This eldercare startup uses the Army’s buddy system to keep senior citizens healthy and happy
Senior and assisted living options may be thriving in India, but a majority of elders are keen to live in their own homes for as long as they can. Gurugram-based EMOHA Eldercare makes this possible. The tech-backed, holistic eldercare service promises health monitoring, support, safety, engagement, and emergency care, promoting an active and energised lifestyle for senior citizens.
Run by former defence personnel, the startup uses the military “buddy concept” to ensure the wellbeing of elders in the absence of family support. EMOHA, which stands for “Emotional Happiness”, is also an anagram of “a home”. The eldercare startup was founded in January 2019 by Saumyajit Roy, who has been in the elder care industry for over a decade and anchored by Lumis Partners.
The company launched its services in the Gurugram region from April 2019, and has services operational in NCR.
Saumyajit says: “In India, unlike other developed nations, most elders prefer to stay at home. Despite the rise of retirement homes, I knew that my parents, like many other elders, would prefer staying in their home.”
He says his eureka moment came after a decade spent in the eldercare space when “my very own parents faced an emergency while I was travelling” and I realized how exposed our elders are to uncertainties in life.
“The sheer lack of support systems for our elders and the opportunity to rewire, reinvent, and reimagine retirement became my mission,” he says.
Saumyajit, the CEO and Co-founder of EMOHA, has wide experience of working in the real estate sector in JLL, especially in senior living while working with Antara Senior Living in Uttarakhand. A passout of Indian School of Business (ISB), he also is Co-chair the CII Task Force on Senior Care and Founder of the Association of Senior Living India, a national body representing players in senior living and senior care in India.
Saumyajit was joined on this mission by Captain Harsh Singh (Retired) of Indian Navy, as COO. Hemal Bhatt, Chief of Growth and Alliances for EMOHA, is also a former Indian Army officer. The founding team also has experts such as Sama Beg, who was managing an assisted living facility in Florida, before returning to India to take care of her parents.
How does EMOHA work?
EMOHA’s engagement with elders starts with a detailed health assessment, followed by a thorough home assessment to understand potential hazards in an elder’s home. This data is used to ensure that smart sensors can trigger a 24x7 response to any emergency.
An emergency can be initiated remotely, either by pressing a button or through automatic smart sensors. The EMOHA emergency response mechanism ensures that a community coordinator with an ex-defence background, and a paramedic nurse reach the home as soon as possible. They coordinate to ensure that an ambulance reaches the senior citizen’s home within 15-30 minutes of activating an emergency.
The responder service targets five key concerns: emergency response, health tracking, home safety, life support, and engagement. Services are available 24/7 through a toll-free helpline (1800-1378-911).
Just what the doctor ordered
The company also digitalises all health records of elders to make home visits by doctors easy. It has tied up with five hospitals in Gurugram. To make operations smoother, the city has been delineated into five zones; each zone has one partner hospital such as Columbia Asia, Paras Hospital, and others.
Elders and their family will be provided an EMOHA app to access the services.
Saumyajit says: “We have a fauji community manager, who is the first point of contact in case of a health emergency or if elders require some support services like repair work or organising a small function at home. We have taken this concept from the Indian Army, which has a concept called ‘care buddy’, where the partner of a person who goes to battle takes care of the other’s parents.”
EMOHA Eldercare presently has a team of 75 members, including 20 community managers. All community managers have a military background. The startup’s basic package starts at Rs 1,300 per month; comprehensive packages go up to Rs 20,000 per month.
The eldercare startup, which launched its services in May, claims to currently have over 120 elder members.
Prevention is better than cure
The Indian healthcare market is flooded with healthtech startups such as Practo, Portea, Nightingales, and many others. Senior-specific living/housing options are also growing, with players like Paranjpe Homes and Athulya Assisted Living. Then there are startups like Senior Shelf, an online shopping portal for senior citizens; Silver Talkies, an online magazine and multidimensional platform for elders; and Beautiful Years, which aims to make homes senior-friendly.
Bengaluru-based ElderAid is doing something similar to what EMOHA does: providing at-home healthcare services and social care support for senior citizens.
But EMOHA claims to be India’s first startup to provide exclusive, all-round care for elders – its USP.
Speaking about the challenges of setting up, Saumyajit says: “The availability of quality trained manpower, possessing a passion for serving elders, has been one of my biggest challenges. Fortunately, I got the opportunity to cherry pick the right talent.”
He adds that eldercare is still a “relatively new concept in India”, and garnering overall acceptance by elders and their children has been “quite an uphill task”.
Tapping the eldercare opportunity
In 2011, India had about 76 million seniors above the age of 60 years. The number of Indians in the 60+ age-group will double by 2030 and treble by 2050, according to UN estimates. It is likely that by 2050, India will have nearly 340 million people above the age of 60 — more than the current population of the US!
The need for elder-specific offerings is clearly set to grow, and EMOHA is poised to tap this opportunity.
The startup, which is funded by Lumis Partners, a US and India-based investment fund, also has specialised offerings for NRI community members and corporates as part of their employee welfare programs.
The company is presently at a pre-revenue growth stage. It is also in the early stages of setting up partnerships through numerous channels and alliance partners to gain traction. At present, because they are fully funded by Lumis Partners, the startup is not looking for further rounds of funding.
Saumyajit says the senior living market in India “from a demand side is close to three lakh inventories while the supply is just 8,000 senior living homes”. “This means while the senior living market is expanding, the opportunity to serve seniors in their existing homes itself is even more massive,” he adds.
EMOHA is evaluating expansion options across major metros in India. “Right now, we want to stabilise in NCR. We are slowly looking at other cities such as Kolkata, Bengaluru, and Chennai. Punjab is on our list because the State has a large number of NRIs,” Saumyajit says.
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)