Over the last two years, Longevity Hub has touched upon different facets of wealth, finance, planning and risks associated with longer lifespans.
In continuation of these efforts, the Hub has partnered with Fintech4Longevity Academy, the world’s leading online independent network for aging and longevity leaders, to offer India’s first Masterclass on the Business of Ageing.
The one-hour (free) masterclass will provide a bird’s eye view of the global longevity ecosystem, leading innovations in the space and the business of ageing in India. The session may be relevant for working professionals, researchers, investors and entrepreneurs keen to know more about this rapidly evolving market.
The Future of Ageing newsletter brings you news, stories and trends from the silver economy in India, in a short, easy-to-read format. Businesses, brands, investors, startups, researchers and analysts following this space are likely to find it interesting.
Hub:Link is an initiative to showcase a new product, program or initiative that can have a positive impact on longevity.
Over the last couple of years, I have had the opportunity to interact with entrepreneurs and business leaders building products that can have a positive impact on ageing, and prepare us for a longevity future. Some of these solutions do not reach a wider audience, and moreover, people that could potentially benefit, often never hear about them.
The first product featured is Samvedna’s recently launched MAP tool.
Pensions, market-linked insurance schemes and retirement plans cover a small subset of the population in India. For millions of elders, Government social protection programs and family support continue to be the lifelines, and keep them away from old age poverty.
Do we truly understand the multi-dimensionality of the longevity challenge?
What are the financial and social costs of longevity?
Are our social protection schemes addressing more contemporary needs?
Have pension reforms been meaningful in the Indian context?
In this essay, I look at the Indian experience and pension reforms from the lens of accumalating longevity risks.
The Silver Angels newsletter brings you news, stories and trends from the silver economy in India, in a short, easy-to-read format. Businesses, brands, investors, startups, researchers and analysts following this space are likely to find it interesting.
Neeraj Sagar is the founder and CEO of WisdomCircle. Launched in January 2022, WisdomCircle.com is building a technology enabled marketplace for people to find meaningful things to do post-retirement. Although currently focused on India, Neeraj aims to build WisdomCircle into a global company, and has assembled a team of 16 people to join this mission. Conceptualized during the pandemic, Neeraj attracted lots of early supporters to join this journey including anearly stage venture capital firm, and got the ball rolling on WisdomCircle early this year.
Neeraj is a seasoned executive and has worked with some of the most sought after firms in the world. Until recently, Neeraj was senior partner at Egon Zehnder, a reputed global executive search firm. He has also worked with McKinsey and BCG prior to that. An alum of Stanford University and University of Chicago, Neeraj is also the co-president of Stanford Angels and Entrepreneurs in India, and has been working closely with the startup ecosystem for many years.
This interview has two stories – one of Neeraj’s personal transition from a corporate leader to first-time entrepreneur, and WisdomCircle’s mission to build a platform for retirees to stay engaged and contribute their skills to business and society, at the pace they want.
Neeraj, one of the things I remember from our first conversation was funny personal anecdotes about early greying. Can you take us through your journey from the first grey hairs to WisdomCircle?
Mahesh, I greyed very early and used to colour my hair for many years. I decided to stop colouring about 8 years ago, and when I stopped, I realized ALL of my hair had gone white. Suddenly I started getting treated very differently. I would always get discounts at pharmacies before my even asking, a seat on the bus at the airport, and special lines for seniors that I would be ushered into. I had mixed feelings as this was happening: I was feeling good about the respect I was getting but started feeling that I was nearing the end of my professional line in the way people looked at me. I remember one of my colleagues, who was five years older than I was, asking me how many years I had to retirement.
In a way, I started getting a sense of what it feels like to be looked at and treated as old. While this was happening, a lot of people who were retiring would come to me for advice on what they should do once they retired.
You turned 50 last year, were a senior executive in a reputed firm, and had a lot going on professionally, and quite likely, financially. Yet, you chose to turn entrepreneurial fulltime. What was the decision-making process like? When did transition begin for you?
The pandemic got me thinking quite seriously about my purpose. Having seen what happened during the pandemic also got me to realize how short life can be, and this idea that I will do something entrepreneurial ‘one-day’ was getting pushed out. A lot of my close friends had seen my lifestyle of continuous travel, always ‘on’, and started edging me to try and do something bigger and more purposeful. This coupled with a 100% support from my family to do what I want to do – and them telling me that they have got my back – well that pretty much got me to make up my mind that I had to do this and do it now.
