We interviewed Nikhil Jagga to see what drives him to pursue his venture, Habit Insights:
What’s your why?
For a number of years, I struggled with anxiety and depression without even knowing it. When I was finally diagnosed, I looked for a non-drug treatment option partly because I am not a pill person and partly because I wasn’t ready to tell my parents and didn’t want any prescription coming up on their insurance.
I learned about an approach called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which essentially teaches that your thoughts influence your feelings, which in turn influence your behaviours. It was remarkable to me how amazing I felt as I began to apply CBT techniques. I began looking more at the approach and learned that for many people it is often as effective, or more effective, than pharmaceutical solutions — and had fewer side effects. I also realized that many people struggling with anxiety and depression think they are unique in their problems and don’t realize that anxiety and depression are very treatable.
After participating in an entrepreneurship course, I realized that I could make a business out of what I had learned, and my desire to help other people struggling to have tools to help them succeed and be mentally healthier.
What’s the problem you are solving?
Lots of people know they feel depressed or anxious, but they aren’t aware of the negative thought patterns or cognitive distortions behind their feelings. Therapists encourage patients to develop an awareness of ways in which anxiety and depression can distort thinking. Someone who got a 93 on a test, for instance, might think that they have failed because of distorted thoughts.
As I was becoming aware of the thoughts in my own head, I would sometimes build awareness by carrying around sticky notes and a pen, noting when I had distorted thinking as well as times that I was deliberately replacing a distorted thought with a true one. This approach was cumbersome if I was out walking or on the subway, and people probably wondered what I was doing.
As I decided to help others, I decided to build a wrist counter as a discreet tool people could wear and use as a mindfulness tool, without outing themselves. There are other watch counter devices and apps out there, but they tend to be very expensive and aren’t targeted toward mental health.
It’s not that I think that this is a solution for anxiety and depression, but it’s a helpful tool for people to have in their toolboxes as a way of becoming more aware of and reducing negative thoughts. A small thing can make a huge difference.
What keeps you up at night?
My project is in the early stages right now and I’m working hard to develop a good business model. One of the challenges for this product is that my product is somewhat like a washing machine — it’s not something that people need to buy frequently. This means I will need to acquire customers constantly. I had thought that I would find referral partners like psychiatrists and psychologists, but they are ethically bound not to recommend particular brands.
I’m also thinking a lot about how to market this product without stigmatizing customers. I’m considering developing the same product for other uses — someone could use a wrist counter to reduce swearing or to increase gratitude, so that if someone wore one of my wrist counters, others wouldn’t necessarily see it as being a declaration of mental health issues but wellness. I’m trying to figure out which market to approach first and I’m in the process of conducting customer discovery interviews with professionals in fields where their clients might benefit from such a tool.
- by Susan Fish