Ratan Tata launched India’s companionship startup for senior citizens, Goodfellows, in a bid to encourage intergenerational friendships. The startup was founded by Shantanu Naidu, 30, who manages Ratan Tata’s office and his startup investment portfolio, in the role of general manager. Naidu also assists Tata as chairman of the group’s massive philanthropy arm, Tata Trusts.
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.
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.”
Over the past 6 months, “Goodfellows” has taken the time to complete a successful beta and will now be available in Mumbai with Pune, Chennai and Bangalore as the next target cities. During the beta testing phase, Goodfellows received a positive response with over 800 applications from young graduates looking to be employed at Goodfellows of which a shortlisted cohort of 20 provided companionship to the elderly in Mumbai. Senior citizens can avail the services by signing-up on thegoodfellows.in or can give a missed call at +91 8779524307 or check out their Instagram handle.
Goodfellows also hosts monthly events curated to the enjoyment and engagement of the Grandpals who participate with their Goodfellows, making the bond deeper and enjoyable in a different environment. This allows the Grandpals to meet each other as well as more young graduates, building a sense of community.
Goodfellows connects about 50 “grandpals,” men and women over 70 with “good fellows” in their twenties, an eclectic group of employees, chosen after several round of intense vetting and psychometric testing. Many are recent graduates in engineering, the arts or filmmaking and are paid salaries. In a country of about 1.4 billion people, every second Indian is under the age of 25. But over 15 million elderly Indians live alone, either because they have no family or because their children are overseas, which presents a mental and physical health challenges.
The subscription-based service is only available in Mumbai currently but will be offered in other cities including Bengaluru soon. The startup emphasizes companionship, which could mean anything from going for a quiet walk or watching a movie to just engaging in conversations. Non-profit models that have attempted this have failed, Naidu said, as the companions are unpaid volunteers who don’t commit long-term.