I have also been studying the subject of aging and longevity for the last 4 years and I must have read about 25 books on the subject, interacted with many people in the space around the world, taken courses on things such as Cognitive Brain Health, Epigenetics, AgeTech, etc and I just knew this is the ecosystem I need to be a part of for the rest of my life, and do my bit.
I must say I had many many more people cheering me to do this, than the cautionary tales that were coming my way.
Neeraj’s decision making process
Urge to do something bigger and more purposeful
Decide to pursue entrepreneurship as the vehicle
Engage with family openly and plan ahead
Invest time in understanding the ecosystem and subject
Exit current role with mutual respect and support
Find early supporters to write a check
Get cracking on the challenge – learn, unlearn, learn…
Entrepreneurship is tied to risks, and comes with the possibility of failure. For somebody that was embedded deeply in the professional world until recently, how did this transition play out? How did you prepare yourself?
You know the first thing me and my wife did was that we sat down and did our financial calculations, looked at our debt, and spoke to our children.
Then I spoke to my younger brother, who is a doctor, and essentially told me ‘go ahead bhaiya and do what you have to do, and don’t worry, I make enough and if something doesn’t go as planned, I am there’.
On top of this, my firm where I was – Egon Zehnder – also told me that I could come back anytime I wanted to. And then all my friends started reaching out saying they want to invest in my company. When I thought of all of this as a collective, I just felt blessed and I told myself – if not now, when?
You are attempting something very interesting, to bring the wisdom of retirees to the workforce, and you even have a name for them – WisGen (aka the Wisdom Generation). Where does WisdomCircle fit in their lives? Are we talking full-time and part-time jobs? Or is it much more than that?
Mahesh, we use the term #RetiringRetirement sometimes in our posts on Linkedin. What we are trying to solve for is – people working for as long as they want to work, at the pace they want to.
Our mascot is a Turtle. Remember the story of the Hare and the Tortoise that most of us read when we were young? I tell people, we are solving for the Tortoise and not the Hare. The Tortoise lives longer, is wiser, and operates at the pace it wants.
Our purpose is much more than that. What we stand for, and where we fit in the world is – doing our bit to reduce the rate of cognitive decline in the world, so we can help reduce the rates of Depression, Dementia, Alzheimer’s etc.
When we started the first thing we did was we spoke to hundreds of people who had retired or were thinking of retirement to really understand the problem.
Quotes that stood out..
"There is a general feeling that retirees are expendable resources that have run their course"
"You slowly become invisible as you age"
"How do I fill the empty space"
"A source of income makes all the difference on how a retiree is treated"
"I am retired but I am not old"
"If I work, nobody should put pressure on me"
"I won’t work for anyone now, I work for myself"
"I do not want to be a liability to anyone"
"Out of sight, out of mind"
"I do not want to look at the clock and run anymore"
"In India we like permanency, in our jobs, in our marriage, in our house.. But retirement disrupts that."
We are talking primarily of part-time gigs that range from a few months to say a year or two, that accommodate people wanting to work say 2 hours/day or 2-3 days/week, ie at a pace that suits them.
Join Now: One Million Teachers and Mentors
A lot of people want to teach and use that as a way of giving back and sharing their wisdom, but do not know how to go about it. Incidentally we recently launched an initiative called ‘One Million Teachers and Mentors’, where we want to create a million teachers of retirees, and then some.
We also have a dedicated team focusing on the retirees from the Armed Forces to help them find meaningful roles that suit their real skills, and not just administration or security as most tend to look at this pool for today. The skill sets of retires from the Armed Forces is barely understood by the civilian world, and we want to change that to help our Faujis.
Let us talk about jobs. You launched early this year, with a 7-minute survey form, to invite folks to sign up for potential opportunities. On the other end, you have been busy building out the demand pipeline. Any insights to share at this point? How do you plan to use tech at enable this process?
Demand creation is one of the biggest challenges why people have not been able to come up with solutions yet. Specially in our country where everyone is thinking primarily about younger people, the retirees have not been given the focus.
Interestingly we are finding that demand absolutely exists but needs to be unearthed. We are working on this and have already had very good successes, if you see the roles on our platform, with many more to come. The one question we ask for creating demand in organizations is: “Tell us about a problem you want to solve for which you either do not have resources (people), or the skills”.
Other than teaching roles which I talked about earlier, we are also approaching demand creation in a structured way in the non-profit sector, which can benefit immensely from this Wisdom pool that exists.
