When I separately told two of my entrepreneur friends about the benefit of voice skills of Amazon Alexa and Google Voice, they both responded with the same statement: “Wait, what you’re telling me sounds like insider trading secrets.” They realized I was onto something, but it almost sounded as if I was giving them an unfair advantage in the market. I have always been one to think outside of the box, but this time they realized, it was different.
As unique as this information was, my journey to this point is even more interesting. I’m a dentist who has been practicing for many years and appreciates the power of women. I’m grateful for the opportunity to tell the DeW community my story. I’m Chithra Durgam, a general dentist who grew up in Colorado and slowly inched her way east over time. I wanted to live in a competitive market that would test my skillset, so I began a dental practice in North Bergen, N.J., 16 years ago. My office, Aesthetic Dental, caters to NFL players, UFC fighters, and some of the kindest patients. I have been featured by 201 Magazine’s “Best of Bergen” issue, Good Day New York, Fox 5 News, NBC News and other media outlets. However, my biggest achievement is the genuine appreciation I receive from patients. Those gestures always stay with me and are the reason I keep going every day.
Helping the community and improving access to dental care has always been at the forefront for me. My parents always donated money and time to help worthwhile causes, which continues to be a source of strong inspiration. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I provided presents to children through the local fire department, gave tablets to foster children so they could interact with their parents and provided free COVID-19 kits to shelters. Every year, we provide mouthguards to the Snoop Dogg Special Youth Flyers League for special needs children. Acts of kindness can be so powerful and change the trajectory of a child’s life. I hope to continue to impact children in a positive way with my expertise.
From spotlighting charities on TikTok to documenting my work at Aesthetic Dental, social media has played a key role in being able to help others. My interest in connecting with my community and personal branding paid off, as I started doing videos on Musical.ly, which then became TikTok. I eventually was featured in the No. 1 NY Times Bestseller, Crushing It, by Gary Vaynerchuk for my innovative use of social media. My social media work dramatically increased my connection with patients, helped boost team morale and increased the number of patients at our office. I realized that many were looking to make their videos viral and increase their following, but some overlooked their community. I felt there was a need for helping others with brand strategy in achieving specific goals. With more personal brand awareness, I received requests from other dentists to help them with their social media work.
Because brand strategy is extremely important, I have spent the past three years researching voice ever since my son decided to purchase an Echo Dot for Christmas. I still have the list he wrote with the price of the Echo Dot. As I engaged with the device, I saw the potential to save me time in my daily life. At that point, the devices were so big and bulky, even without screens. Now, they have evolved to multimodal devices showcasing audio, photo and video.
When COVID-19 arrived in the US, the acceleration of voice assistant adoption in households increased. With more consumers looking for touchless interactions, I realized my background in branding could integrate seamlessly with voice. Voice search, similar to searching on the internet, allows personal and business brands to stand out in a crowded world, develop geotargeted marketing and develop an interactive, dynamic experience. As a business owner, if you are the first on voice, you dramatically increase your chance of capturing your local market. Just like when the internet started, the ubiquity of voice will be dramatic. I was hooked.
With brand strategy being my speciality, voice skills naturally lead to the development of the “Dr. Durgam Experience” on Amazon Alexa. Patients, dental students and those interested in my work can learn more about me. The experience of creating this skill allowed me to help others interested in developing their personal and business brand. I am currently working with celebrities, dentists, real estate agents, authors and other businesses to amplify their voice brand, sell merchandise and monetize their digital products as a Co-Founder of Local Vocal, a voice branding company.
Over time, I started doing more research on the future of communication platforms and strongly believe voice skills are the future. I was recently featured as the keynote speaker at the Voice of Healthcare Summit and was a speaker at the Voice Summit and Voice of Branding Summit. I’m also going to be featured in a forthcoming book by Dr. Matt Cybulsky of The Voice of Healthcare Podcast, which profiles different entrepreneurs.
As my work increases, I realized I want to develop stronger relationships with the pre-dental and dental community. I’m continuing to develop modules within voice that will help students prepare for eventual private practice or employment. I want to use my experience to help others avoid the pitfalls I encountered. Much of my work with voice will be centered around helping dental practices and improving education.
Many ask how did a girl from Colorado on the debate team who then studied at Northwestern University Dental School and then began her dental practice in New Jersey, end up becoming a leader in voice, I actually reply, “I’m the sum of my experiences.” Everything I have done since studying history in college to being on television to creating TikToks has prepared me for this moment. I’m always open-minded and curious about the world, and I don’t limit myself to my title. Eventually, I hope I’m able to use my talents and expertise to help others without access to medical and dental care through foundation work. At that point, I will feel successful. I’m excited about the possibilities of the future, because I’m just getting started.