With a focus on elderly, Winage trains underprivileged youth as caregivers
This Bengaluru-based startup is raising sub-nursing cadre of caregivers to offer ‘Care As Service’ (CAS), with a focus on the older population.
In his decade-long career at IL&FS, Dr Arun Varma understood one thing - there was a need for caregivers to an ageing population. He came across several reports by the United Nations (UN) that suggested approximately one in five people will be over 65 years by 2020.
Arun felt that as the age gap shrinks, the need for caregivers for an ageing population will become necessary. It was something that Arun wanted to work and build towards as he felt strongly about it. He realised that in over-populated countries, only scale and technology can bring about impact and change.
This led him to start Grandage Services in 2017, a company focusing on elderly and geriatric care. Bengaluru-based Winage, a brand of Grandage Services, focuses on raising sub-nursing cadre of care givers to offer ‘Care As Service’ (CAS), with a focus on the older population.
Winage works with underprivileged youth in the society, train and certify them as caregivers. These young people are later effectively deployed at hospitals and homes to help those who need assisted daily living.
Other than deploying caregivers at hospitals and homes, Winage also provides long-term care for the elderly, helping them with medication, hygiene and being present in the time of need. The caregivers also provide services for the elderly for short-term needs.
Training the caregivers
As part of its business model, Winage is looking to train maximum number of unemployed youth and turn them as caregivers. They will be provided training in basic nursing and first aid services. For this, the team has tied up with healthcare practitioners to help skill and train the youth in care giving.
The average cost of training is approximately Rs 15,000 per student. The caregivers can earn a minimum salary of Rs 10,500 and a maximum of Rs 20,000.
Winage conducts a 450-hour training programme for caregivers. In the past 18 months, the company has trained and offered employment to more than 300 students.
“We move around urban slum clusters to find the right people who are seeking aid and employment. Apart from that, we also look at government databases,” says Arun.
Since Arun had presided over the successful implementation of world’s first ever Public Private Partnership (PPP) programme on HIV/AIDS at IL&FS, in which more than 45,000 pregnant HIV positive mothers were rescued through care and treatment, the task wasn’t difficult.
Talking about the challenges faced by working in the unorganised sector, Arun says: “We encountered problems from the body shopping agencies who deploy untrained and unskilled manpower at healthcare facilities and homes and operated under grey market conditions, where employee welfare and benefits were totally discarded. On the services side, there was little to cheer as most people did not know their job.”
Building the team
After Dr Arun had the idea in place, many of his colleagues from IL&FS joined him. His wife Rita Varma, who has had several successful stints with Fortune 500 companies, also joined him.
A long-time colleague-turned friend Raj Narayan signed up as he saw misery first-hand when his mother suffered Alzheimer’s and died without proper help. Raj is a Digital Media Expert, Life Coach and an NLP Practitioner with over 30 years of experience. Currently, they are a team of over 20 people.
While the company is based out of Bengaluru, the team has operations in Mumbai at present. “The success rests on volume. We have been conscious to stay slim and asset light. The second important aspect is the maintenance of higher levels of efficiency through planning,” says Arun.
In the last 18 months, Winage has been appointed as the National Level Training Partner by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India. It has secured affiliations from Health Sector Skills Council and Domestic Workers’ Sector Skills Council of the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC).
Large Corporations such as Hindustan Petroleum Corporation (HPCL) and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) have also partnered with Winage as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) support.
Hospital networks like Metro Hospitals (Delhi/NCR), Aster Hostpital (Bengaluru) and Sushrut Hospital (Mumbai) have partnered with the company – both as training and employment partners.
Numbers and growth
Winage’s revenue stands at approximately Rs 30 lakh since it began operations. While it earned over Rs 30 lakh in the first 12 months, Arun adds that they have confirmed order book position of over Rs 300 lakh. The company is currently bootstrapped.
“We have been able to maintain an operating margin of 17-18 percent. On the care delivery side, we charge Rs 600 per day. We conduct multiple training batches through our training faculty,” says Arun.
In addition, the company earns an average margin of 15 percent on the sale of consumables and hygiene products, which they source from different vendors.
A number of healthcare providers and hospitals across the country such as CCU, India Home Healthcare, Health Care at Home, Nightingales, Apollo, and Max are entering the space at present.
An increase in the number of enquiries per month from 60,000 in July 2015 to over 1,00,000 in June 2016 indicates a rising demand for quality home healthcare. Home healthcare provider Portea also raised Series C funding of $26 million last November, indicating the growing interest in the sector.
Winage aims to grow and expand its presence across Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Kolkata and Kochi. The team hopes to raise a strong cadre of sub-nursing professionals who are employable at old age homes, hospitals or homes.
The startup is looking to build Winage Academy for care, to help aspiring people to join and learn about care for self-application or for employment.
The founders are also looking to build Care Homes, a unique facility, where people who seek care can check in and ask for customised care for short and medium terms.
The team is also working on IoT and robotics to see if they can play a part in care giving. “We expect Care As Service (CAS) to assume larger proportion as urbanisation becomes faster and life in the urban space becomes more hectic and packed. That is a Winage opportunity,” says Arun.