Companies

Older, wiser and a mega market on their own

Jessu John | Updated on January 20, 2018

Golden age: Seniorworld founder Rahul Gupta;

Goodhands founder and CEO Manu Raman

Care24 co-founder and CEO Vipin Pathak

Senior citizens are a distinct market segment, as a handful of start-ups have discovered



While India has enviable demographics — with a vast population of youngsters contributing to the economy — the ageing population is no lesser. According to the latest Census, the nation has some 90 million seniors. And while the ‘young’ may range from 35 to 50 years, most in that age bracket have busy professional lives, with older folks to take care of.

The Indian middleclass has a teeming population of retired elderly people who want to be independent, while the generation after them leads an ambitious work life. For some start-ups, this represents a huge business opportunity.

The country’s seniors constitute a market waiting to be tapped.

Often, a start-up’s business idea is rooted in a challenge that entrepreneurs themselves have faced. Rahul Gupta, founder of Seniorworld.com, has parents who are in their 80s.

“Older people have been something of a forgotten demographic and the market for them in India is largely lacking in players that have something unique to offer,” said Gupta.

Since kicking off operations in December 2014, Seniorworld.com has launched, and refined, its first product for its target consumers — the easyfone. The company calls it “the most senior-friendly feature phone”.

From the size of the dialling keys to a font size that enables accurate reading of messages, and a simple cradle charger that doesn’t need to be plugged in, easyfone is designed with the elderly in mind. The company says the product is emerging as a gifting option for aged parents and grandparents.

For older people who are largely fit, leisure, learning and enjoying the company of others are important. Seniorworld.com aims to create and deliver content as well as other products and services for this segment.

It is actively looking at launching an adaptive clothing line for seniors as well as providing them with part-time work options. Teaching them to use Facebook and Skype, and helping them with online shopping are among its other initiatives.

Large canvas

Manu Raman, founder and CEO, Goodhands, observed that the traditional dependent model, where the family cares for ageing parents, as well as older social structures have been getting weaker.

“I looked at the healthcare market in India, and then at the population of old people here. It occurred to me that there is space for a facilitator in the space of senior care,” he said. Vipin Pathak, co-founder and CEO of Care24, echoed that sentiment. “There’s hardly any support available for the care of the elderly. We got into business to provide that care,” he said. According to him, more than a lakh people are bedridden in Mumbai alone, and 5-6 lakh people need some kind of home care.

Like Seniorworld.com, Goodhands is self-funded. Goodhands, which began operations in August 2015, offers a range of services — emergency care, healthcare, everyday conveniences and social engagements.

“Young people, working professionals can register their parents on our app. We’re creating the equivalent of web commerce there... the platform is able to address the requirements of seniors through a hi-touch and hi-tech model… we’re aiming to create transformational senior experiences,” said Raman of Goodhands.

The Goodhands app helps an individual to remotely monitor an elderly family member, as well as get status updates from the emergency response team in a medical emergency. His company has tied up with Manipal Hospitals’ Manipal Ambulance Response Service to complement the Goodhands Personal Emergency Response System.

Long-term prospects

Some reports estimate the elder care industry in India at ₹ 20,000 crore ($3 billion), and growing at a CAGR of 20 per cent.

Care24 currently provides home care with its own staff. It also sources caregivers from the market after an exhaustive verification process, and gives them training in technical and soft skills. In time, the company will include value-added services and critical care, even ICU at home, and procedures like dialysis. Pathak has decided to grow operations in Mumbai before heading elsewhere.

Fund-raising

“We’ll definitely look for more funding, perhaps towards the end of 2016. That will be to help us scale up and undertake a pan-India expansion,” he said. The company has raised seed funding followed by a Series A round.

Seniorworld.com’s Gupta plans to add services like estate planning and will-writing for seniors. He’s also hoping to see reverse mortgage take off in India as a concept so that older people can have more liquidity. He’s aiming for Seniorworld.com to rake in ₹5 crore a month in revenues by the end of the year.

Raman of Goodhands is looking to provide more on-demand services to seniors, with membership plans. The segment is also ready for the more experienced start-ups. From taxi rental brands like Ola to e-commerce majors like Flipkart and Snapdeal, and companies in the sectors of education, hyperlocal grocery and even travel, many can reap rich rewards from catering to senior citizens.

Published on March 28, 2016

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