Check Out the Doctor Didi WhatsApp Chatbot, the Big Sister Every Girl Needs
With her new initiative, Shaili Chopra is breaking stereotypes about the way women perceive their health
She created India’s largest platform for women and now she is changing the way women think of their own health. Meet Shaili Chopra, founder of SheThePeople, who has recently launched a free multi-lingual chatbot called ‘Doctor Didi’ to solve women’s sexual and reproductive health issues in a judgment-free and discreet way using artificial intelligence.
Chopra counts the creation of Doctor Didi – a virtual and non-judgmental chatbot that users can speak to about sexual health – as one of her biggest successes. The bot speaks in Hindi, English, Bengali and Tamil, and acts like the big sister to every girl and woman looking for information on their more private health questions. This is part of Chopra’s larger effort called ‘Gytree,’ which aims to provide women with health solutions.
In the following interview, Chopra gives us an insight into how she came to create this new mindful platform for women, and how she and her team were the first to address genuine issues outside of beauty and glamor. In addition, she elaborates on the digital revolution she has started and its potential in the contemporary, volatile market. Excerpts.
I’m curious about what prompted you to transition from being an elite business journalist to telling stories about women. What was the impetus for SheThePeople?
When I was growing up, I knew I wanted to be a journalist. But a decade and a half into the profession, I asked myself, whose stories are we not telling? Of the 367 people I had interviewed, only 13 were women, and that told me something. If women are half the country, do they deserve half the voice and at least half the air-time on media? I wanted to fix this, and that led to the birth of SheThePeople, which now has more than 20 million viewers a month.
Women across the world write to me every single day about how we are a force for good in their lives. Today, SheThePeople is not just a voice and a platform for millions of women around the world but is also triggering a change in how they see themselves and building confidence. When I think of achievements and success, I think not of myself but of all those people whose lives we may have touched in big and small ways.
So, when we grow, we speak to the women in the SheThePeople community. They seek more from us. And so, 2022 is going to be pivotal for me as an entrepreneur as we start focusing on bringing health solutions for Indian girls and women via Gytree, of which Doctor Didi is the chatbot. Check out this amazing chatbot or save this number, +91 9821001777, and chat directly via a WhatsApp window.
One thing that strikes me about the platform is that it addresses both winning and losing. I see it as a canvas where women can unleash everything – joy, sorrow, fears, frustrations, and all things in between. What are your insights on this?
I am a real woman. And I know that so are the millions of others around me. Society has crafted this superwoman image of us all, leaving us to do the balancing act, the sacrificing, and doing more for others and less for ourselves.
We want to normalize a woman and her realities so that she can get her own shot at opportunities without feeling the pressure of ‘doing it all.’ And what comes with it are sorrows, struggles, successes, super stories, and more.
Someone said it brilliantly – there is no bigger power than the will of a determined woman. Another way of looking at this is that we want more and more women to believe in themselves and be determined, and that will only happen if we don’t put a single idea of success or joy on a pedestal too high to achieve.
What challenges do you encounter as a result of this voice that is so fearless? Did it ever have a divisive effect?
‘Shaili, why are you this women-empowerment type? Why do you want to change the world? You should know where to draw the line.’ My ‘well-wishers’ often have things like these to say. And it’s not me alone, so many in our team have been told or asked these [same things].
We face trolling every single day. A fearless woman/girl and her voice are feared by society, men, and sometimes, even by other women. But with so many women joining the SheThePeople community, we see ourselves as a sisterhood that aims to win, and together.
We have to remind ourselves that the efforts to break patriarchy are not about being against gender, it’s being against a system of behavior.
I was questioned and criticized, and I am trolled every single day. But I believe one should not be pushed back by the fears in one’s mind. Instead, I want to be led by the dreams in my heart – doing more for women, with women.
You’ve established a friendly forum for women to discuss topics that go beyond beauty and glamor. That is precisely where women’s health, sexual health, and other issues come into play. What are the key reasons that contributed to the importance of this topic in terms of content?
Today, any brand worth its salt recognizes the power of the SheThePeople community and comes to us to make the right choices and connections with women. It’s so important to look at women as consumers of things that go beyond vanity, and that was my main aim. Don’t look at me and just sell me lipstick, but also sell me a Tesla, insurance, pitch the next luxury cruise to me, because, hey, I am also your market but you cannot see that. I wanted to tinker with this in the brains of marketeers and CEOs, and I am so proud that I have.
