A Friend Indeed: India’s First Senior Companionship Start-Up for Intergenerational Friendships Launched

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Mumbai: Goodfellows, a young start-up that provides authentic meaningful companionship to seniors through young, educated graduates that are vetted intensely for empathy and emotional intelligence, was launched recently in the presence of Ratan Tata as well as some noteworthy youth icons including Shriya Pilgaonkar, Artist, Viraj Ghelani, Content Creator, who celebrated the launch of Goodfellows with their grandparents and with existing “Grandpals” who have subscribed to the service.

Commenting on the investment, Ratan N. Tata, Chairman Emeritus of Tata Sons said, “The bonds between the two generations created by Goodfellows are very meaningful and are helping to address an important social issue In India. I hope the investment helps the young team at Goodfellows grow.”

Over the past six 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 800applications 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 of the services by signing up on thegoodfellows.in or can give a missed call at +91 8779524307 or check out their Instagram handle.

According to the team, it has been a challenging but rewarding task to ensure that the“Goodfellows” bond with their Grandpals in an authentic and meaningful way and not just cosmetically. This requires several rounds of vetting and some in-house psychometric tests to choose the best graduates.

In terms of services offered, a Goodfellow does whatever a grandkid would do. There are 15 million elderlies in India living alone, either due to the loss of a partner or families moving away for unavoidable work reasons. While many of them have caregivers or start-ups for utilitarian needs such as eCommerce, the issue of loneliness or lack of company has been the primary reason for deteriorating mental and physical health.

The founder, Shantanu Naidu, General Manager in the office of Mr Tata 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 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.”

In addition to this, Goodfellows also hosts monthly events curated for the enjoyment and engagement of the Grandpals who participate with their Goodfellows, making the bond deeper and more enjoyable in a different environment. This allows the Grandpals to meet each other as well as more young graduates, building a sense of community.

The business model of Goodfellows is a freemium subscription model. The first month is free with only the goal of having the Grandpal experience this service since it’s hard to understand the concept without actually going through it. The second month onward is a small subscription fee that has been decided based on the limited affordability of pensioners. The fee is in place for two important reasons:

The Goodfellows have been vetted for empathy and have an affinity towards the elderlies, but like any other graduate, they would like to be secure about their finances and do their best for the seniors. To give them dignified, respectable salaries for choosing this profession, is a paid service. This also ensures that chosen Goodfellows are retained, groomed and have a career ladder while giving back to society.

A subscription model guarantees that when the seniors bond with the Goodfellows, we do not keep rotating the graduate visiting them since that does not allow enough time or emotional attention to form an authentic and real bond. When we make a friend we want to see the same friend often. A new person every time will prevent this from happening.

Several non-profit models in this space have failed since volunteering happens as per the availability of volunteers and no one invests enough time with one senior to form an authentic bond. Once the desire is over, volunteers move away which impacts seniors gravely.

Goodfellows offers short-term internships as well as employment to graduates looking to find a job that allows them to apply their educational background in this space while having a sense of purpose or fulfilment from the work that they do. These graduates are given the autonomy to ideate and create and make the company their own. For example, Ketki from Sophia College has been instrumental in refining the psychometric testing in order to “mine” more numbers of empathetic graduates into the organisation based on psychological evidence.

The major percentage of funds from investors are currently geared towards scaling up the Goodfellow human capital, which is a slow process since empathy cannot be vetted quickly or by the traditional recruiting process.

In the near future, Goodfellows will offer travel companions for seniors holding back from making trips due to lack of security or company, and also plans to extend its services to the handicapped community facing similar or more challenges.