Maya, a startup focused on accessible healthcare in Asia, raises $2.2 million seed for regional expansion – TechCrunch

Maya is devoted to creating it simpler for ladies to get healthcare, particularly for delicate points like reproductive and psychological well being. Now the startup, based mostly in Bangladesh and included in Singapore, is increasing into new nations. Maya introduced right now it has raised $2.2 million in seed funding, which it mentioned is the biggest raised by a Bangladeshi well being tech firm to this point. The spherical was led by early-stage fund Anchorless Bangladesh and The Osiris Group, a personal fairness agency focused on impression investing in Asian markets.

The funding shall be used to introduce new merchandise to Maya’s telehealth platform and on its worldwide expansion. Maya lately launched in Sri Lanka and has began testing its service in India, Pakistan and Middle Eastern nations. It can also be planning to enter Southeast Asia.

Maya makes use of pure language processing and machine studying expertise for its digital assistant, which solutions primary health-related questions and decides if customers should be routed to human consultants. It has about 10 million distinctive customers and presently counts greater than 300 licensed healthcare suppliers on its platform.

Founder and chief govt officer Ivy Huq Russell, who grew up in Chittagong and Dhaka earlier than shifting to the United Kingdom for college, began Maya as a weblog with healthcare information in 2011. At the time, Russell labored in finance. She had simply given delivery to her first baby and her mom had lately been identified with breast most cancers. Russell instructed TechCrunch she realized what number of challenges there have been to searching for medical care in Bangladesh, together with monetary boundaries, a scarcity of suppliers and lengthy journey instances to clinics.

She started Maya with the aim of offering reliable well being information, however rapidly realized that the positioning’s guests wanted extra assist. Many despatched messages by WhatsApp, e-mail or the positioning’s chat field, together with survivors of sexual abuse, rape and home violence. After receiving a grant from BRAC, a Bangladeshi non-governmental group, Maya’s group started growing an app to attach customers with medical information and consultants.

Bangladesh-based healthcare app Maya's homescreen

Maya’s homescreen

“We were very focused on two things,” Russell mentioned. “One is how do we built trust in our community, in their language, because it’s very important that they communicate in the language that they’re comfortable using. At the same time, we realized as soon as we started getting hundreds and hundreds of questions, that we’re not going to be able to scale up if we just have 50 experts on computers typing.”

To assist Bengali and regional dialects, Maya spent greater than two years focused on growing its pure language processing expertise. It collaborated with information scientists and linguists and took half in Google Launchpad’s accelerator program, working on tokenization and coaching its machine studying algorithms. Now Maya is ready to present automated solutions in Bengali to primary questions in 50 matters with about 95% accuracy, Russell mentioned. Out of the 4 million queries the platform has dealt with to this point, about half have been answered by its AI tech. It has additionally labored on NLP expertise to assist Urdu, Hindi and Arabic.

Many need to do with sexual or reproductive well being and the platform has additionally seen a rise in questions on psychological well being. These are matters customers are sometimes hesitant searching for in-person consultations for.

“Growing up in Bangladesh, we got minimum sexual education. There’s no curriculum at school. Recently in the last one or two years, we’ve also started to see a lot of mental health questions, because I think we’ve made a good drive toward talking about mental health,” mentioned Russell. She added, “it’s quite natural that whatever they couldn’t go and ask a question about very openly in traditional healthcare systems, they come and ask us.”

More consultations are coming from males, too, who now make up about 30% of Maya’s customers. Many ask questions on contraception and household planning, or easy methods to assist their companions’ medical points. To shield customers’ privateness, consultations are end-to-end encrypted, and consultants solely see a randomly-generated ID as a substitute of private information.

In order to grasp if somebody must be routed to a human skilled, Maya’s algorithms considers the size, complexity and urgency of queries, based mostly on their tone. For instance, if somebody varieties “please, please, please help me,” they routinely get directed to a particular person. The majority of questions on psychological well being are additionally despatched to an skilled.

Russell mentioned Maya’s method is to take a holistic method to bodily well being and psychological wellness, as a substitute of treating them as separate points.

“People don’t just ask about physical health issues. They also ask things like, ‘I wear a hijab and I want to go for a run, but I feel really awkward,’” mentioned Russell. “It sounds like a very normal question, but it’s actually quite a loaded question, because it’s affecting their mental health on a day-to-day basis.”

One of the corporate’s objectives is to make the app really feel accessible, so folks really feel extra snug searching for assist. “We’ve literally have had sweets delivered to our office when a user has a baby,” Russell mentioned. “These are the personal touches that I think Maya has delivered in terms of dealing with both physical as well as mental health conditions combined together.”

The firm is presently working with completely different monetization fashions. One is business-to-business gross sales, positioning Maya as a software-as-a-service platform that employers can supply to employees as a profit. Garment manufacturing is one in all Bangladesh’s biggest export sectors, and lots of employees are younger ladies, becoming Maya’s typical consumer profile. The startup has labored with Marks and Spencer, Primark and the Bangladesh Garments Manufacturer and Exporters Association (BGMEA).

Another B2B route is partnering with insurance coverage suppliers who supply Maya as a profit. On the direct-to-consumer aspect, Maya lately launched premium providers, together with in-app video consultations and prescription supply. Demand elevated sharply in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it now handles about one session each ten seconds. Russell expects many customers to proceed utilizing telehealth providers even after the pandemic subsides.

“They’ve really seen the advantage of just having a doctor right in front of you,” she mentioned. “For people with chronic conditions, it’s easier because they don’t have to go somewhere every week, and the fact they have monitoring and their history gathered is helpful for regular users, too.”

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