On Technology, well the answer is simple, this is the single most important piece that will allow us to be a product company vs a services company. We want to impact millions of people and there is no way we can do that as a services business, so Technology is absolutely the key. We are further refining our product and we will continue evolving as we go along and learn. We have a rockstar tech-lead and are continuing to invest in building a world-class tech team. The work we are doing in Tech is something we will share with everyone at the right time.
Can you share a bit more about your team, and also, the culture you are attempting to build at WisdomCircle? What are some of these experiments?
When we started the company, we started by hiring interns, and hired 12 interns from Ashoka University. The research interviews were all conducted by them, and the depth of insight we have today is from the work that they diligently and collectively did.
We have an amazing set of individuals who have come together. Every single person in our team has someone in their immediate family who has gone through retirement and therefore understand the problem. Incidentally some of our parents are also helping us test our product to check if it resonates with them, and are deeply involved in helping us craft the solutions.
I am so proud of the team we have been able to build so quickly and every single one of them is special. Every person on our team was known to someone and we just reached out and asked them to join us in our journey, and they agreed, for which I am very grateful. We also have hired retirees in our team, and they are outstanding in terms of their commitment, their advise, and their care – thus reinforcing to us what we are trying to do for others.
We do not have an office, our teams are distributed across cities, but we all meet face-to-face at least once a week in Bangalore in a co-working space, with the others who cannot make it in person joining over Zoom. People can work from wherever they like. The one rule we have is that if there are three or more people working together, food is on the house.
We continue to experiment with different ideas on how to support the WisGen, but our current focus is very clear – we want to play our part in assisting them find meaningful ways to continue contributing to the world. We want to be the largest and most trusted platform for retirees in the world.
If I am WisGen, somebody that has retired, how do I prepare myself to re-enter the workforce? How can WisdomCircle help in this journey?
As of now, please visit our website at www.WisdomCircle.com and sign up for early access, so you can see the roles we have listed which we will continue to add to.
We are also in the process of updating our website, as well as strengthening our tech product. You will hear much more about us over the next few months.
Rustam Sengupta is a serial entrepreneur who is extremely passionate about senior care technology, climate change and renewable energy – and wears multiple hats. He is the founder and CEO of Tuktu Care, an on-demand marketplace that connects aging adults to local providers and companions, in Canada.
Prior to starting Tuktu, Rustam worked as a Director with Canada’s leading clean tech funding organizations (SDTC), and Adjunct Professor at the University of British Columbia. Before moving to Canada, he was a successful entrepreneur who created one of Asia’s fastest growing solar mini-grid companies (www.boond.net). Rustam is an MBA from INSEAD and started his career in finance with Standard Chartered and Deloitte.
Tuktu brings new tech to an old industry. Started in the Vancouver area, Rustam and his team have established a working model that has the potential to scale across the region, and elsewhere. Apart from generously sharing his experience and thoughts, Rustam believes in the importance of communities as stakeholders in Tuktu’s evolution.
Rustam, so glad we get to connect again a bit more formally. When our paths crossed more than a decade ago, you were setting up micro-grids and solar rooftops in rural India. Fast forward 2021, you founded Tuktu in Canada, to solve challenges faced by older adults. Tell us a bit of the Tuktu backstory and what it does.
Thanks, Mahesh, for reaching out to me. It’s always a pleasure speaking with you.
As you mentioned, my first entrepreneurial venture was Boond – one of India’s first solar mini-grid companies and that experience gave me the chance to make an impact firsthand and understand how we can create business that do good while making money. Today Boond has over 20MW under its belt and employs so many people that I feel proud and satisfied.
I moved to Canada in 2016 as my wife wanted to pursue her PhD at UBC. Being outside India, I think about my parents a lot, and also realized how sending money and planning those occasional trips to India were not enough. As any kid of my generation, I feel the urge to do more. My parents are super independent and have led a very active life, so watching them struggle for small things – like setting up the computer or zoom to talk to their grandkids, going to the hospital or the temple or helping with documents etc. was very painful for me. I realized they didn’t want full time physical care but more companionship – people who they can trust and who can help out on demand – just like family.
Healthcare, on a broader level, has seen amazing innovations (and increased access) and thus my focus was on building a support ecosystem, something than can make their life easy, convenient and joyful. I decided to jump in and explore if I can do anything about it. I looked at many companies and innovations in the west and in India and came up with Tuktu. In a way, it emerged out of trying to solve for something in my personal journey as an adult with aging parents.
