Meet Ms. Best Benchawan, a Digital Tech Entrepreneur from Thailand
On 22nd Wednesday, Ms. Best Benchawan joined our GS342 Social Innovation III class on Zoom. She is a co-founder of a digital tech company called Dopaigo, a startup that rewards people to exercise.
A breakdown of the startup’s name, Dopaigo is as follows. Do is taken from dopamine, a chemical that makes you feel happy, Pai is to go in Thai and Go is about moving.
She left her 10-year-old career at a company in order to initiate this startup with her co-founder Kevin Koeninger.
Her inspiration for this startup comes from her very own hobby of exercising. Since she was young, she played basketball and volleyball at school. She loves all kinds of sports such as badminton, running, and swimming. To her, doing sports is very important.
I was addicted to sports because it brings energy to do other things and gives me a good mood. In a marathon, people achieve the goal, not out of luck but from the process of perspiration and that is something that you have to respect people for being able to achieve it. The same kind of practice, discipline, focus and mindset can be gained from doing sports and that’s what makes me proud of.
According to Best, there are several reasons as to why people do not exercise. These include lack of motivation, not allocating time and fear of going to the gym. WHO’s recommendations of steps per day to keep healthy is 7000 steps. On a global level, 1 in 4 adults or 25% of adults leads physically inactive lives and do meet the steps recommended steps by WHO. In Thailand, only 40% of the people who are over 18 have met this recommendation. Dopaigo’s main target group is Thai people aged between 20 and 44 years old, who have smartphones with internet connectivity which accounts for 21 million of people in Thailand which she sees this as a huge number and opportunity.
Dopaigo’s mechanism is to reward people in order to motivate them to be active. In my opinion, this intervention is unlike any other conventional fitness applications because it provides an extra boost to motivation. Generally, people are aware of the benefits of exercise and the disadvantages of not doing it. However, this awareness alone does not lead people to adopt an active lifestyle. They need an extra push to form a behavioural change and that is exactly what Dopaigo is working on, in my perspective.
Currently, there is a Dopaigo website and a Facebook page with virtual challenges such as Dopaigo The 1,2,3, Step Up for the Elephants, 7 days at home challenge, and the Dopaigo challenge series. This is how the process participation in those challenges looks like. You can register the events that you want to participate in and they send you a confirmation through email. But first, you need to be a member to register for the events. Then, you record your steps either on Apple Health or Google Fit and submit your results on the website. You will receive a list of winning members through email and if your name is on the list, there you go; claim your prize! At the moment, Dopaigo is rewarding actual money to its winners. However, this is only until their mobile phone application is launched.
When she was asked as to why Dopaigo makes use of mobile application, she explained that nowadays, people simply cannot avoid the digital environment and mobile phones are everything for most people. The average time that people spend on mobile phones browsing the internet is half a day. Thus, Dopaigo decided to develop a mobile phone application and optimize it to connect with the API of trackers apps such as Google Fit, Apple Health, Strava and Nike Run. These apps are already on people’s phones so connecting was the only thing needed and it will allow users to transfer their steps to the Dopaigo app and convert into Dopcoins, the digital currency of Dopaigo.
The Ecosystem of the Application
The concept of the mobile application is Steps Game. People will get a fun experience, moving their bodies and at the same time, earning digital currency from the application. The more they move, the more they earn Dopcoins. Once they earn Dopcoins, they could exchange Dopcoins with goods or items, receive a ticket to participate in their virtual event, purchase avatars or equipment and unlock levels in the application. The virtual events will still be there on the application and the only difference with the current version is that users will gain Dopcoin instead of actual money. Additionally, Dopaigo is working towards Dopaigo to be listed as cryptocurrency so that users will be able to trade in Dopcoin market in the future.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, Best believes that a lot of people might start exercising at home since they are aware of health risks of staying at home idle. Dopaigo takes this as an opportunity to educate them about the risk of not moving, the benefits of doing exercise, the minimum steps they should take daily and asking them to participate in the virtual events and acquire the rewards.
Within 2020, the Dopaigo application will be launched in Thailand. In upcoming years, Dopaigo has plans to expand to other Southeast Asian markets starting with countries which are ready to adopt the technology such as Singapore. In the long term, they plan to expand to East Asian countries such as South Korea, Japan and also Oceania countries like Australia and New Zealand.