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G5 Talks with Dr. Rui Brandão, CEO of Zenklub

July 2023

Over the past few years, there has never been so much discussion about health. Digital evolution, social media and beauty standards have already shown how people’s emotional and mental well-being is essential for their quality of life. 

Then, a pandemic arrived and changed our daily routines. Almost 2 years later, with a good dose of social isolation, home office and modified relationships, we take a close look once again, at this extremely important topic: what is the state of people’s mental health? G5 Talks, a project through which business leaders exchange experiences and learnings with the team at G5 Partners, interviewed Dr. Rui Brandão, a PhD with experience in Portugal, Brazil and the USA, and CEO and Co-Founder of Zenklub, an emotional health platform serving over 1.5 million people in Brazil. 

Getting the idea off paper 

Rui highlights the beginning of his career, when he had a great desire to work in Brazilian hospitals, which need many more doctors than in Europe. He stated how the characteristics of the Brazilian market, with its good communication and cultural heterogeneity, attracted him more than Portugal’s academic and hierarchical environment. He commented that, at a certain time, when he experienced a case of Burnout in his family, many questions arose. Why do people fail to foresee behavioral changes in themselves and others? Why do they seek professional help so late? “I understood this was taboo and, above all, it was due to the lack of an emotional health system. We are very conditioned to visit a hospital only when we have a problem and not to check our health,” he stated. After this, he and a partner founded Zenklub, in 2016. Regarding the market scenario, he commented that “Brazilians are more open to therapy and are more expansive when talking about their emotions. Brazilians are also very digitalized”, which opened doors for the company. 

Zenklub today 

Rui highlights how the brand has grown and how the pandemic broke many limited beliefs for the business model, allowing the company to expand its operations. He stated that the company currently positions itself as a healthcare provider, and also takes into consideration matters such as scale given that, due to the coronavirus, growth has been fast and intense, and everyone has been adapting to meet the new demand. “From February to March, we went from 70 registered professionals to 1,000. This is a game-changer”.  He also commented that this scenario convinced many who still questioned the business model. Professionals who resisted to work in this new model found themselves wanting to join the company and offer their services. Furthermore, Brazilians are much more aware of mental health issues, which deteriorated so quickly during the years of health crisis. Rui stated that the brand is currently aimed at becoming a strategic partner, focusing on corporate mental health. To achieve this, he stated that certain factors, such as environmental and cultural change from inside out, can help leaders in this mission. He also explained that “to create a greater impact on the health of society and individuals, we have to change the environment, and that is cultural. It’s helping leaders develop themselves for this moment”. 

The future of mental health 

Rui also commented that Zenklub noticed the growth and importance of telemedicine, which increases the population’s access to healthcare and integrates services throughout a patient’s journey. He stated that mental health has always been a medical specialty somewhat neglected by people and he believes that the Zenklub brand, as it becomes a key player, can help increase bargaining potential with other institutions. 

Rui ended the interview stating that his non-conformity with the world comes from “the desire to create things that matter. That’s why I increasingly see the issue of mental health as emotional education.” 

 

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