As we focus more and more on such efforts, one of my biggest successes to date is the effort we have put into creating the world’s first multilingual chatbot to simplify women’s health, Doctor Didi, under our health platform called Gytree.
Discussions about sexual health are considered taboo in India, both in rural and urban areas. We have developed a tech-enabled, non-judgmental and friendly chatbot for India’s young women to access critical information about their health and body.
Our aim is to provide access to and knowledge of sexual health and reproductive rights for the community of women who currently have limited access. By using technology and bringing social impact together, we are aiming to enable access to a chat-based solution for women and link them to medical experts at no cost.
Sixty-nine percent of women in India do not have access to or actively seek medical help or guidance on sexual health. Designed and produced as a free service, the Doctor Didi chatbot addresses a critical issue that needs to be addressed to ensure a healthy community of women across the country. With over 1.06 billion mobile connections in India, a simple language-based mobile tech solution can provide critical knowledge for a massive problem.
Has this had an impact on the community as a whole over time? Do you notice any behavioral changes? How much has this space helped the untapped community feel safe in their own skin?
Each day, my DMs fill up with stories of struggles, stereotypes, and how women are beating the same every single day. What I also get in the thousands are problems women are suffering from, and that’s a reminder of the road ahead for our team. So, for me, 2022 has been about focusing on how women feel and what women do. Women and health are the big focus. Have we asked ourselves a question as simple as this – why are more women not participating in the Indian economy, and how is that connected to their health issues?
Doctor Didi, as you’ve mentioned, is a one-of-a-kind multilingual WhatsApp chatbot focused on female wellness and sexual health. Please tell us more about the bot and how useful it will be.
In India, economic status, gender, and social status are all closely interrelated when influencing the use of and access to sexual and reproductive healthcare. As a result, women themselves become a marginalized community due to the significant information gap they face. With mobile messaging, Doctor Didi will be an information equalizer for its female users. Our project will be intersectional both in its teams and in its rollout approach.
I count the creation of Doctor Didi – a virtual and non-judgmental chatbot users can speak to about sexual health – as one of my biggest successes. For me, this is a breakthrough because it’s discreet and judgment-free and so simple to use.
When you start a portal that discusses a girl’s body, pregnancy, periods and more, you can be worried about losing traction – especially in a country like India, where a girl being vocal about her body and body issues is still stigmatized. Did this concern you during the initial stages? What kind of feedback are you getting now?
History shows us that society and stigma go together. Someone comes around and raises their voice, creates a sisterhood, and puts the issues on the frontlines fearlessly, and things stir. SheThePeople did this with the stereotypes that women face. Doctor Didi and Gytree are doing this via a free chatbot service and consultations respectively.
What is Gytree and how can women seek help from it?
Gytree.com of which Doctor Didi is a part is a fearless and comfortable space for women to discuss their sexual and gynecological health issues and needs.
Gytree is a trustworthy, safe, discreet, and judgment-free space that prioritizes and normalizes women’s health. It’s a one-stop platform that empowers women to take doctor-backed independent and informed decisions based on their symptoms; a platform that offers end-to-end guidance to women to prevent major health challenges later by taking concrete action now.
What’s your message for everyone reading this interview?
Since I started this business, I have been asked, why did I choose to focus on a ‘niche’ category? That’s a reference to India’s women. I contest this ‘niche’ dig at me with the following numbers – Indian women, at 720 million, are 50 percent of the country’s population, 10 percent of the world’s population, twice the size of America, and seven times the size of Japan – and we are still calling Indian women a niche? We are a force.
People around you will come to say, what you are doing is too this, too that, not worth it, and so on. They don’t know better. Change this. You are the change. I am the change.
Like many founders I, too, faced sexism, and subtle and direct questions about being a ‘woman in business,’ and I was told to alter my vision – focused on financial freedom and health solutions for women – to selling lipsticks and diapers. I stood my ground [and there’s nothing wrong with platforms that do sell lipsticks and diapers, except that I wanted to build something different] and that was a big challenge, especially within the start-up ecosystem and later on the client’s side. Since then, we have changed the way our partners and the market do business and how they view women, for the better.
I believed in my idea and the change I was going to make. I made it happen. I shut up the people who didn’t believe in me. Now they come around and say, ‘What a phenomenal platform you have built.’ So be the woman behind yourself and conquer. I am with you too.