Industry leader Ratan Tata on Tuesday announced an undisclosed investment into startup Goodfellows that offers companionship to senior citizens as a service.
The octogenarian industrialist has been an active backer of startups ever since he retired from the helm of the salt-to-software Tata Group. The latest investee company is founded by Shantanu Naidu. The Cornell University-educated Naidu, 25, is a general manager in Tata’s office and has been assisting Tata since 2018. He shares Tata’s love for dogs and strays and had previously started a venture around pets as well.
“You do not know what it is like to be lonely until you spend time alone wishing for companionship,” the 84-year Tata, a bachelor, said, appreciating Naidu’s ideation and also forgiving his mentee for the time he spends away from the office. Tata said no one minds getting old till you actually get old and also added that getting a good-natured companionship, which we take for granted, is a challenge. Addressing Tata as a boss, a mentor and also a friend, Naidu said there are 50 million elders who are by themselves.
The startup hires young graduates having the right skills of empathy and emotional intelligence to ‘work’ as the senior citizen clients’ companions, and ease the day for them with any tasks or just talk with them. The company has been working with 20 elders for the last six months in its beta phase in the financial capital and is planning to offer services in Pune, Chennai and Bengaluru next. Naidu said it wants to scale up across the country but would prefer to go slow without compromising on the quality of the companions it hires.
He said the experience till now has suggested that the companions do a myriad of tasks with the clients, which may include playing carrom, reading the newspaper for them or even taking naps together. Admitting that it is difficult to “fabricate” the bond between an elder and a grandchild, but exuded confidence that the diligence with which the companions will be hired will ensure that the authentic bonds can be formed. Tata said he would be delighted for this service to grow and mature into something which innovatively changes people’s lives.