Tuktu today is a reality, and I am proud that we are a mission-driven company and solving for a problem that matters today, and more so in the future.
At a basic level, we connect family and friends interested in supporting the needs of their aging loved ones to their neighbors for lifestyle support needs – like grocery runs, light housekeeping, rides, gardening, kitchen assistance, technology help and companionship. We emphasize security, and ease of use, and employ an intelligent matchmaking algorithm to ensure a smooth, safe, and happy engagement while providing families with a better understanding of our users’ needs and challenges. Our goal is to provide care and peace of mind with a support platform that allows care recipients to live in their own homes and lead a fulfilling life for as long as possible.
Recently Ratan Tata invested in a companionship-focused startup in India, and obviously the news received a lot of attention. I personally find Tuktu quite fascinating and unique as it solves for the care problem in a smart way – a combination of technology, local community participation and personalized services – with a model that can scale. Can you tell us about Tuktu’s services, and how they have evolved since you started?
Given our global and collective experience over the last two years, there are two core human elements that came to the forefront – one, social bonds, be it friends, family or community, are as important as any other; and two, there are some amazing folks willing to go the extra mile to make others’ lives better. Even with travel restrictions and such, there is a shared understanding among people across boundaries, and this reset in our otherwise busy and fast-paced lives, attracted people to Tuktu. While I hope humanity doesn’t go through such a crisis again, we have an opportunity to build new models of care and companionship.
We started with a few essential services that we got from our customer discovery. For example, driving and picking up people from the hospital or being with them during these visits is very high on the list. You can imagine the relief that a person like me or you would get if we knew that someone is present with our parents when they go to the doctor. Technology help was another big one as we realized that most people wanted to connect to their loved ones far away. Similarly, simple things like cooking together or housekeeping also came into the services we started offering. All these are things that you would do with a family member or a trusted companion assembled together bottom up.
We do a very good background check, train people on how to engage empathetically with older adults and take care of the whole process from booking the time to making the payment.
The matching problem is one many technology companies try to solve, be it college admissions, jobs or dating. In the case of Tuktu, how do you ensure you match the right people to provide such services? What are some lessons here?
We realized that the quality of the engagement or companionship was very linked to the match. You can appreciate how diverse we are and hence for older adults, finding someone who speaks the same language or has similar cultural traits or maybe went to the same college is a very big deal.
So at Tuktu, we have prioritized our technology and processes to ensure that the match is as close as possible. We identified 24 parameters that make a perfect match – ranging from demographic things like gender, language, culture, educational background etc. to character traits like preference for punctuality, reticence etc. that we can use.
Right now, we use a smaller subset but we are already seeing results. For example, we had an older gentleman here who worked in the army and spoke a particular language. We gave him a companion for his walks using our matchmaking who had a similar background and spoke the same language and we noticed a strong customer satisfaction. I guess this is quite obvious but for us it was a hypothesis that we proved technically and now have started to have data to support our claim. But its not enough.
Beyond (just) matching
“Since humans are so diverse – we really need a lot of data to make this intelligent or get an AI based model to do it adequately. Also, we realize that while the match can be made by a system, we still need people to get trained on empathy and care so that they can provide the best support. So with safety and familiarity – we need lots of empathy too. All three are necessary.”
Rustam Sengupta, Tuktu Care
Would it be okay to say Tuktu is modeled like Shopify, for Companionship? For example, if I had a small outfit running services for older adults in my locality, could I use your platform to build out a smart way to fulfill those services? What would I need to ensure for that?
Absolutely! That is our goal. To overcome a big challenge like this – we need to think ‘ecosystem’ and not just one’s own company. Our platform is for anyone who wants to improve the care ecosystem of older adults. Wherever you may be, individual or company – you can use the Tuktu platform to bring in those you care for and also your network of companions. We will manage the scheduling, background checks, matchmaking and all the other support services – so that you can concentrate on what is most important – customer service and care.
We want to partner with anyone and just like Shopify, we can have you up and running within no time. For example, in Vancouver, we work with the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church who use the Tuktu platform to connect their parishioners to the community.
The seniorcare industry, if I were to call it, has been in existence for a long time with non-profits, religious institutions, social enterprises and public funded programs. How would you say your team at Tuktu is different from your previous ventures and associations? What part of the business challeges you personally?
