understand what they needed, wanted and were willing to pay for. From both, I learned unique insights about the market and the industry which has helped build HUMM. 

5. How long did it take to monetise your venture? What was the turning point?

2 years of iteration and finding our way to HUMM! The turning points were the insights and the learnings from our community and the study we conducted. That changed our direction and plan completely. We wanted to build something people wanted and needed, not what we thought they wanted and needed. 

6. Do you market online/offline? What works better for your platform?

We prefer online, although we just started marketing 2 weeks ago and we’re still learning.

7. What are your top 3 tips for aspiring entrepreneurs looking to enter the startup space?

  • Pivot, pivot, pivot! – Don’t confuse the P-word with the F-word – Pivot doesn’t mean failure. Listen to your customers, learn, and keep iterating. If something isn’t working, change it.
  • Keep going! If you believe in what you’re building, if you see your users validate your product and love it too, just keep going and don’t give up. You will get there!
  • Take care of yourself – You are not a robot. Take care of your mental and physical health and remember to sleep and eat enough. Even on the days you feel like you don’t have the time, find time for yourself.

8. What’s a basic investment budget one can expect to make when trying to start up his/her own business? 

An investment budget for your start-up will depend on what you’re building. Different industries and business models require different infrastructure. 

9. What’s your advice for entrepreneurs approaching investors to raise money for their ventures?

There is no one-size-fits-all. What worked for another company may not work for your company, each journey is different. As much as the investor needs to believe in your business, you need to believe in the investor too. Don’t rush into it, take it slow, and do your homework before each pitch!

10. What does the current healthcare system in India look like? Could you share some statistics?

Affordability and accessibility to healthcare is the fundamental problem. There is still a lot to be done in terms of awareness, education, and information when it comes to healthcare. Due to the urban-rural divide, geographical layout, movement towards urbanisation and nuclear families, and culture and conservativity, a significant number of health aspects are stigmatised, health care inaccessible and basic healthcare is unaffordable. 

  • 25% of Indian women experience postpartum depression for up to 12 months post-pregnancy. 
  • 75% of Indian women experience postpartum anxiety for up to 12 months post-pregnancy.
  • 8-10% of Indian men experience postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression after the birth of their baby.
  • Only 16.7% of women in rural and only 31% of women in urban India India received full antenatal care
  • Only 45% of babies in India are not exclusively breastfed. 
  • 73% of Indian women leave their jobs after giving birth.
  • Only 44% of mothers in India receive any care within 48 hours after birth. 
  • Only 45% of newborns received check-ups within 24 hours of birth. In a national survey, about 33% of mothers who received a postpartum checkup felt their health concerns were not addressed.
  • 77% of families in India cannot access necessary healthcare services due to a lack of affordability. 
  • 54% of Indian men and women do not have access to medical insurance.

11. What are some solutions that Humm has implemented to tackle these issues?

HUMM is a digital healthcare app that offers unlimited, affordable and personal healthcare to mothers, families and organisations. 

Starting with a focus in postpartum, postnatal and baby healthcare, HUMM is a personal care companion that offers unlimited video consultations with specialised doctors and experts, unlimited chat with in-house doulas, doctor-verified lessons, and personalised insights through health tools and group classes and experiences. Our focus areas include post-natal check-ups, recovery through physiotherapy post-C-section or natural delivery, mental health, lactation and breastfeeding, nutrition and fitness, pediatric care, relationship management, sexual intimacy, work-life balance, financial planning and return to work post maternity leave. 

Currently, Humm is working to partner with brands and companies to help employees with parenthood, postpartum and postnatal care, and female workforce retention. Our mission at HUMM is to provide affordable healthcare and support, work towards health equity and health equality in India, and provide judgement-free verified information.

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