Lack of dignity for his bed-ridden mother makes this entrepreneur start e-com site for elders

15th May 2015
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Ten years ago, Somdev Prithviraj started searching for products to make his bed-ridden mother’s life more dignified and independent. He found none. That is when the business model of Old is Gold struck to him and as they say, the rest is history.

Prithviraj is the Founder of Old is Gold, India’s exclusive store for senior citizens. On offer is a range of products – mobility aids, toilet aids and safety products. Convenience products, apparels, diabetic aids, adoptive clothing, arthritis support, bathroom aids, orthopedic support, food supplements and furniture are the other available products at the Old is Gold store.

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Old is Gold founders Somdev Prithviraj (L), his wife K P Jayshree and Sanjay Dattatri (R), the E-commerce Head of the company.
“There is no dearth of love when it comes to taking care of elderly parents or grandparents. Many a times the children are held up in foreign countries while their parents continue to live in India. It is mostly these NRIs, who have an understanding of our products, who are our largest customer base,” says Sanjay Dattatri, the E-commerce Head of Old and Gold.

Currently, they have two online stores in Chennai along with an e-store. Leading by examples and experiences, Prithviraj and his wife K P Jayshree, are now working towards making the lives of elders easier. After his Masters in Computers and Journalism and a brief stint in sales, the idea of serving elders and turning it into a business model dawned on him. His efforts have been crystallized since they are now able to attract customers nationally and internationally too.

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A modified wheelchair to suit the needs of the elderly

“Also, being in the retail space we have not had a single case of pilferage which is very common in India. People haven’t taken anything from the store either on purpose or accidently. We accept cheques and have never received a bad cheque till date,”says a proud entrepreneur.

Going online

The offline mode decided to go online pretty soon; in fact, the very next day of after the two physical stores, one each at Adyar and Annanagar in Chennai, were launched. An old family friend, Sanjay joined in as the head of their e-commerce initiative. Dattatri was the one who suggested they to go online.

The online sales picked up with time. These being products which people would rather touch and feel first before buying, the footfall in the physical stores is more than their online presence. On an average, anywhere between 20 and 30 people walk in each day and similar number of orders are being placed over the telephone. Close to 10-15 orders are placed online daily. Till date, they would have served 15-20,000 customers in three years of their operation.

“Our role is very important. We guide people with basic hygiene rules to keep the elderly safe and comfortable, most of them being in their post-operative stage,” says Dattatri.

Not all who walk in to the store to get guidance, end up buying their kits but the founders are happy that they are able to spread awareness about these products.

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A convenience product for the elderly

Today, they have delivered to most parts of the country, including Uttaranchal, the North-Eastern states, Gujarat and even shipped products to Andaman. Often online transactions happen with people sitting abroad while they deliver the products to their elderly family members in India.

The Challenges

The biggest challenge is certainly low awareness of such products, the signature Indian mentality being ‘with old age, comes suffering’ and that has to be lived out. “Even the diaper is an embarrassment to talk about. That has always been our biggest challenge – to convince the elderly not keen on using the available products,” says Dattatri.

The next big thing – old people hate investing in themselves. Even if their children are willing to buy it for them, the common sentiment is to dissuade them from buying that product. With hardly any manufacturing of such products done in India, most of the products have to be sourced from China.

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A customized backrest for the elderly

“It’s a learning experience for us too. We constantly look at procuring products which are helpful to the old people,” says Dattatri. The company is into manufacturing adaptive clothing – dignified clothes for the elderly and the disabled. Constantly looking at the problem areas, the effort is to refine them.

There is a huge market to be tapped, feel the company founders, given that India’s elderly population is steadily going up.

Revenue model

Revenue is largely the price differential for this venture. “We have taken a conscious decision to keep the prices affordable as many of our customers are pensioners. It is essentially a retail business for us,” says Dattatri. The venture is self-funded, between among the three of them.

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