Technology to the rescue at thirty thousand feet


What do you do when you are thirty thousand feet above the ground and get a panic attack?

This is an unusual circumstance and it seems like an impossible situation, the only possible option you have is to sit through the  10 hour long flight and hope, hope that the feeling would pass soon.

This is a case of a 27-year-old woman, travelling from the United States to India. Midflight, she began to experience shortness of breath. Her inability to breath properly caused her to be fearful, that fear initially associated with breathing, quickly escalated to panic and she was afraid about other things as well such as fear that she “might fall”.

Panic on airplanes and fear of flying is not uncommon and creates tremendous anxiety for individuals and families. Lucky for her, she had the access to onboard internet, through which she contacted the expert therapists at (See Disclaimer below) The integrated therapy team assessed the status and put her on the text therapy protocol and assured her that they are available anytime she needs them.

An initial 30 minutes session with the therapist helped her take control of the situation through guided relaxation and motivation. She reported feeling relaxed but also felt reassured that she has expertise by her side when she needs it. That gave her comfort and motivation to be able to take control of the situation.

Ten hours later when the plane landed the Seraniti team and the passenger had exchanged multiple messages and worked with each other to handle a delicate situation. Something which would not have been possible a few years ago. Advances in video transmission, and availability of high speed internet, including on demand wifi on planes is pushing the boundaries of what is possible.

Today technology came to the rescue at thirty thousand feet. It’s not impossible to envision that be developments will make this possible not only airplanes, but also space ships, and most importantly some of the most remote parts of the world where every one can feel reassured. That they have expertise at their side, when they need it.

Disclaimer – I am an investor in and proud of the incredible service they provide everyday.

If you liked this post, you might be interested in my other posts: Shoot me if I ever say these things to a startup teamThe Doctor is NOT in, the Doctor will see you NOW, and Davos Learnings for my Daugther.

About Ashwin Naik
Ashwin Naik is an entrepreneur with interest in health, social enterprise and technology. Ashwin has been recognized as a Economic Times Leaders under 40, Young Global Leader By World Economic Forum, Young Leader by Asia Society, Senior Ashoka Fellow & as a Ted Fellow. 

You are not the Unicorn. You are Awesome.


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goes a kannada proverb.

Which means “build a house or organise a wedding”. Historically, two key tests of human endurance.

In this age, let me add a third,

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I have met countless founders, both as an entrepreneur and now as an aspiring angel investor, who put on a face and go on bottling up the stress and pressure of the startup, day in and day out. And when you ask them – how are you? The answer is always a variation of the same – great! Its great. We are making progress, We see good traction, Things are looking good.And in my meetings i always let them finish this pitch. And ask them again,

How are YOU doing? Not the unicorn you are chasing.

And that is where the big problem is. The startup becomes you. And you get subsumed in the startup. And it is not OK to talk about the struggles – the personal ones, the insecurity, the stress, the uncertainty and the self doubt that comes with it.

And so it continues. The bravado, the “fake it till you make it”, the “i cant be seen weak”, and countless other excuses for not being able to unload/share the stress.

I know of many founders personally who have barely enough money to eat, or on certain days unable to take a cab to an important meeting, or worse – have overborrowed to pay salaries, put company expenses on overdrawn personal credit cards, borrowed money from friends which they are not sure they will every pay back, and moved children’s schools because they couldn’t afford fees that year.

Its cruel. Its mind numbing. Its lonely. And its supremely stressful.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. I know its humanly impossible to have a work life balance in early stages of your startup. No leaving work behind at 5pm, or even 11pm in the night. The stress, the urgency, the uncertainty, and the expectations are inevitable.

Its still possible to find ways to deal with this everyday pressure, not by escaping it but by building the support mechanism to cope with it, as much as possible.

Here are five ways that i have personally benefited from and have seen others benefit from as well.

A. Find a Coach – Not for your company. For yourself. There is no better way to deal with the stress, and the uncertainty than having an expert coach work with you. Its even more important because the most important skill needed for a CEO/Founder of a startup is to gradually learn how to be a CEO. Particularly if you are growing and the pressure of growth is weighing you down.

Read this article for my experience with coaching – Not without my coach

There are many organisations which offer coaching on a pro-bono / low-bono basis and can be an excellent resource. If you would like me to refer you to some potential coaches, reach out to me.

B. Find a Peer Support group – A group of entrepreneurs whom you can spar with, who are in the same phase in life as you are (both individually and as startups) is worth its weight in gold. While i was building Vaatsalya, we used to have a small group – almost a entrepreneur anonymous type- with four of us, from different sectors, but in almost similar phases in our lives. We used to meet almost every quarter to shoot the breeze, cry on each others shoulder and learn from each other. We had the meetings religiously setup on our calendars well in advance – we used to call them the SPAM board meeting (acronym for the four of us)

You can join a peer group at Ascent which i have heard good things about.

C. Ask for help – Particularly from your team, your board, your advisors. There is no shame in saying to your team, i don’t know whats happening here. You don’t have to have all the answers. I have seen that getting the team to equally share in this journey, both the joys and suffering, allows everyone to step up to their big game. And not watch from the sidelines.

Also, have at least one advisor whom you can talk to, on a one on one basis. Not as investor/board member, but a person who talks about you and your needs. If you don’t have one, get one, preferably an entrepreneur.

In-case of adverse affect on health or signs of depression/anxiety, seek professional help. Depression and anxiety is fairly common and untreated/undiagnosed in India. You can reach out to for confidential & pro-bono support for founders from experts. (Disclosure: I am an investor in

Don’t forget to check out my opinion about advisors.

