In India, we feel proud of the fact that more than 65% of our population is below the age of 35. At the same time, we have also hit an all-time high for the number of Indians over the age of 60, accounting for 8.6% of the country’s population, according to official figures. While many start-ups cater to the youth and working middle age segment of the Indian populace, a few emerging start-ups have are focusing on the elderly market segment. One such start-up is Bangalore-based Beautiful Years, which offers a variety of products and services for the elderly. SoS had a word with the founders Vladi Ruppo and Pavithra Reddy of Beautiful Years and this is what we found out about the start-up.
So, how did the idea of Beautiful Years came about?
Beautiful Years Ltd was incorporated in June 1st, 2015 which is our official birthday. However, we started thinking of a proposition and doing initial research in late 2014. As it often happens in this domain, it was a combination of two factors: first, it was about very personal experiences of co-founders with elders in their families. We just wanted to help, to do something meaningful.
Second, it was about a business opportunity: there was hardly anything in this area, and the gap between India and the West was much wider in elder care than in any other domain.
Initially, with our expertise in technology, we wanted to come up with new high-tech products in the domain of elder care and independent living of seniors. Then we realized that there were already about 1,500 startups around the world working on innovative technologies for seniors; the issue was not with the products, but with bringing them to the market. So we decided that Beautiful Years, instead of competing with others, would help those startups build their marketing channels.
Can you tell us a bit about the founders?
Our founder is Vladi Ruppo. He was born and brought up in Russia, and lived for many years in Israel. Vladi came to India in 2000, to set up an R&D centre of a software product company he was working for. Over years, he brought the R&D Centre in Bangalore to more than 2,000 engineers.
Our co-founder is Pavithra Reddy. Out of her 14 years of experience in the software industry, she was working with Vladi for 8 years. Pavithra comes with a lot of personal experience in caregiving and a deep understanding of human needs and elderly care realities.
Another senior member of our team is GK Vishwanath. He has more than 45 years of experience of business development and sales in India and Sri Lanka. Taking care of five aging relatives in their late 80s and 90s, GKV has immense hands-on experience with elderly care.
So, what kind of products and services do you provide to the elderly and how?
Our main goal is to improve lives of the elderly and of those who take care of them. So, our primary customers are people taking care of their parents; our secondary market are senior people themselves. Our proposition is simple: if you face any issue with taking care of your parents, please talk to us – we will try to find a solution.
First, we sell innovative elder care products – online and offline, at our Experience Store in Koramangala. There are alarm pendants and watches so if your mom or dad fall, they can call for help. There are mobility solutions like wheelchairs, GPS trackers for people with Alzheimer’s, multiple anti-skid and fall prevention solutions, home automation systems very pertinent for the elderly. There are products for people with incontinence, bathroom products like different types of raised toilet seats and shower chairs. It is all about choices – we want our customers to get what is best for them.
Second, we help people find best services, be it a physiotherapist, a nurse or an attendant, or a senior living facility. We offer to make your home senior-friendly. As we all know, every third elderly person falls at least once a year; 20% of these falls are life-threatening. More than 50% of falls could be prevented! We are the first to make your home senior friendly, “elder-proofing” it for your aging parents. We come over and suggest best ways to make your home safe, secure, and comfortable for seniors. Worth mentioning that our specialists are certified by I.D.E.A.S., Inc. [Innovative Designs in Environments for an Aging Society], USA. So we know what we are talking about.
What else are you doing to increase awareness about your company?
We have created an online forum for people taking care of their parents, to share experiences and to help each other take better care of our seniors. Offline, we conduct classes and activities for senior citizens, for a symbolic fee or free of charge. Our workshop on using smartphones was a big hit. We have also done storytelling workshop and “old games” workshop for grandparents and grandkids together. Our sessions on legal aspects of aging and last wills went very well too.
How big is your market in India?
There are more than 100 million seniors in India, about 8 million of them in the middle class and above.
Senior citizens are the fastest-growing segment – there will be at least 240 seniors in India by 2040, and this is conservative. We conservatively estimate the market for home modifications at 1,250 Cr and the market for our products and services at 1,830 Cr, and growing at about 20% annual.
Did you raise funds and what are some of the challenges you faced in your early days and now?
We are still self-funded by co-founders, but we are considering to raise funds to scale up faster.
We are facing multiple challenges, as the senior care domain is still nascent in India. First, there are cultural challenges: not all people are ready to admit that their father or mother has a Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s. Without admitting a problem, they are not looking for solutions. So, our challenge is to educate and to encourage people to talk more openly about issues of aging.
Most people are doing heroic job, taking care of their elders – but they just don’t know that there are solutions and products, that could improve their lives and the lives of their seniors. Again, we have to educate people about existing options.
And of course there is another issue: we all love our parents, but most people are ready to pay 5 times more for a pre-school for their kids, than for a nurse or attendant for their parents. Something to think about…
All that said, we believe that every challenge is an opportunity.
What are your future plans?
To become one of the leading and most trusted providers of senior care solutions in India.
— Team SoS, interview conducted by Sameer Bhagat