Imagine a space where you can pour out your troubles, complaints, grievances and anything that even remotely bothers you... That’s HappyInc for you. “It’s an online peer counselling service, where teenagers between 13 and 18 years can express themselves freely to a team of helpers who will listen, understand what they have to say and support them, without being judgemental,” explains 17-year-old Kian Godhwani, a Bengaluru-based Class XII student, who founded HappyInc along with his friend Nandini Bhattacharya.
How it began
“Being a teenager is not easy,” says Nandini, as she explains why they started this initiative. “With exams, figuring out what they want to do with their life, applying to colleges, working at internships and so much more, all the while juggling huge personal and emotional changes in a society that does not understand or even try to understand what they’re going through. In fact, we also saw many who are already shouldering the responsibilities of their family while struggling with their load.”
Stereotyping these problems, attributing them to an age-related phase and the stigma surrounding mental health leaves the teens with no choice but to cope alone. Also, the process of seeking help is often complicated and distressing since mental health services are either very expensive or difficult to access.
And that’s why Kian and Nandini created HappyInc — to provide a free, confidential, safe, anonymous and accessible space — using their own money. Kian is the CEO and Managing Director while Nandini is the CTO. All their co-workers are also teenagers.
“Our vision is to change the world one smile at a time. Judging by the response we’ve received, I know that we will achieve it. We are now working to develop our app through which teenagers can not only seek help from our Helpers system, but also spread hope and happiness through their stories and hobbies, and make a positive impact even if it may be a small one. We plan to make the app a hub of all things happy,” elaborates Kian.
HappyInc believes in the power of a good conversation. The process to connect with a Helper is simple. At the website (happyinc.in), a help seeker needs to fill in a few details at the Book A Session page and a Helper is assigned within a few minutes. The sessions are then conducted over Zoom. The Helpers are teenagers who have undergone an in-house training programme that was created with the help of professional counsellors. Help seekers also have the option of chatting with the Helpers and can remain anonymous if they wish. The services are completely free.
Within a month of the launch, the team of 15 Helpers have helped over 40 teenagers from around the globe. Many have come back for multiple sessions and they’ve received positive feedback stating that the process helped them overcome challenges.
“HappyInc is a place where teens can express themselves, not just with the Helpers, but also through their HappyBlog, HappyPlaylist, or podcasts. It’s a place where you don’t need to fit in; where you just need to be. No matter how dark your tunnel is, you’ll see a speck of light,” adds Nandini.
HappyInc was showcased at the Studentpreneur Challenge held by The University of Arizona and Education USA. After two gruelling and intensely competitive rounds involving an essay and a five-minute pitch to a panel of professors and entrepreneurs, HappyInc was placed second out of 131 teams that took part.