Arjun Panesar, Co-Founder

Coventry, UK
Arjun at a conference. Some of Arjun's teammates.
Making an impact

When Arjun Panesar’s grandfather was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, he wasn’t sure what to do next. What was the ideal diet? Could he still eat the food he loved while managing his condition? Arjun didn’t have many answers, so he quickly coded up a forum for people with diabetes to discuss their lifestyles.

The forum took off pretty quickly, reaching 40,000 members. The team released a free diabetes-friendly cookbook that was downloaded 257,000 times in the first four weeks. With strong feedback and engagement from the community, Arjun decided to launch a comprehensive website: diabetes.co.uk.

“Our goal from the beginning was to empower people with diabetes to lead healthier, happier lives,” says Arjun. And in order to realize that mission, Arjun partnered with medical professionals to create a structured program, called the Low Carb Program, which would reduce intake of ultra-processed foods and refined carbohydrates and increase the share of real foods in the diets of people with Type 2 diabetes.

“Our users were aware that they could control their diabetes, but at that time there was so much conflicting information on the internet,” says Arjun. “We wanted to be a single source of truth for people, drawing on surveys from our user community as well as research from actual doctors.”

Soon stories started pouring in from users who had used the Low Carb Program to change their lives. One man who had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 1997 was able to reverse his diabetes in just six months thanks to the program.

The site wasn’t just growing quickly — it was also having a genuine impact on people’s health outcomes. Now it was time for Arjun to figure out how to make the site’s impact sustainable, while keeping this valuable content accessible to the large, diverse community of people with diabetes.

Arjun with his grandfather.
Valuable resources — entirely free

Arjun and his team were generating consistent traffic from an engaged audience, now receiving one million visitors each month. And increasingly they were reaching users outside the UK, in the United States, and Canada. The basic traffic management system they were using at the time to manage ads didn’t export outside of the UK and EU — so they needed a new option.

They turned to Google. While they were initially intimidated by Google AdSense, assuming it was complex and had a steep learning curve, they were relieved to be wrong. “Google AdSense is really easy to use and the reporting is very comprehensive,” says Arjun. “We also use Google Ad Manager now to run our direct campaigns and provide real-time inventory information.”

Now they were able to capitalize on the 45% of their site traffic that was coming from outside the UK. And crucially, they were able to keep their content free.

“We realize this is important content for people — offering information they might not have access to from a clinician — so we want to build trust with our users and deepen our relationship with them by offering free ad-supported content in an engaging way,” Arjun says.

A diabetes informational table.
Creating a rich site experience

When Arjun and his team generate revenue from their ad-supported model, the question is always the same: how can we use this income to further our mission of empowering the diabetes community?

First, they’ve been able to hire staff who are able to improve the quality of content on their site. “We’ve used our ad revenue to reinvest in the business, we now have five employees who moderate the forum, create and review written content, and film videos for the site’s YouTube channel,” says Arjun.

“We had all this video content that we were really investing time and resources in,” says Arjun. “Incorporating ads into this video content was a really useful way for us to monetize traffic from users who are watching these videos and need the information but might not want to purchase anything from our site.”

Additionally, this inclusion of video also creates a richer experience for users, keeping them on the site longer — and increasing their exposure to display ads. “We really see our content and media strategies as symbiotic,” says Arjun. “Ads help us ensure both of these parts of our site are generating revenue without ever taking away from the strength of our content.”

“Ads help us ensure both parts of our site are generating revenue without ever taking away from the strength of our content.”
Changing lifestyles, changing lives

Arjun is proud of what his little forum has turned into over the years. “We receive over one million visitors a month and have one of the world’s most engaged diabetes communities on Facebook based on engagement data,” he says. “Our programmes are also NHS-endorsed and accredited by major healthcare bodies.” The Low Carb Program has now been accessed by 480,000 people and has supported over 125,000 people to reverse their type 2 diabetes.

“The Diabetes Forum has been the focus point of a number of research studies, which have shown that it helps people feel more empowered and confident in managing their diabetes,” says Arjun.

Naturally, Arjun’s goal is getting the website’s message out to as many people as possible. A recent launch of a specialist weight management platform, Gro Health, in Australia is especially exciting, as Australian healthcare groups embed some of the organization's resources into their healthcare system.

They’re also offering more resources aimed at children, helping young people with diabetes access the health resources they need. “We’re updating our kids’ section, which for now is quite static and text-based, and trying to make it more multimedia and interactive,” says Arjun.

The world of diabetes is always changing. Revolutionary drugs like semaglutide are coming onto the market and could drastically improve outcomes for people with diabetes. But as the new drugs emerge, it’s more important than ever for people to have places to discuss life on these new medications and potential side effects.

“It’s an exciting time. This was a disease that fairly recently people assumed was chronic and progressive,” says Arjun. “The fear and anxiety around this disease can take a toll on the psyche, so I’m proud that our site is a place for people with diabetes to make friends going through the same thing and access valuable information that gives them hope.”

About the Publisher

Arjun is the founder of Diabetes.co.uk. It was during the first year of his undergraduate Master's degree in Computing and Artificial Intelligence (AI) at Imperial College, London that his grandfather, Anupam, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes after suffering a quadruple heart bypass. Not knowing how to manage his lifestyle in a way that suited his cultural and social expectations, Anupam asked Arjun for guidance on what to eat and Diabetes.co.uk was founded. Today, Arjun has two decades' experience in big data and AI and leads the development of DDM Health's precision digital health solutions. Arjun is an author on the topics of healthcare and AI, advisor to the Information School, University of Sheffield, Honorary Scholar at University of Warwick, and was recognised by Imperial College as an Emerging Alumni Leader in 2020 for his contribution and impact to healthcare.