Indians don’t have sex, and all 1.2 billion of them came out of thin air.
Now that, of course, is not true! But the conspiracy of silence that surrounds most matters sexual might lead you to believe that it is.
Half of India’s population is aged between 20 and 59. Add to this the many under-20 and above-60 people who are also sexually active and you get an idea of the range of issues (from erectile dysfunction to loss of libido to porn and masturbation addiction) that might be ticking away under its surface.
Yet, strict cultural norms and social stigma attached to sex mean people are reluctant to open up to doctors. They may end up approaching friends with little knowledge or, even worse, quacks.
“It is so difficult that an educated individual from a cosmopolitan city like Bangalore is hesitant to consult a doctor for an urgent concern like an unwanted pregnancy,” says Sriram Varma who launched sexual health and wellness #startup CupidCare in March this year.
The Hyderabad-based firm promises to let people consult specialists online – anonymously if they wish.
Every day, the site gets over 500 visitors. “We have at least 20-30 client interactions daily,” Sriram tells Tech in Asia. Around 70 percent of its users are Indian, and the firm is building a customer base in Africa and Southeast Asia as well.
Health concerns, especially sexual health concerns, don’t need judgement but credible professional support, says Sriram, a Birla Institute of Technology and Science graduate who previously worked at Tracxn.
Sriram and co-founder Krishna Teja Korrapati had four years of expertise in the healthcare sector, and identified sexual health as a blank space. At least 50 percent of online health consultations are sexual and mental health-related, says Sriram, adding that one in every five Indians suffers from sexual health problems.
“Seventy percent of cases in sexual health can be dealt with online. A lot of aspects deal with psychology, which can be addressed through counselling. People are still hesitant go to a sexologist clinic.”
Also, a site like this can pull in people out of sheer curiosity.
The lack of branded players in the segment and the market need for it motivated the two. They went into CupidCare full-time in October last year.
The firm has 20 partner doctors and clinics that deal not just in sexology but also in gynaecology and andrology. “We have tie-ups with at least one center in tier-one cities, but our major focus right now is Bangalore and Hyderabad.”
A website called LoveDoctor has been trying to do something similar. Its counselors encourage users to ask questions on sex and relationships through private chat sessions.
CupidCare also has big time competitors in Practo and Lybrate. But Sriram points out that these act more as listing platforms. “We are an internet first sexologist clinic rather than an aggregator of sexual health experts. We have in-house counselors who guide our clients better.”
From hush, hush to hello
Anyone interested can reach out to CupidCare through phone, video, or text chats. “We also refer patients to affiliate clinics if physical examination is required,” says Sriram.
Every transaction is a paid one, and the firm gets a share of the revenue.
If a patient is sure of the problem, he or she can directly choose a doctor. This happens with 40 percent of the cases. “For the remaining 60 percent, we have in-house sexual health counsellor teams that decide if it’s a physical or a psychological [problem], and then suggests the expert accordingly,” Sriram adds.
They plan to begin sexual health diagnostics (for things like STDs and fertility checkups) that will see its representatives collecting samples from clients at their convenience.
Look who’s talking
CupidCare’s initial targets are those that are aged between 28 and 40. It also offers couple therapy and pre-marital counseling. Those in need of advice, have the ability to pay, and come from high risk groups such as LGBTQs are also potential clients.
They also offer counseling on how to improve communication with children on sexuality and abuse – a largely neglected field in India.
So, are women open about asking questions on sexual health in India? “The male to female client ratio is 60 to 40,” Sriram says.
While men typically have queries on erectile dysfunction, STDs, homosexuality, and porn addiction, women seem to worry more about unwanted pregnancies, contraceptives, relationship stress, and loss of libido.
Despite being a sexual health website, it has very few pictures. And I think that’s a good idea because a client can comfortably visit the site without having to check over their shoulder.
Their FAQs are very to-the-point, which is again a good thing.
I did point out one little thing though. While FAQs for men deal with sexual performance and drive, those for women have more to do with pregnancy and contraception. Why so?
“Our FAQs are based on the volumes of highly searched keywords,” explains Sriram. But that apart, he adds, “Maybe because of too many boys in the team!”