Tuhoon is mainly targeting the Saudi Arabian market with mental health services that are relevant and relatable to the country's demographics. Photo: iStock

Fares Ghandour was impressed to create a psychological wellness platform following his personal journey with psychological well being. He noticed a spot in inexpensive, accessible and high-quality care delivered within the native dialects of the Gulf area.

Mr Ghandour teamed up with entrepreneur and scientific psychologist Dr Naif Almutawa and software program engineer and product supervisor Aymane Sennoussi to arrange Tuhoon in June 2021, making a “tech-enabled care enterprise”.

The Riyadh-based enterprise launched a self-help app in March 2022 for sleep enchancment, stress discount, work-life steadiness, meditation and self-awareness curated by Khaleeji consultants to supply content material in Khaleeji dialects.

“Info in Arabic on psychological well being is scarce and that shouldn’t be the case,” Mr Ghandour stated.

“It is a query of providing accessibility, high quality, affordability and normalisation of psychological healthcare that’s culturally-relevant and speaks to individuals in their very own language whereas sustaining credibility.”

Whereas know-how helps to enhance individuals’s entry to psychological healthcare, Tuhoon is now venturing right into a hybrid mannequin with scientific psychology and counselling clinics that may supply in-person and digital appointments, the co-founder stated.

Plans are underneath approach to open a clinic in Dubai in February and in Riyadh within the second quarter of this yr, Mr Ghandour stated.

They’ll begin with a measurement of 4 rooms earlier than increasing to 10 rooms and finally 20 rooms.

About 15 per cent of individuals within the Gulf expertise psychological well being points, however greater than 75 per cent of those that want psychological healthcare don’t search it, in line with a research by PwC Center East in June 2022.

Whereas the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the burden of psychological well being issues regionally and globally, there are solely 2.85 psychiatrists per 100,000 inhabitants throughout the six GCC international locations, it stated.

Untreated psychological sickness prices an estimated lack of 37.5 million productive days per yr, the equal to $3.5 billion, in line with the survey.

Tuhoon is especially focusing on the Saudi Arabian market with psychological well being companies which can be related and relatable to the nation’s demographics, Mr Ghandour stated.

In Saudi Arabia, the Arab world’s largest economic system, 80 per cent of these with extreme psychological problems don’t search remedy, the Saudi Nationwide Psychological Well being Survey stated in a 2019 research.

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Moreover, 34 per cent of Saudis meet the standards for a psychological well being situation in some unspecified time in the future of their life, however solely 4 per cent of the Ministry of Well being finances is allotted to psychological well being, it confirmed.

“That is the place the chance lies … it is a big, untapped and unaddressed market,” Mr Ghandour stated. “High quality psychological healthcare provide is the issue, not the demand.”

Tuhoon’s goal purchasers are people and corporates that present the companies to their staff. Telecom operator Zain, medical insurance supplier Bupa and Riyad financial institution are amongst its prospects.

The beginning-up lately partnered with the Nationwide Heart for Psychological Well being and palmHR on a research on office wellness, surveying 50 human useful resource managers and 4,000 full-time staff at non-public and public organisations throughout the dominion.

About 4 out of 5 staff skilled at the least one psychological well being problem prior to now 12 months, with probably the most generally reported points together with burnout, anxiousness and stress, it discovered.

Whereas 78 per cent of organisations don’t measure their worker’s psychological well-being, 82 per cent of organisations would not have a devoted finances for psychological well being companies.

Girls are 50 per cent extra probably than males to report having poor psychological well being, as feminine labour participation doubles within the kingdom, the research discovered.

That is mirrored in Tuhoon’s consumer base, the place about 65 per cent of its present customers are Saudi females, Mr Ghandour says.

Tuhoon is mainly targeting the Saudi Arabian market with mental health services that are relevant and relatable to the country's demographics. Photo: iStock

Total, the start-up has recorded 100,000 sign-ups on its app and about 1,500 energetic customers weekly, he says. The quantity of multimedia content material consumed per week per person has reached 1.5 hours and is “trending upwards”.

Demand for the app’s self-help content material is “large”, as indicated by the 30-day person retention price of 26 per cent, he says.

“Most customers love the app however additionally they need to speak to somebody and beginning our scientific care enterprise is in response to customers’ needs, that is the place the demand lies as we speak,” he says.

“International locations like Saudi Arabia have gotten extra urbanised, with rising cities and growing involvement in workplaces, so there are modern-day challenges and balancing that with conventional norms is creating some anxieties,” Mr Ghandour says.

Throughout the GCC area, post-Covid demand for psychological healthcare is constant to develop amid looming fears of a world financial recession, he says.

Tuhoon’s enterprise mannequin is centred on particular person and company customers’ subscriptions for its app, the place it additionally provides employers office assessments of worker psychological well being, workshops, content material suggestions and, sooner or later, scientific care.

App subscription prices $40 yearly per person.