D. Exercise – I know this one has been beaten to death. But there is no excuse. Period. Exercise. Try C25K, you will run 5k in 9 weeks. If running is not your thing, play a sport, anything which keeps you moving for atleast 30 mins.

I once heard a great advice. Think of your day – you have 24 hours. Block 30 mins to 1 hour for yourself. Rest you can use to change the world.

Read about the evidence and science behind exercise

E. And the number one way to manage the stress is – Acknowledge it. Stop hiding it. Its ok to let yourself come to terms with it. Once the elephant has been acknowledged, you can plan on how to eat it. Which is, one bite at a time, by the way.

“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

– Francis of Assisi

And remember. You are not the Unicorn. You are awesome. The world might benefit from more unicorns. But the world surely needs more awesome-ness. So take care of yourself.


Booking a doctor appointment online – Whats the big deal?



Now you can you book an appointment with a doctor online.

I know, i know – not a big deal.

I meant, you can now book an appointment with a doctor in a government hospital online

Or in a couple of years – you can book an appointment with a doctor in any government hospital in the country – online!

Now that’s something. With a country of a billion+ people, mostly on mobile and with 1000s of government hospitals & clinics across the country – now this IS A BIG DEAL.

The government has silently launched the Online registration system on which you can book appointments with government hospitals using your aadhar card. It early days, but since July 2015, close to quarter of a million appointments have been taken online. And multiple hospitals are now using the e-hospital system (with over 2 million appointments)

Now this is a really big deal.

+ has a mobile app. And portal to check availability of blood in the hospitals

First – how this works

If the patient provides Aadhaar number on his first visit to the hospital then he would be given same preference for online appointment as is given to the patient who stands in queue in the hospital and UHID will be provided to the patient. In future, patient would be able to print E-OPD card after making online payment.

If patient is a follow up patient with hospital, then also he should try to link his Aadhaar with existing UHID which will facilitate in maintaining Electronic Health Record (EHR) in the hospital for better treatment.

Patient’s UHID get linked to Aadhaar card so that EHR across the Hospitals can also be facilitated in future.

In case patient has aadhaar number but mobile number is not registered with it, then name of the patient appearing in aadhaar card must be known. After verification, patient needs to enter other personal details.

While this is a great technology and adoption achievement, i am excited that this has an even more incredible impact – transparency!

If every government hospital data on appointment available and booked is captured in a single system along with reports from lab and pharmacy – boom – everything is out in the open. Doctors who dont show up as per their appointment are up for scrutiny, medicines prescribed if not in the pharmacy show up, lab test which should have been done in house – now being diverted to private labs – stick out like sore thumb.

And that’s why i think this is a really big big big big deal.

Traditional medicine can coexist with allopathic medicine as long as we are not fanatical about either one


On Friday, the 13th of May, India committed close to a million dollars to help create a benchmark document for training and practice for Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathic medicine. It is indeed a significant commitment and reinforcement of ongoing efforts by WHO to promote traditional health systems strengthening around the world.

What started with the Delhi declaration in 2012-13 with a consortium of South East Asian countries is now slowly growing into an international collaboration. The Indian government used a country by country approach to sign bilateral agreements, starting with information centres in Mexico, Nepal, Malaysia, Russia and other countries.

United Nations and WHO have over the years looked increasingly towards the traditional systems of health and encouraged governments of member states to direct resources and focus. In the period between 1999 to 2012 the number of member countries who put together national policies on traditional medicine has moved from 25 to 69.

Indian government and WHO have been discussing this for some years now, starting with a possible collaboration discussion in 2006,  followed by establishments of two WHO collaboration centres in India in the field of traditional medicine.

The big push, however, came in 2014, with a resolution initiated by China called “WHO Traditional and Complementary Medicine Strategy: 2014-2023” to help member states build their knowledge base, promote universal health coverage by integrating traditional and complementary medicine into national health policies, regulate products, practices and practitioners related to such disciplines, among other objectives. India had co-sponsored the resolution.

As more and more countries come forward with their policy frameworks to support traditional systems, the contribution of alternate systems will significantly improve towards reaching the goal of Universal Health Coverage. What might be needed is a systematic way of integrating learnings from both western and traditional systems of health to complement each other.

Most importantly, we will need a consensus not to pitch one traditional system against another in a show of one-up-man-ship but to create frameworks for each system to progress independently. In the case of AYUSH, its even more important, as we have five distinct origins of the systems which have many overlaps but not necessarily the same. A focused scientific and holistic approach to nurture each stream is critical.

Another path to avoid, which we have gone on in the past, is to train the AYUSH medical professionals in western medicine to compensate for lack of human resources in the country. That would not only be counterproductive but significantly push the complementary medicinal knowledge out of our already weakening systems.

What we need is to create a systematic engagement plan for the vast number of traditional and complementary medicine providers, to leverage our resource centres across the country which focus on traditional medicinal systems and create a continuing education program to reorient them on the new standards of practice, which will emerge out of this MOU.

In addition, a stronger push to bring products and services for treatment which are today outside the purview of regulation in India would be helpful, particularly in the light of lax quality standards of some products.

Finally engaging the allopathic practitioners and engaging them in the conversation is critical. We cant wish away their apprehensions and desire to control their turf. However, if engaged in a manner where the health sector itself benefits from standardisation and training, the medical community, which is reeling under pressure of doctors/nurses will see the benefit of collaboration.

Lets see traditional medicine as truly complementary to allopathic. And not competition.