The timing for Tuktu and other agetech players is just right. Technology has come to a point when we are really making a difference now. And the problem is also huge – by 2030, nearly a billion people will be over 65 and we don’t have the infrastructure to manage that. Also, the healthcare industry has done miracles so people are living longer – nearly 25-30 years post retirement. So its time.
Tuktu is very different for me since its solving my own problem and everyone associated with us – our customers, investors, advisors, friends – all face the same problem. The value proposition is clear.
The challenge that keeps me up at night is ‘quality’. How do we ensure that as we scale and reach more communities, the quality of the service stays high and continues to be safe. I think this will be where you will see us innovating and working hard over the next few years – building stronger training and smarter safety nets. We want older adults to not just make it through their silver journey but we want them to thrive and enjoy.
You have built a product ground-up, established product-market fit, raised capital to support the early journey, got a great bunch of folks together on the team, and most importantly, serve happy customers. What’s in store for the year ahead?
This is just the tip of the iceberg and we have so much more to do. We need to get to more people and expand our impact. And like every startup with an ambition, we need more capital.
This is an unconventional field so it may not be for the everyday investor and better suited to those who see the big picture and play the long game. We have a lot more building to do on the product side, for example, creating capabilities to support inter-city or inter-country networks. This will allow for people siting in one country to support their older loved ones across the globe without having to worry for safety, quality and convenience.
The current team is exceptional and we need more people…smart and committed people who want to change how we build for care. Its not going to be easy but every customer I serve, inspires me. Those aging right now have done so much for us so its imperative that we create institutions like Tuktu for them.
Quick question. When can we see Tuktu in India?
Next year. We will be launching our partner onboarding programs and an individual or entity, regardless of the size and type, can find in us a safe, simple and efficient platform to build on their care services. Having the building blocks in place to get there is definitely on top of my list.
You mentioned about community funding for your business, and that was quite interesting. What is it? Why is it important to you?
We are creating communities that care so its important that we include the community as co-owners and in strategic decision making as we evolve the company. This is important for me as I want to give back to the community and have decided to earmark 10% of our equity ownership to the crowdfunding campaign underway and allocate one board seat for that.
You see crowdfunding is for guys like us – our customers, our employees, friends, well wishers and those who are passionate to make the lives of our older adults better. We want everyone to have a part in this movement and as we grow, we want them to feel that they made a difference too, irrespective of how much they can invest.
I am lucky that I get to do this full time but for those who can’t – they can join our crowdfunding and become co-owners and guide me.
Tuktu Crowdfunding Campaign
The crowdfunding site link will be up in mid-September. However, if you would like more details, you can reach out to Rustam on his email – email@example.com.
Visit www.tuktu.ca to know more and check out the video below.
Ratan Tata is one of India’s most respected personalities, a business icon, and needs very little introduction really. Naturally, his recent investment in an intergenerational companionship startup got a lot of attention.
When somebody like Mr Tata speaks about loneliness and how it is a social issue to be addressed, it draws attention from a wider cross section of people.
Shifts in our way of life (migration, nuclearization of families, urbanisation, etc) and ill conceived habitations continue to impact social bonds, even making them toxic sometimes. Our cities and large towns provide density, which is quite important to reduce social isolation, however, they are unable to fully capture the intergenerational benefits of previous generations, and provide a safe and supportive environment overall.
Loneliness and isolation among older adults were heightened during the pandemic, and many initiatives sprung up to create community-level support. Senior citizen welfare organizations, and informal hobby and inclusive interest groups (walking group, book reading group, etc) in the neighborhood are spaces that provide opportunities to build bonds. On the other hand, (silver economy) startups like Silver Talkies, Evergreen Club, Easy Hai and Khyaal are building community based models by engaging mature adults through various activities and programs, and using technology to create digital communities.
Intergenerational companionship can take many forms, and doesn’t need to be limited to support activities of daily living (ADLs). It can be a two-way street where both sides benefit from such friendships and bonds. Individuals can choose to be listening companions, intellectual companions, sparring companions, learning companions, travel companions or creative companions.
Mr Tata’s words have helped gather steam around the issue of loneliness among older adults, and the need to foster intergenerational bonds to reduce isolation.
Serena Williams, one of the greatest tennis players of all time, recently announced her retirement from professional tennis. Interestingly, the winner of 23 Grand Slam tennis tournaments, had this to say,
“I have never liked the wordretirement. It doesn’t feel like a modern word to me. I’ve been thinking of this as atransition, but I want to be sensitive about how I use that word, which means something very specific and important to a community of people. Maybe the best word to describe what I’m up to isevolution. I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me. A few years ago, I quietly started Serena Ventures, a venture capital firm. Soon after that, I started a family. I want to grow that family.”
