WATCH | Movement for Mental Wellness | BK Cariappa

The Canada Startup Visa Program is proud to present another testimonial in our ongoing series highlighting Empowered Startups’ participants.

BK Cariappa sketches his venture ideas

In Canada, productive conversation about mental health has increased significantly in recent years. Discovering the extent to which the once taboo subject is now discussed has been illuminating for BK Cariappa

“I can tell you is that mental wellness in India is still considered a social stigma to openly talk about because people do not openly speak about it, whereas in Canada, it is accepted. In companies and organizations, people talk about it,” he explains. “I got more genuine answers out here when I would do interviews with candidates or with organizations than I got back home, so my prejudices that I had that I would not get the same level of help out here were totally shattered.” 

A communications professional for much of his career, Cariappa has long believed that companies should have better support systems in place for both the mental and physical well-being of their employees. Around the same time his belief was beginning to evolve into the idea of creating a solution, he and his wife were strongly considering options for relocating their family from India. Their search led them to the Canada Start-up Visa Program and, eventually, to Empowered Startups.  

B.K. Cariappa shares his experiences with the Canada Startup Visa Program

“We looked at startup programs across the world. We looked at the startup programs of New Zealand, Australia. We looked at the UK, and we looked at Canada. And honestly, Canada was the last one we looked at,” Cariappa admits while detailing his immigration journey. “Out of all the programs, I would say the Canadian Start-up Visa Program was the friendliest. It had the least, I would say, problematic issues that were there. The UK ones had a lot of problems where after three years we had to show profits, whereas the Canadian one was very simple, very easy. It showed us a light at the end of the tunnel that within three years, there was a positive ray of hope for all of us.” 

The couple was ready for a change, their children were excited at the prospect of studying abroad, and Cariappa was invigorated by the thought of turning his evolving idea into reality. After being accepted into Empowered’s Canada Start-up Visa Program, he got to work with Empowered’s Global Start-up Accelerator, an award-winning online platform designed to transform ideas into viable business plans. Cariappa credits the guidance he received during this phase from Empowered’s accomplished mentors for allowing him to effectively develop his concept and found his company, Joie Professional Wellbeing.  

“I think by Empowered having the mentorship program running for a year or a year and a half with certain individuals, I think it provides a lot of stimulus to the individual in the beginning stages of his startup, because it helps him grow and guide him where he needs to go,” he states.  

Cariappa is also quick to highlight the significance of Empowered’s collaborative office environment and coordinated networking events, which have benefitted him tremendously in advancing his startup since moving to Canada. 

“I believe that network is very important, because if you are an immigrant coming in from a different country, and you’re coming into the Canadian ecosystem, you are not aware of what is good, what is bad out here. You need somebody to help you and mentor you. That can be either by the mentor that you have, or it could be the network that you develop out here,” he relates. “Everybody wants to have a successful startup. Everybody wants to ensure that what they’ve committed to IRCC comes to fruit. It can only be done if you come here (to the office) on a regular basis… by coming here, by meeting like-minded people, talking about the struggles that you’re going through, talking about what is it that you’re looking for. Because in the end, we share the same goal.”  

Cariappa’s goal is closer to becoming a reality as he continues to develop a platform for the holistic assessment of employees’ mental and physical health on a regular basis. He’s benefitted tremendously by entrenching himself in the vibrant community of founders that regularly frequent Empowered’s Vancouver office, and he strongly believes he’s in the right environment to succeed both professionally and personally. 

“I have recommended Empowered to quite a few of my friends. I think Empowered as a company has got a fantastic team,” he smiles. “I feel that you need to have this ecosystem to support you because as a new immigrant into a country, if you don’t have a supporting ecosystem, you could fail drastically.”