Maya Apa is a virtual platform that anyone anonymously can access any time, providing counselling and answers to queries on daily life issues including health, psychosocial and legal matters.
Once a question is asked, it is redirected to the profile of relevant experts and the answer appears within a maximum of three hours.
A premium service titled ‘Maya Apa Plus’ has been launched under partnership with mobile operator Robi. Users will have their queries answered in ten minutes through this service. Users can subscribe for BEST 60 (60 eurocents) a month for unlimited questions. For SMS-based questions, they only charge BDT 10 once a user gets a resolution to their initial query, which is still cheaper than a consultation.
Maya Apa gathers heaps of anonymous data and can tell what kind of problems are prevalent in which area, what age group is more prone to mental problems and all these issues. Which means looking at Maya data, you can understand health and legal status of many localities. This data has the potential to be monetized in the future.
Experts are paid based on answers. Through technologies like natural language processing, Maya Apa can route questions to the right expert. They have a training module and a separate website for the experts. Before onboarding any expert, they take them through test and training. Once they pass the test and finish their training and get vetted, they then approve them and they get access to the dashboard.
Scale: 150,000 queries were submitted and answered. Over 10,000 users access it daily (2017).
- 75% of queries are health related, 20% are psychosocial and rest 5% are legal questions. In Bangladesh, doctor to patient ratio is 4000:1 and psychiatrist to patient ratio is 1: 1 million, there is a huge need for both of these services.
Maya Apa was founded in 2011 by Ivy Russell. “When I started Maya, I had little idea of what we wanted to do. I was juggling a full-time job and writing articles and publishing them to my site, maya.com.bd, which was more like a blog at the time. It was very difficult to navigate through the whole thing.
The question I originally asked when I started Maya was: where do women go when they need to ask questions about the intimate parts of their body? Although that was a basic question and the starting point for us but I really started diving deep when I left my job in 2014. That’s when I started reading about and understanding major trends and ideas and changes in the tech landscape across the world. And we decided to move from a mere website and pivoted to mobile and messaging from a web based content site. And we also turned Maya into a predominantly Bangla platform. It was at this point we were fortunate to receive a grant from BRAC to support our transformation from content portal to a mobile-first, Bangla-first wellbeing service”.
- “During the early days of Maya, I was the only person doing everything with the help of a couple of doctors who helped out voluntarily and I am super grateful to them. It took us almost 48 hours to answer any question in an appropriate manner. Then it became 24 hours and then 12 hours and for the last couple of years it came down to 3 hours and now premium users are getting it in 10 minutes. We just launched our premium service, Maya Apa Plus, in partnership with Robi, the selling point is ‘get your answer in 10 minutes’.“
- “Over the past couple of years, we have tried many different things. We failed in some and some of those things have stuck with us and are helping us to grow.“
- In February 2017, BRAC has decided to increase its investment to scale the service. In addition, Brac’s urban development programme will implement a pilot project where the Maya Apa app will be used to give services to 50,000 women working in garments factories.
- “We have kicked off our monetization side with doing the deal with Robi .After our collaboration with Robi, 600 more questions got added per day. On a good day, we receive around 1000 messages and on a bad day, we receive around 500 messages. That’s just the beginning. We plan to get into more partnerships in the coming days. We are in an exclusive partnership with Robi for one year. We plan to package differently for other partners.”
- “We also plan to move on to other markets. We have done research in India, perhaps we will start with Calcutta and the Middle East is also our target but nothing is finalized yet. Since we have BRAC as a partner, we may launch in countries where BRAC has operations and where there is a need for our service“.
- “We are also in talk with a couple of private companies who want to avail our service for their employees. Our B2B service is about to start.The company launched LenddoScore, a proprietary credit rating system without any traditional banking inputs in October 2013.”
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Maya Apa is located in Bengladesh. They are looking for medical and psychology specialists, as well as other profiles to grow the enterprise.