The average age of retirement for professional tennis players is around 30 years, and lesser for women, and this makes transition into the non-playing world that much more vital. For example, Serena is 40 years old and has dedicated a large part of her life (and time) to the sport, and in the process, achieved tremendous financial success. Agreed that not everybody is Serena and has the resources at her disposal, however, it sparks an interesting question about how individuals perceive themselves and plan for their future.
Research globally indicates that there is a tendency for people to underestimate their longevity, and thus they are likely to pay little attention to different life stage transitions. Although India does’t face the same demographic transitions like much of the US, Europe and some parts of Asia, the absolute number of people entering their third (50+) and fourth stages of life (75+) is on the rise. This requires us to think beyond the traditional binaries of work and retirement, and evolve a much more nuanced understanding of longevity – a longevity mindset.
A longevity mindset is one where you decide and wholeheartedly believe that longevity is normal and attainable. With a longevity mindset, aging is abnormal, and longevity is what’s considered healthy. This mindset permanently benefits the way you live, think, and act.
Staying optimistic and planning for life stages is one way to evolve this mindset into a healthy living code. An earlier article on 100 Year Life highlights some of the research and work around this aspect.
Anil Moolchandani may not be a popular person although the company he started – Archies – is a household name across India. The greeting cards revolution is one of the many untold stories, and if you dig into the odd pile of stuff in your house, you are very likely to find a few of them lying around. Cards are artefacts of days gone by, of friendships lost or those that continue till day, of seminal and silly events in life, and so much more. They pause time and humble us.
Over time, greeting cards morphed into e-greetings in the convenience of the digital world, and are now just a few clicks away. For even more convenience, there is of course WhatsApp. An e-greeting can be wrapped with an online order, of flowers, cakes and all those lovely things, and paid for with ease. Digital greetings travel faster, are instantaneous and yet, some may say, lacks the charm of a written card, letter or greeting. Cards are hard work – take time to browse in a gift shop or post office, select the right one, ponder over words that cannot be erased, stamped and posted. It doesn’t fit into our busy lives anymore, and with last minute gestures, there are quicker ways to say you care.
Not what Mr Moolchandani imagined when he started his first concept store in Delhi.
Why am I talking about greeting cards?
Well, yesterday was World Friendship Day, and here is a reminder to pick up that piece of paper, write down a few thoughts and post it to a dear one, or an old friend. And if you feel a bit more generous and can offer 15-30 mins of your time, do join the GenConnect program, an initiative to foster intergenerational friendships and spark new bonds.
The Longevity Hub recently launched GenConnect, an initiative to connect strangers across generations and geographies on a 15 to 30 minute call. While there is a lot to be said on why people from different generations should speak to each other, outside their family and professional environments, I will attempt to drive the point home with two popular (and ageist) tropes.
This is the headline of an article in the New York Times around how the phrase “OK Boomer” has become the war cry for younger folks (in the US mostly) to reject the point of view of older adults, and attribute all ills in society to one generation. Boomer refers to those born after the WW2 and Gen Z, those born anywhere between mid-90s and early 2000s.
The article states how these generations have different points of view on everything from jobs, climate change, financial security, and more. This is not new and can be attributed to every generation before us. Moreover, you are likely to find a 25-year-old that has very little understanding of climate change and a 65-year-old who lives his or her life in the most sustainable manner. And vice versa.
Here is an unpopular take by Bob Hoffman, an advertising guru, on marketing to generational uniqueness.
“One of the great idiocies of the marketing industry is the belief in the uniqueness of generations — Gen X is this…Millennials are that…Baby Boomers are the other.
It’s all bullshit generated by researchers to sell their “expertise” and maybe a few more research studies along the way.”
Whether you agree with Bob’s sentiment or not, it makes you think how ageist mindsets get amplified by social media and brand marketing, potentially leading us down a path of no return. While not the only reason, it does play a significant part in how we perceive the world.
Now let’s look at a common trope in India – WhatsApp Uncle.
WhatsApp is ubiquitous among people across generations in India, and there is literally no family gossip, business deal or friendship that is not consummated on this platform. India represents the largest user base for WhatsApp with close to 40 crore (400 Mn) users, and is notorious for spamming.
