Industrialist Ratan Tata launched India's companionship startup for senior citizens, Goodfellows, in a bid to encourage intergenerational friendships.
Shantanu Naidu, an MBA from Cornell University, founded the Goodfellows startup. The 28-year-old is a General Manager at Mr Tata's office and is the fifth generation of his family to work in the Tata Group.
At the launch of Goodfellows, Ratan Tata said, "You do not know what it is like to be lonely until you spend time alone wishing for companionship."
The startup appoints young graduates, 'Goodfellows', who help in assisting the senior citizens and provide companionship, "similar to what a grandkid would do"
With 15 million elderlies in India living alone, either due to the loss of a partner, or families moving away for unavoidable work reasons, many of them have caregivers but the issue of loneliness or lack of company has been the primary reason for deteriorating mental and physical health.
The business model of Goodfellows is a freemium subscription model. The first month is free with the goal of having the senior citizen experience the service since it's hard to understand the concept without actually going through it. From the second month onward, a small subscription fee has been decided based on the limited affordability of pensioners.
Shantanu Naidu said "The start-up emphasises that companionship means different things to different people. To some, it may mean watching a movie, narrating stories from the past, going on a walk or having quiet company sitting around doing nothing together, and we are here to accommodate it all. In its beta phase, we discovered how organically the Grandpals bonded with the Goodfellows. Mr Tata's investment in our venture further is a huge source of encouragement to our dedication to this concept."
Talking about the model, the startup said a subscription model guarantees that when the senior citizens bond with their companions, they do not keep rotating the graduate visiting them since that does not allow enough time or emotional attention to form a real bond. "When we make a friend, we want to see the same friend often. A new person every time will prevent this from happening," the company explained.
Commenting on the investment, Ratan Tata, Chairman Emeritus of Tata Sons said "The bonds between the two generations created by Goodfellows are very meaningful and are helping to address an important social issue In India. I hope the investment helps the young team at Goodfellows grow."
In the future, Goodfellows plans to offer travel companions for seniors holding back from making trips due to lack of security or company, and also plans to extend its services to people with a disability facing similar or more challenges.