CycleTel™ is an SMS-based mobile health (mHealth) product, and the first family planning method available directly to a woman via SMS in India. CycleTel was developed to transform how family planning is accessed and used by women.
Why we do it
We believe no woman should be without family planning options. Yet unmet need for family planning burdens over 225 million women worldwide and is estimated to grow 40% by 2050. In India, nearly 36 million women aged 20-34 want to avoid a pregnancy but don’t have an effective, affordable and accessible method.
The proliferation of mobile phones offers unprecedented opportunities to change this. With well over six billion mobile subscriptions worldwide, mobile phones can reach women once deemed unreachable.
How it works
CycleTel is based on the scientifically-tested, knowledge-based Standard Days Method® (SDM) of family planning, a fertility awareness method proven to address unmet need. SDM identifies the fixed set of days in each menstrual cycle when a woman can get pregnant, known as her fertile window. To use SDM, a woman tracks her cycle, and uses a barrier method or abstains from sex on her fertile days to avoid pregnancy.
CycleTel automates this process, alerting women of their unsafe (fertile) days each month via SMS, indicating when unprotected sex should be avoided to prevent unwanted pregnancies. To enroll, women answer three screening questions to determine eligibility for the method and enter their upcoming period dates to initiate. To continue receiving personalized alerts based on their own cycle, they enter their period start date monthly. CycleTel is currently available in English and Hinglish.
The target population for CycleTel includes women aged 18–34 in urban and peri-urban areas of India, where there is a high unmet need for birth spacing as well as high mobile phone usage. But anyone with a need for family planning who is eligible to use SDM can use CycleTel. IRH estimates that as many as 16 million Indian women are eligible to use CycleTel as their family planning method.
Where we are going
CycleTel was designed with and for our users. We worked with over 800 women in India to test, provide feedback, and help build the CycleTel system.With support from USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) and the UN Foundation’s mHealth Catalytic Grant Mechanism, we are working with a private sector partner in India to test a market-based business model and scale up the service nationwide.
CycleTel is currently available in Hindi, English, and Hinglish under the name ‘CycleTel Humsafar.’ In India, our distribution partners include Child Survival India (CSI), Prerana and Hindustan Latex Family Planning Promotion Trust (HLFPPT). The Indian Society of Health Professionals (ISHP) is our research partner, and Boring Brands and PR Mantra act as our marketing and social outreach partners.
Research into real-world use of the CycleTel product is ongoing and will be published as results emerge.
Register for CycleTel
For more information and to register for CycleTel in India, please visit cycletel.in or call 180018008000 for more information.
Partner with us
The CycleTel model is built on partnerships. If you would like to get involved or simply learn more, please contact Nicki Ashcroft at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are currently looking for:
Distribution partners: NGOs, health intermediaries, and microfinance organizations in India who want to provide clients with CycleTel as family planning tool
Mobile and telecommunications partners: Those interested in bringing CycleTel to customers, or adding CycleTel to a portfolio of mobile products
Investors: Passionate advisors and champions who want to help CycleTel succeed
Who we are
CycleTel has been conceptualized and developed by Georgetown University’s Institute for Reproductive Health (IRH). IRH addresses global reproductive health and family planning issues through a research-to-practice-to-scale agenda.
Our global team is passionate about improving the lives of women and girls though improved family planning options. Our team consists of entrepreneurs, researchers, technologists and family planning experts in India and Washington, DC.
Historically, CycleTel has been supported by USAID through the FAM and FACT projects, as well as through the UN Foundation’s mHealth Catalytic Grant Mechanism. Currently, we are fortunate to have the support of USAID through the Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) mechanism.
Ramya Kancharla, Country Coordinator
Himanshu Garg, Technical Officer
Quamar Zaman, Marketing Officer
History of CycleTel
Development of CycleTel started in 2010 with multiple stages of testing.
Proof-of-concept Testing (2010)
IRH completed a proof-of-concept testing in Lucknow and Delhi, India. The testing included the following three phases and results:
Phase 1— Focus Group Discussions: Seven focus group discussions—four with women, two with men, and one with couples, with approximately 54 participants total— yielded valuable findings about the potential interest in CycleTel and feedback on the service’s features.
Phase 2— Cognitive Interviews: The cognitive interviews were structured to verify message comprehension and finalize the message content.
Phase 3— Manual Testing: The last phase tested the service with actual users to contribute to product development. Participants were very satisfied with the method, felt that it improved their communication with their partner, and would have liked to continue using it if the service was available.
Interviews with women who tested CycleTel showed that:
Users liked CycleTel as a family planning method for its ease of use, convenience, and lack of side effects.
The majority felt it was easy to communicate with their partners about the unsafe days; about 70% of users showed their husbands CycleTel messages.
92% were very satisfied with CycleTel as a method to prevent pregnancy.
100% would recommend the service to others.
35% of participants called the helpline, and helpline calls decreased after one cycle of use.
86% said they would be willing to pay on average Rs. 33 per month for the CycleTel service, ranging from Rs. 15-400. (Note: sending one SMS in India costs less than Rs1.) Positive proof-of-concept results validated an investment in technology development for CycleTel.
Automated pilot testing (2011)
The purpose of the study was to ensure that the automated technology functioned properly with a higher volume of users, evaluate user experiences with the service and integrate user feedback before scaling the technology, test the feasibility of integrating the service with a fully-functioning family planning helpline, and develop processes to handle real-time data analysis and system monitoring. The study recruited 715 women to use CycleTel as a family planning method for two menstrual cycles of use. Overall, the automated testing was successful in (1) validating that the technology generally worked as expected, (2) integrating a helpline into the service, and (3) determining processes for monitoring the service.
The Market Validation Testing (2013)
Testing to focus on marketing, testing, selling and collecting data on the engagement and conversion process of a market of 7,500 potential customers by running a “high-touch” field engagement model along with follow up and engagement through customer call center, to better track leads and conversions for CyceTel.
In the News
- CycleTel Humsafar launch event in India a success
- New Innovation Grantees, including IRH’s CycleTel™, Aim to Reach 4.5 Million with Mobile Health Services for Reproductive, Maternal and Child Health, mHealth Alliance
- The Virtual Middle Class Rises, New York Times
- mPowering Women and Girls, Forbes
- Same Same…but Different: Learning from Sustainable mHealth Innovations
- Imagining Mobile Enabled Family Planning for Women in India
- 7 Dos and Don’ts for Sustainability in Innovation
- Finding the Common Language between Public-Private Partnerships
- [Global mHealth Initiative] CycleTel™: Bringing a market-based mindset to mHealth
- CycleTel – Effective Family Planning via Mobile Phones
- Family Planning through mobile phones in India: CycleTel™
- Putting Mobile Communications to Work
- CycleTel Research & Review Update
- mHealth Forum Poster (2013)
- Fertility Awareness & Family Planning via SMS in India (mHealth conference 2015)
- Presentation 2016, International Conference on Family Planning