Google researchers were trying to figure out why one in three smartphone users in India run out of space, and they figured out the culprit – Good Morning messages with “overabundance of sun-dappled flowers, adorable toddlers, birds and sunsets sent along with a cheery message“.
If you haven’t received one in a while, leaving one here so you do not feel left out.
Over time, and with a combination of delicate manouvering and vocal pushback from other members of such groups, we see less of such messages these days. That said, we are a long way from sanity in family and neighbourhood WhatsApp groups, which is a multi-part Netflix series altogether.
WhatsApp Uncle is somebody that is older (or perceived as such) and posts irrelevant, inappropriate or non-factual messages in a private group or a public forum, much to the annoyance of everybody else. Although more women than men use WhatsApp, and that too by almost three times, the meme world decided to honour men, and particularly the quintessential Indian uncle, with this giant honour. Over time, this meme has even graduated to the fictional WhatsApp University.
By breaking these artificial barriers, all sides come out winning.
GenConnect is an initiative to foster friendships and spark new bonds among people from different generations, and across geographies. All it takes is 5 minutes to fill out a form, and we will match you for a call with somebody from a different generational cohort.
Aamod Wagh is Pune-based founder of Tigertech Labs and Rhemos Health, with a career spanning 25 years in IT Consulting across Australasia, Europe, and USA. Tigertech Labs was setup in 2016 upon his return to India to develop remote health and safety monitoring devices for senior and dementia care. TigerTech also transitioned to Telehealth in 2019 with RHEMOS – an acronym for Remote Health Monitoring System – to deliver hospital grade care at home using affordable & easy to use medical devices.
Today, Aamod and his team serve over two lakh customers every month and their products are available through their website and also on e-commerce portals like Seniority. RHEMOS also works directly with 100+ hospitals, seniorcare companies, rural care foundations & telemedicine companies to further the mission of providing digital and remote health solutions to all, across the country.
Aamod, it was pleasure speaking with you earlier. Tell us a little bit about how you ended up creating Tigertech Labs. What triggered your decision?
I was based in the US for an extended period of time and would travel to India once a month for business. During every trip, I couldn’t help notice that a significant number of seniors in India lived alone, as their children were in another city or country and had little or no family support locally. It was also apparent that – while western countries had significant number of products and solutions available for assisted living & senior care, the same was missing in India. That was the spark that ignited the fire and the genesis of TigerTech.
You started with smart living solutions. How has this journey evolved and what are your core solutions today?
For us “smart living” encompasses personal safety, security & health and all our technology solutions resonate around this thought.
We launched India’s first senior care wearable devices called TigerTRACK & TigerFIT Pro. These were loaded with features & designed to provide 24X7 location tracking, automatic alerts on fall detection, SoS button, built-in cell phone, anti-wander sensors, monitors for heart rate & blood pressure and also instantly send alerts if an emergency is detected or if the user exits their home. The devices are designed to work independently and without any user interaction and can be monitored and controlled remotely by family and/or caregivers through an App.
Our products were welcomed with open arms by customers & we work with some of India’s largest senior care & home care companies, who use our devices to provide emergency support and care services to seniors across the country.
While our wearable products continue to do well, we also found that 70% of our seniors suffer from NCD’s like diabetes & hypertension and need to receive quality care at home. This got us exploring the possibility of providing high quality healthcare in the comfort of people’s homes and adding the benefit of remote health monitoring by doctors. This was the genesis of our RHEMOS Health product.
Today RHEMOS Health enables patients to receive “hospital grade” care at any location – in their homes and also in remote villages – without the presence of doctors or medical professionals. RHEMOS devices can measure 8 to 16 critical vitals within minutes using touch sensors. The smart technology also transmits the results instantly to an App & Cloud for remote access by doctors so that they can provide an accurate diagnosis & prescribe appropriate medications. RHEMOS also analyses all the vitals and generates a “health score” for each user to ensure that any preventive health indicators are provided well in time.
RHEMOS’s mission is to provide easy and affordable access to high quality healthcare at any location, for all and we are proud to have met and exceeded our mission.
You develop medical-grade devices for remote and digital health, including wearables. The overall awareness among consumers is still not as high and there is a lot of false advertising too. If I were purchasing a wearable device for an older family member, what should I look out for?
