At the end of August last year, NPR reported that the company Zoom has had higher sales and profits from May to July than it had during all of 2019, due to the coronavirus pandemic. This is not surprising; Zoom has been a key factor in helping the world move online as we are forced to work remotely. While it might still feel strange right now to complete most of our everyday tasks online, many businesses had already begun shifting common in-person activities online since far before the pandemic began. Lots of them planned to use the internet so that they could deliver the benefits of the specific in-person activity to a larger audience.
One example of the incoming technology-based business wave is Dr. Sindhu Rajan’s work. Having been a researcher on diabetes at the University of Chicago for 12 years, she was motivated to start a company called HabitNu to help prevent the onset of type two diabetes. “One in three adults in America are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes,” she says, “Which is 89 million people.” While there was a CDC-proven method for a lifestyle change that allowed for that percent of the population to keep from developing the disease, it required face-to-face classes for the results. There were so many people at risk who needed a method that was fit for only a few. “How many people can attend in-person classes?” Dr. Rajan said.
What Dr. Rajan did was to use the internet as a way for the CDC method to reach all the people it needed. “We made a small program big and scalable to so many people.” She used many different engagement methods, including sending text messages, to allow the participants to continue staying on track with their change to a healthier lifestyle. When asked if the website online was as effective as the in-person classes from the CDC, she stated that the “effectiveness has not gone down, because you don’t need face-to-face [classes] for learning.”
While Dr. Rajan’s company is based online, allowing HabitNu to function relatively the same compared to before the pandemic, there were still some changes that were interesting. “People also [became] much more aware of their health…They decided that health is something they need to pay attention to,” she said. “People who were fortunate enough to continue the program got more active.” Finally, Dr. Rajan talked about how the coaches given to participants gave them someone more to talk to about their mental health and well-being.
Dr. Rajan’s company is thriving, recently receiving full CDC recognition for the third consecutive year to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes. Dr. Rajan herself is continuing to work on the website regularly to make sure that everything is running smoothly. When asked about what she thought were the most important factors in running a successful business, her most valuable advice was to work hard, work with the right people, be patient, and persevere.