14 Sep Black Lotus – An impactful mediation app.
As part of the startup Interview series, we are going to interview Mr. Vikram Shastry, the CEO of Black Lotus, one of the world’s most impactful meditation apps that is backed by behavioral science and deep research.
Vikram, thanks for taking the time to catch up with us. Can you briefly outline the company’s story, what is Black Lotus’ key goal? Who are the founders and how it all became what it is today?
When looking at the meditation landscape in the country, we realized that most existing meditation apps focus on visualization or ‘feel-good’ meditation. We decided to create a differentiation with Black Lotus by providing quality content and guidance. We also focussed on habit-forming by using our transformational framework – RARE (Reflect, Act, Reinforce, Evaluate).
Black Lotus is the brainchild of Om Swami, the founder of Black Lotus; a tech entrepreneur turned monk, expert meditator, and bestselling author of fifteen books, including best-sellers like Kundalini: An Untold Story, A Million Thoughts, The Wellness Sense, When All Is Not Well, and If Truth Be Told: A Monk’s Memoir.
What kind of products and services does your company offer?
Black Lotus is one of the fastest-growing meditation apps in India that fosters the habit for quality meditation, based on deep research, and is behavioral science-backed. Black Lotus has been built with research spanning over 6 years. The deep competencies in both – technology and meditation have come together to create this product.
What’s the latest progress in the project, and what are you focusing on right now?
Making new users wait for a couple of weeks before they start to see the benefits of meditation is a challenge. We are currently addressing the issue with innovative mindful nudges and other training content that will help educate the user that learning quality meditation requires time but will be worth it once incorporated. We also want to integrate the app with wearables like smartwatches to follow BlackLotus on the go.
What pain of your customers are you helping solve? What is your company’s offering and what kind of customers and partners are you looking for?
Black Lotus is a meditation app offered primarily via a mobile app experience to the users on both iOS and Android platforms in B2B & B2C delivery formats. The solution aims to increase the mental well-being of the users, with measurable results. The user is given daily guidance to learn and benefit from short qualitative meditation sessions. The app has guided meditation sessions, specially curated meditation packages for students, stress management, focus building, mindfulness, to name a few. Black Lotus also combines simple, daily kindness and mindfulness actions to deepen the impact of meditation and bring about an increased sense of overall well-being in a user’s day. Perceivable positive changes are seen in users within 21 days of the use of the app.
A user can simply download the app from the app store on either android or iOS. The user can simply choose the goal-specific meditation and follow the rich educational content. The SMART alerts keep reminding the user of activities they were supposed to do in case they missed them.
What differentiates Black Lotus from its competitors?
The actual difference is that we are not just telling you to do a guided meditation. We have these goal packs, which are particularly geared at achieving one outcome at a time. And this app has been founded based on actual experience, not just based on feel-good meditation.
The key differentiators are:
- In India, almost everyone has heard about meditation but not many really know ‘how’ to meditate. Also, meditation is unfortunately associated with pre-conditioned belief-systems, dogmas, mystical leanings, etc. The biggest challenge for us has been and will be to make individuals understand that meditation can be used as a scientific tool that can be used to better the ability to use the mind across all areas of one’s life.
- In the beginning, our platform was simply designed to be a place where various meditators came together and performed theme-based meditation. Only later, OM Swami realized the need to add kindness acts to provide lifestyle-based transformation to the end-user.
- There was a lack of goal-based meditation. Consumers didn’t know why they should meditate in the first place. That’s when we added purpose-specific meditation.
- We faced a challenge when users did not understand how much to meditate and when to meditate. Then we understood that there was a necessity to help build habit-formation by assisting the users to understand how quality meditation can be incorporated into daily life. To facilitate this, we created the goal-based approach with a habit forming framework.
- The need to provide guidance with qualitative intense meditations that one can practice daily.
Do you have any projects related to COVID-19 research? If so, can you explain how your product is contributing to a global fight against coronavirus?
Mindfulness and meditation practices translate well to different populations across the lifespan and range of abilities. Introducing a mindfulness and meditation practice during this pandemic has the potential to complement treatment and is a low-cost beneficial method of providing support with anxiety for all.
What is your business model and how are you planning to get early customers onboard? Have you already raised money for your operations and building the platform?
We have both the B2C model – in which the user can simply download the app from the app store, and the B2B model – where we tie-up with corporate houses. We have recently tied up with one of the top3 Indian IT service companies. A typical B2C user might have to spend around rs.250/month to get the full benefits of the app.
What milestones have you had in fundraising and where are you now?
We started as a self-funded organization but have been able to acquire Angel funding to start our operations. Currently, we are a cash flow positive organization seeking out the correct venture capitalists who share our vision.
What was it like growing your team? What are the challenges and surprises you encountered? What tips do you have for building a solid team?
We began with a tiny team of 7-8 people, with the only standard connection being OM Swami. The whole team believed in the vision of creating the world’s most impactful and authoritative meditation app.
We started with a small but competent tech team, and the whole focus was on the tech and the product.
Vikram Shastry (the founder of Uttara Infosolutions) is the CEO of Black Lotus. Amisha Sethi( Ex Locus, BlackBerry, and AirAsia) is the recent addition to the team as Chief Awareness Officer. The leadership team at Black Lotus also includes industry veteran Harish Abhichandani, group ex CFO of OLA as CFO, and Jaya Kumar as the Chief Relationship Officer.
What are your company’s plans for the future, your major dream in 2021?
We want to be recognized as the fastest growing and most impactful meditation apps in the world and also take quality meditation practices from India to the world. We are also looking at expanding our B2B reach by impacting thousands of employees in the Indian corporate fraternity.
What do you think about the business climate in India and in Asia in general?
The average ASEAN country’s real GDP growth is forecasted at 5.1%. China and India, on the other hand, are forecasted to grow at 7.4%. The economies are showing a strong sense of recovering from the pandemic, and people’s increased interest towards mental health would be a major part of it.
To summarize our interview I would like to ask your opinion about the future of the HealthTech industry, especially considering the impact of pandemics and all this economic turbulence.
According to pre-pandemic figures, the global yoga market was worth well over USD 130 Billion (as per CAGR). The pandemic has taught us the importance of mental wellness, self-love, caring about mental and physical health, and implementing the yogic and ayurvedic routines in our daily life.
In India, meditation’s penetration is still in a nascent stage and not in the domain of technology or business. Black Lotus with its India’s authentic meditation aims to change this situation and make meditation a part of daily life with the help of technology.