Cyberbullying and online harassment is common. Someone might pout their heart out on Facebook or Twitter, only to be trolled and picked on by people who are looking for a laugh by making someone else feel bad. It happens every day, all over the world. Just last year, a study conducted by Polling Indonesia and the Indonesian Internet Service Providers Association (APJII) found that nearly half of the country’s internet users have been bullied online.
Audrey Maximillian Herli watched this happen to his friends when he was still an IT student at Airlangga University in 2015. He decided to do something about it.
“I was thinking about how to solve the problem by providing a counseling service on campus, so students can share and express their feelings and be listened to,” Audrey told KrASIA in a recent interview. He specifically sought out psychology students who could listen to anyone who came forth with their problems, and possibly provide feedback to navigate emotional hardships in a conversational setting. Audrey set up an app to facilitate this service, and let his schoolmates use it for free.
Soon after, in September 2015, Audrey joined Startup Sprint, which is part of Start Surabaya Bootcamp, an incubator program hosted by the accelerator Digitaraya and the local city government. With support from mentors at the bootcamp and encouragement from his app’s early adopters, Audrey realized that his concept could be turned into a long-term business.
That idea eventually became Riliv, a startup that offers counseling and mental wellness services.
Together with his brother, Audy Christopher Herli, Audrey learned the fundamentals of business management. The pair picked up the skills to measure market validation, and shaped a business model that fit their vision for Riliv.
Now, Riliv collaborates with Indonesia’s psychologists’ association (HIMPSI), connecting trained professional therapists with anyone who seeks help. The sessions are conducted through online chats. In its five years of operations, the Surabaya-based startup has acquired 230,000 users, most of whom live in Surabaya and Jakarta. Most of Riliv’s clients have never been to a therapist’s office before using the app.
Stuck at home? Stay calm.
In mid-2019, Riliv launched a second service, Riliv Hening, an online meditation program that helps users reduce stress and induce self-healing. In all, Riliv Hening has more than 500 guided meditation and bedtime story tracks. The program’s meditation segments are designed by certified Mindfulness Practitioners.
The company’s counseling and meditation features are designed for individuals as well as corporate clients. Its fees are lower than in-person counseling, which are around 75% more expensive than Riliv’s charges.
Riliv seemed designed exactly for the COVID-19 pandemic, when people are internalizing many forms of stress and anxiety—crowded households or angst from being alone, blurred lines between work and private lives, being indoors for lengthy periods, strained parent-child relationships, even financial hardship. Some have turned to Riliv’s services for a little bit of relief and a little bit of help with coping.
“There has been an 80–85% increase in demand for both online counseling and subscriptions to online meditation since February 2020. We have also seen an increase in the number of requests from new companies to subscribe to our online meditation since March 2020,” Audrey said. “We see it is a positive signal; the move to increase mental health is more noticeable, and it will be a new alternative and the new normal in the future.”
In mid-March, Riliv released a free audio program called #TenangdiRumah (“be calm at home”). It is a collection of meditation guides, each running at 7–10 minutes, to help listeners cope with anxieties, like loneliness, related to COVID-19.
With an uptick in client numbers, and with more people utilizing the free guided meditation programs on Riliv, Audrey expects that counseling and talking therapy will become mainstream in Indonesia in the near future. The startup is preparing to raise funds to take it beyond the seed stage, packing new features into its app, and extending its services to new cities.
This article is part of KrASIA’s “Startup Stories” series, where the writers of KrASIA speak with founders of tech companies in South and Southeast Asia.