When it comes to funding, the start-up is on the seed stage with $2.5 million injected into the enterprise up to now from self-funding, angel funding, backing by enterprise capital agency Wamda and UAE-based Nuwa Capital.

The funds have been used to create content material, rent expertise and develop the know-how behind the app.

Tuhoon targets rising to about 20 clinics inside three to 5 years, with 20 rooms per clinic, primarily in Saudi Arabia, backed by licensed professionals and standardised, regulated psychological healthcare, Mr Ghandour says.

The beginning-up expects to lift extra funding sooner or later, relying on the efficiency of the preliminary clinics.

Investments in digital well being sector are growing, with psychological well being receiving the most important share, and that’s unlikely to decelerate over the subsequent decade, Mr Ghandour says.

“It is a critical market in want of disruption and enablement. Know-how can play a job in that,” he says.

Firm profile

Firm title: Tuhoon
12 months began: June 2021
Co-founders: Fares Ghandour, Dr Naif Almutawa, Aymane Sennoussi
Based mostly: Riyadh
Sector: well being care
Measurement: 15 staff, $250,000 in income
Investment stage: seed
Traders: Wamda Capital, Nuwa Capital, angel traders

Who’s your function mannequin?

Anybody who suffered in silence however managed to tug by.

Why is organising a enterprise with social affect vital to you personally and professionally?

I imagine that entrepreneurship within the Arab world is by design social affect. Investing in and beginning companies within the area has social affect, in that it helps create and unfold a tradition of innovation and threat taking, and permits societies to emerge and progress on a world scale. It reduces dependence on public sector jobs, that are much less aggressive, and will increase urge for food for innovation. I’ve all the time felt just like the work I do has some type of social affect, be it by my profession as a VC investing in tech start-ups within the area for the previous 9 years, or by the work I do with varied non-profit organisations in Jordan and Lebanon. Tuhoon is an extension of that ethos.

What new expertise have you ever learnt since launching your start-up?

Folks expertise. I learnt easy methods to higher establish good expertise early on, easy methods to incentivise and encourage a group, easy methods to be open and sincere with colleagues. I grew much more empathetic in direction of non-founder expertise after co-founding Tuhoon. I’d largely cope with founders and senior execs as a VC, now I get to work together with a a lot deeper group.

How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected your small business?

It helped spotlight the significance of psychological well being care. It additionally expedited the adoption of digital instruments in psychological well being, like teletherapy. At the moment, over 60 per cent of telehealth consultations within the US are associated to psychological or behavioural well being.

How is your product completely different from different psychological well being/wellness assets accessible within the area and globally?

We’re … targeted on constructing an end-to-end suite of services and products within the psychological well being house within the Arab world. Our inaugural product, the Tuhoon app, is the primary app with premium audio content material delivered by the main consultants and psychologists from the area, introduced in a culturally related, relatable and fascinating trend. We need to construct a model that provides varied scientific instruments and companies of top quality and credibility.

What modifications in digital psychological healthcare ought to sufferers count on within the subsequent decade?

With so many co-morbidities and complicated psychological well being circumstances, it’s inevitable that the trade heads in direction of extra specialised and deeper care. I count on that the house will develop to embody extra choices and verticals. Single-offering start-ups should adapt to that. I believe an even bigger push in direction of a hybrid care mannequin of behavioural, psychological and first care, that redefines the affected person expertise in a method that’s deeper than self-help or teletherapy on a stand-alone foundation.

In case you had an opportunity to do it over again, what would you do in a different way?

After all, I’d have targeted on scientific care first then expanded into subclinical companies, as that as we speak is the best worth service within the trade. I’d additionally begin in Riyadh relatively than begin in Dubai servicing Riyadh. The 2 markets are very completely different.

The place do you see the corporate headed?

Within the subsequent yr, a a lot greater push in direction of our scientific providing within the UAE and Riyadh. We hope to have three bodily and digital clinics up and working by the tip of the yr. Larger engagement with employers as effectively, I hope we’ll safe a number of extra Saudi banks and enterprises as purchasers. In 5 years, I would love us to function 20-25 clinics and have a effectively built-in digital providing that helps sufferers handle their journey way more effectively.

What’s your subsequent massive dream to make occur?

I’d like to work on the analysis side of psychological well being. Most psychological well being problems as we speak would not have a transparent pathology that may be examined to provide the best therapies. As long as we’re unclear as to what actually causes numerous these problems, it makes it very tough to work on pharmacological or psychological therapies. Most psychiatric medicines or remedy methodologies are basically many years previous. We want that “penicillin second” in psychological well being, and to try this we actually want to grasp what causes these problems within the first place.

Up to date: January 30, 2023, 3:30 AM

Firm profile

Firm title: Tuhoon
12 months began: June 2021
Co-founders: Fares Ghandour, Dr Naif Almutawa, Aymane Sennoussi
Based mostly: Riyadh
Sector: well being care
Measurement: 15 staff, $250,000 in income
Investment stage: seed
Traders: Wamda Capital, Nuwa Capital, angel traders

Supply hyperlink

By Samy