“Helping the Elderly be Independent”
India is fast conforming to the norms of modern society. The advent of modern life styles means more working couples and more nuclear families which leaves our senior citizens out in the cold. Manjiri Gokhale Joshi is one social entrepreneur who has thought about this quandary and has come up with a way to make life easier and independent for our elderly.
She told us more about her venture “Maya CARE Services for Senior Citizens” saying “Maya means ‘mamta’ or affection in Sanskrit. It is a simple word that can be easily pronounced by people across cultures. Besides, it has been my favorite name for several years! The Maya CARE logo has been designed by Manasi Gokhale – an upcoming designer whose inability to hear is more than compensated by her creativity. The Maya CARE brand uses violet for softness that is essential for care of the elderly. Yellow stands for bringing sunshine in their lives. The green maple leaf transforming into the colors of autumn denotes the sentiment of the young generation reaching out to the elderly. The company is registered as Maya CARE Services Private Limited.”
Business idea- Maya care offers a range of services for the senior citizen, Manjiri summed up the areas they cover saying “Maya Care offers a range of outdoor services for senior citizens delivered by a team of women professionals and volunteers. Maya CARE aims to benefit two sections of society - senior citizens who do not get trustworthy services and responsible women.”
“Visiting a doctor, buying medicines, collecting medical reports, shopping, conducting financial transactions, attending a social engagement, reading to them, seeing them off at the railway station/airport...senior citizens could find these activities difficult. And young people struggle to meet the demands of an active work life and the wish to be available to care for their family members. Maya CARE offers services to senior citizens (currently in Mumbai and Pune and then other cities) while their children are away on short-term/long-term assignments. For details, visit www.mayacare.com”
Target Market- The services may be meant for the elderly but they are there to also assist their grown up children. Manjiri explains “Unlike the Western world where generations have known and thus accepted that children would grow up and move on, this is probably the first generation of Indians facing the prospect of living by themselves in their sunset years. Our infrastructure, social set-up and mental make-up are still grappling with this new reality.”
“The solution – old age homes or re-location to join their children, is unacceptable for most people. On the positive side, several members of the current generation of senior citizens are more active and independent than ever before. Maya CARE aims to assist senior citizens in continuing to lead an independent life while living in their own homes and carry on with activities that give them happiness. As part of Maya CARE outdoor services, our associates accompany senior citizens to attend theatre, cinema, social and cultural gatherings, travel or doctor visits, see them off at the railway station/airport. Our associates also offer reading and writing assistance as well as regular services like bank transactions, bill payment and shopping.”
What sets Maya Care apart – The fact is that there is a business model behind the venture but as a social entrepreneurial concept Maya care is the best you can have. Manjiri states “Maya CARE is not an NGO. We do not depend on donations but work on a subscription model. Maya CARE subscriptions can be purchased by senior citizens themselves or gifted to them by younger family members. The senior citizen receives a call from MAYA Care detailing the outdoor services being offered – bank transactions, shopping, visits to the doctor, pathology lab sample collection, delivery of medical reports, telephone activation, bill payment, sorting out computer-related issues, reading to them, seeing them off at the railway station...”
“The senior citizen can call the Maya CARE helpline between 10 am and 6 pm to request a service. On request from the senior citizen, a MAYA Care associate bearing an identity card visits the senior citizen to conduct any of these outdoor service transactions or accompany him or her to the doctor or social visit.”
“Being the first of its kind in India, Maya CARE is sometimes mistaken for being a concierge service or household help/nurses bureau. Our team of service associates and volunteers are educated individuals with the noble aim of helping senior citizens whose children are away from them. Of course, each of our volunteers receives remuneration. But the core of the service is attempting to make up for the absence of a son/daughter/daughter-in-law or grandchild. None of us can ever replace a family member for a senior citizen. However, as the service associates conduct their duties with responsibility and patience, it is possible to enhance their comfort level and in their own homes.”
Her entrepreneurial story- Manjiri has not always been an entrepreneur but was inching closer to her goal of providing and creating something of value. She told us of how it came about saying “I had been keen on setting up my own venture for the past few years and personal circumstances – especially my husband Abhay Joshi, have finally enabled me to realize this dream. After a 16 year career (10 years as a journalist) and the stints in corporate life – (especially Zensar Technologies) gave me the exposure and confidence to set up on my own.”
Manjiri may have started late on her entrepreneurial journey but is relishing the challenges it brings. She says “Every unexpected turn of events is a reminder for us to be flexible and evolve the venture as per market requirements. At the same time, we have retained our focus as an organization providing care.”
“We got very early feedback that our initial pricing appeared to be on the higher side. We had to go back to the drawing board and come up with a model that would still keep the venture afloat but affordable. Thankfully, we could implement the change right away and reduced subscription prices by half. This naturally means lower margins. On the positive side, it means a more robust and steady growth model.”
She credits her husband Abhay Joshi as her pillar of support and adds “Like most couples, one can afford adventure as long as the other is holding fort!”
Maya CARE is currently operational in Mumbai and Pune. The service will also be launched in Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Ahmedabad and Kolkata.
Maya CARE is not dependant on donations but is intended to be a self-sustainable venture. The subscription charges go towards payment of service associates and other operational expenses. The subscription is priced at the minimal possible. However, there are still senior citizens in India who need this service but cannot afford it. They are planning an ‘Adopt a grandparent’ initiative that enables individuals, associations, companies or other groups to sponsor the Maya CARE service for senior citizens. Manjiri says “The doorstep library in Pune has got a wonderful response. We are the process of partnering with libraries in Mumbai as well.”
Recognition gained- Mayacare has found appreciation from many quarters but Manjiri does not keep score she says “The competitions one does not win teach you far more about life than the ones you win. A bouquet of flowers from my father after he made a surprise speech at the launch of my first book – Inspired. That was priceless.”
Manjiri has also been heartened by “An expression of interest to evaluate venture funding from one of the country’s best known business conglomerates and very encouraging feedback on ‘Maya CARE as a category creator.”
“Maya CARE is in its first year of operation. But people have been very encouraging and forthcoming on their appreciation of the concept of Maya CARE. We receive e-mails/calls from unknown people (senior citizens as well as young people) appreciating the concept of Maya CARE.”
MayaCare also has great resources in its honorary advisors like— Dr Kiran Bedi, former IPS officer; Vishakha Mulye, MD, ICICI Venture, Anita Pratap, veteran journalist and Sushma Rajgopalan, Chief Strategy Officer, L&T Infotech.
Entrepreneurial lesson- Manjiri sells herself short about her entrepreneurial abilities and was hesitant to guide others. She humbly stated “Too early to pass on advice! But maybe just one thing which journalism taught me, “Don’t be afraid to ask for something. At the most, you’ll have to hear ‘No!”
Yourstory wishes Manjiri good fortune hoping that providence guides her hands in her work at Mayacare. We hope to see her provide for our elderly for many years to come in many more ways.