For wearable devices – especially for seniors – the most critical points to consider are (a) the size/weight & “wearability” of the device, (b) the ability of the device to do its job as an independent and stand-alone device. i.e. it should have zero dependency on the user carrying a cell phone, etc. and (c) ease of use including having little or no interaction with the device or technology – except pushing a button in case of emergency. All these factors determine whether seniors will use the device regularly.
For medical devices, the most critical point to consider when getting any medical device is that it should have at least 1 international certification – viz. CE-MED and/or FDA. These are mandatory for selling the devices in any EU country and in N. America. The rigor, dependability & accuracy of their certification processes ensures that the CE-MED certification is also acceptable across almost all other countries.
Other important points to consider for medical devices include (a) the ease of use, (b) whether the device is internet connected and automatically shares test results with your Doctor or your family, and (c) whether it can handle multi-functions to measure 7 to 8 vitals rather than having to buy 7 to 8 separate devices to do the same tests and finally (d) does the device provide any value added information after testing your vitals, that assists you in keeping a track of your daily health and provides you with any early warning information for preventive care.
What is Rhemos? How does it work? What parameters does it help measure? How can this information be used?
RHEMOS is an acronym for Remote Health Monitoring System. Its mission is “Healthcare. Anywhere” and its vision is to enable easy access to affordable & personalized care to all Indians at any location.
RHEMOS Health Ecosystem combines portable hand-held medical devices with an App/Cloud & health analytics to provide a comprehensive telehealth solution. The devices can be taken to any location to measure 8 to 16 vitals with hospital grade accuracy & transmits them instantly to All/Cloud for remote access by Doctors to conduct an accurate diagnosis.
The health monitor is a single pocket-size device that measures 8 vitals in 2.5 seconds. These include BP, Heart rate, ECG, Heart rate variability, Respiratory rate, Blood oxygen, Body temperature & blood glucose. Rhemos also provides small blood analyzers to conduct blood tests for Haemoglobin, HbA1c & Lipids at home in minutes and our digital stethoscope measures heart & lung sounds. All readings are instantly transmitted to remote doctors with alerts in case readings are abnormal. This allows people with chronic conditions like Diabetes, Hypertension or Cardiovascular disease to test & monitor themselves at home – while being monitored remotely by family & by their physicians.
I understand you work with the rural health system. Can you tell us how your solutions impact rural health?
RHEMOS identified some of the biggest issues faced by care providers in delivering healthcare to rural India. Some included availability of qualified doctors, nurses, medical infrastructure, power, wifi, vitals testing capabilities, etc. Also many rural hospitals face high traffic of 500-1000 patients a day which is difficult to manage. Finally, the biggest health issues in rural India are inability to detect comorbidities & NCD’s like diabetes & hypertension and women’s & children health issues like anaemia, pre/post-natal care. The RHEMOS solution was then designed to directly address each one of these issues.
RHEMOS does not need power or wifi and can be used by ASHA workers to check vitals for each patient – including blood tests & chest sounds. This ensures that hospital grade care can now be delivered to the deepest parts of the country even without presence of local doctors & nurses as remote doctors can now take care of patients & prescribe medications. A single RHEMOS device can handle 150-170 patients/day to handle high traffic. And, the multiplicity of tests conducted by RHEMOS also ensures easy identification of most comorbidities to enable personalized care & also conducts detection camps for diabetes, hypertension, anaemia, etc.
You mentioned that you partner with seniorcare organizations. How do these partnerships impact the quality of life of the end customer?
Many senior care organizations leverage our technology to provide their customers with additional services based on our devices. E.g. they run emergency response services that are connected to our devices and monitor all location alerts, fall alerts, health condition alerts and provide timely response services. The end customers and their families can now live with complete peace of mind that their lives are secure and that – if required – help is literally a click away.
It has been 8 years in this journey for you. How has the landscape changed? What are the trends that you observe today?
When we launched our products 6 years ago in 2016, the senior care & eldercare sector was just about starting to gather steam, and senior care products were limited to grab bars & wheelchairs. We were the pioneers in leveraging wearable technology to bring safety & health to our seniors in India. Also when it came to healthcare, telemedicine was a just glorified video call & most doctors & patients insisted on physical examinations as the only way of good treatment.
Today – especially post pandemic – the home care, senior care & telehealth sector has mushroomed and is now being accepted as mainstream by doctors & patients both. Also the awareness about using technology & the availability of products like ours has increased multi-fold.
People have started to recognize that products like RHEMOS plug the gaps that exist in telemedicine today and can ensure that telemedicine can actually provide comprehensive care remotely.
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