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.
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 – firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit www.tuktu.ca to know more and check out the video below.
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.
The 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.
Chirag Shah is 26 years old and co-founder of Rymo, which is on a mission to transform India’s rehabilitative care infrastructure. Chirag and his team are building robotic solutions focused on rehabilitative care and their first product “Mobi-L” is also India’s first robotic and VR based technology for upper and lower limb rehabilitation.
I had the opportunity to chat with Chirag on this very unique product journey that is filled with passion, learning and experimentation.
Chirag, pleasure to connect. Tell me a little bit about yourself and the journey so far. How big is your team?
Hello Mahesh, glad to connect with you and Silver Angels. I am an electronics and telecommunication engineer and during college was fascinated by the potential of robotic technology in improving human lives.
A visit to our neighbouring physiotherapy college gave me a chance to see the difficulty of patients with limited physical mobility and turned out to be a tipping point. That day, I decided to use my engineering skills, time and efforts to build something useful for physiotherapists and the patients undergoing physiotherapy and help physiotherapists in their effort to spread the joy of independence and good health.
A small research project which we started back in 2018 slowly matured into a product with the help of 250+ physiotherapists and occupational therapists whom we spoke to better understood the problems various stakeholders in the rehabilitation ecosystem face.
Going forward with Rymo and our team comprising 8 members we aim to make the best and most advanced rehabilitation tools accessible for every patient undergoing rehabilitation and increase their chances of living an independent life.
Why rehabilitation? How big is this market as you see from your vantage point? Who is your primary user – physiotherapist, family member or the patient?
In the initial phases of development, we got a chance to visit 100+ physical rehabilitation centres in 6 different cities. One of the learnings for us was that majority of the patients undergoing rehabilitation visit private physiotherapy clinics and a small minority go to larger centres in big hospitals. As big hospitals have more space and higher budgets some of them are able to provide technology aided rehabilitation which helps in faster recovery.
As per our research there are 10,000+ rehabilitation centres in India and less than 1% of these rehabilitation centres can accommodate imported robotic solutions due to the which there is a huge gap in the market which can be filled by a portable and affordable rehabilitation solution like Mobi-L.
Mobi-L’s primary beneficiary is the patient who is undergoing rehabilitation. Our solution makes it possible for the patient to measure their recovery objectively, have fun while exercising and also recover faster due to increased compliance and high intensity rehabilitation sessions which Mobi-L can facilitate.
R&D, prototyping and assembling – everything is being done in-house. What has been your learning on this front?
R&D, prototyping and assembling in-house has proved to be of great benefit for us. It has allowed us to keep listening to our user’s feedback and have the bandwidth to keep improving the product.
We have so far made 7+ major electromechanical iterations and 50+ software updates for our users. This has also helped us zero down on the most important features which will become a part of our final iteration before a nation-wide launch.
The long-term advantage for Rymo is that we now have a diverse engineering team with expertise in mechanics, electronics, robotics, software and game development and this allows us to continue to innovate, learn and grow.
Rymo’s software toolkit includes an Android-based app, games and much more. Can you expand why this is important? How does it improve the overall experience of the user?
Our software toolkit was built for Android with the objective of making operation of the device intuitive and minimize training required for the same. As most individuals are comfortable with using smartphones our software toolkit which runs on a 10.1inch Android Tablet can be used very easily.
The software ensures that the physiotherapist and patient get continuous visual and audio feedback while exercising. This not only makes the rehabilitation session goal based and measurable but also keeps the patient motivated to comply to the rehab session as prescribed.
The software toolkit also has multiple games and simulations of various activities of daily living which further make the rehab sessions fun filled and something that the patients can look forward to, and enjoy.
What are the different stages of rehabilitative care and recovery with Mobi-L? Could you please break that down?
Physical rehabilitation of upper and lower limbs generally starts with physiotherapist assisted exercises especially in the initial stages followed by active exercises where the patient is exercising independently.
These assistive and active exercises help the patient to regain full range of movement of the affected joint and recover one of the major aspects of mobility.
Once the desired range of motion is achieved the focus shifts to strength training which includes training with resistance, isometric exercises and doing exercises with varying resistance.
In order to meet the varied needs of the patients at different stages of recovery, Mobi-L can be setup with different protocols for training including assistive, active, resistive and isometric exercises. Thus, making it useful throughout the patient’s rehabilitation journey
As with most medical and health related fields, there is a shortage of physiotherapists in India. How does Mobi-L fit into this landscape? Say in a hospital or a rehab centre.
We all know technology is a huge enabler to improving work efficiency. For a software developer a high-end workstation will make his job faster and allow him to improve his productivity. Similarly, in a rehabilitation centre where a therapist is seeing multiple patients over the days or even at the same time our machine reduces not only the physiotherapist’s physical effort but also offloads significant efforts that go into engaging a patient to undergo his daily dose of rehabilitation. It helps improve their work efficiency and energy levels throughout the day.
With COVID, most of us have seen the difference that an objective measure makes in the diagnosis and treatment of a disease. A rapid antigen test for COVID 19 and the patients’ symptoms together provides an approximate idea of the diagnosis but a RT-PCR test helps the doctor to be more confident regarding the correctness of the diagnosis and also severity of the same. Similarly in rehabilitation a therapist’s experience and patients’ word regarding his physical condition is good to make an approximate guess regarding one’s condition and progress but a tool like Mobi-L validates the same and gives more confidence to the patient and the therapist.
Home-based care is on the rise in India, and particularly the demand for eldercare services. Do you see an opportunity here? How can Rymo solve some of the challenges here?
Some of the biggest challenges in long term rehabilitation are the need to travel regularly to physical clinics which might not be in immediate vicinity of one’s place of abode. This results in economic, time and logistics overhead on the family.
Rehabilitation at home is possible but especially for neuro rehabilitation it can also reduce the quality drastically as the tools that can be made available at home are limited. We believe our product can be used in a home setup and benefit the patient greatly as the space occupancy is minimum and operation is easy but it would need a physical therapist’s continuous guidance to maximise clinical results.
Going forward once Rymo is associated with a larger network of rehabilitation professionals we foresee collaboration opportunities that can be leveraged to deliver the most advanced rehabilitation at home.
What’s on the cards for Rymo this year?
This year Rymo is on route to complete its industrial design and launch its first product Mobi-L in India and make it available to 100+ rehabilitation centres. We have a goal to reach and positively impact the lives of at least 4000 individuals by 31st March 2023. These are a few baby steps which will help us democratise technology in physical rehabilitation and move forward in our goal to make India’s rehabilitation infrastructure one of the most advanced globally.
You can learn more about Rymo’s robotic rehab solutions here and connect with Chirag on LinkedIn.
Silver Angels Newsletter
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.