In conversation with Saumyajit Roy, Founder, Emoha Elder care

Best described as India’s most comprehensive elder app, exclusively designed keeping in mind elder’s needs, the platform acts as a gateway for them to stay safe, secure and engaged while in their homes.

1. What is Emoha Eldercare?

Founded in January 2019, Emoha Elder Care is a technology powered connected community for elders and their families, bringing together world-class expertise and delivering single-click access to a range of health, emergency, social-engagement, convenience services at home, so that elders can live life to the fullest. The platform enables elders to age with grace and relevance. Best described as India’s most comprehensive elder app, exclusively designed keeping in mind elder’s needs, the platform acts as a gateway for them to stay safe, secure and engaged while in their homes. It is spearheaded by a team of professionals with extensive experience in the elder care industry across geographies and is anchored by Lumis Partners - an Operating Investment firm that partners with organizations that are passionate about solving large complex problems of global relevance. The technology solution aids elders benefit from its services divided under the categories of healthcare, convenience, engagement, safety and emergency.

The assisted services include delivery of daily essentials such as medicines and groceries to name a few., through the channel partners and verified community volunteers, online access to a panel of doctors for consultation, 24/7 emergency coordination with nearby hospitals and ambulance providers, being a source of authentic elder specific information and online interactive engagement programmes for emotional support and well-being. These services are made available through its 24x7 helpline number and can also be accessed through its app and website. Emoha not only stands for ‘Emotional Happiness’, but is also an anagram of ‘A HOME’. The company’s mission is to create the world’s most comprehensive digital community of elders and of those who love and care for them.

The platform currently has the ability to serve in 80 cities and towns across India. It has over 130 team members, 400 carers to serve over 3500 registered elders, and nearly 600 paid subscribers. It takes pride in saving the lives of over 75 elders in its journey so far, undertaken over 650 social engagement programs, helped with over 200 Covid admissions, and has over 500 doctors available for online consultations.

2. What triggered you to start Emoha Eldercare?

I have been serving in the elder care space for nearly two decades now and have been using several important industry forums to raise my voice on the urgent need to address the woes of senior citizens in India and creating the ecosystem to provide quality eldercare solutions. In the past, I have worked as the co-chair of the CII Task Force on Senior Care and the founding board member of the Association of Senior Living India and was also the founding member of the award winning Antara Senior Living, a part of the Max India group before turning into an entrepreneur. The passion for elder care and the product design construct of Emoha Elder Care has emerged from my personal experiences of taking care of my parents, in-laws, and years of working with elders across the country. Several moments starting from my childhood to more recent times, have triggered my journey into what is today Emoha. I have distinct memories of a day from my childhood, when my grandfather had fallen unconscious in the market and was evacuated by a few good Samaritans, while we kept searching for him in the streets around our home. More recently as a busy corporate executive, I have had several moments of truth when my parents had to be taken to the hospital on emergencies. These personal experiences made me realise how elders in the country lead a vulnerable and disconnected life and the deep need to fix this issue.

3. Do elaborate on your Army’s buddy system to keep senior citizens healthy and happy.

The family support system in the defence forces has been a time-tested model implemented to support families while the forces are away on the frontiers. In a similar context, Emoha Elder Care presently has a team 20 community managers, all from ex-defence force background, who along with a dedicated Elder Relationship Managers become the single point of touch for an elder for various day to day requirements besides healthcare and emergency needs.

4. What is your take on the status of eldercare in India – share insights on the current landscape as far as India’s eldercare industry is concerned?

India is indeed a young country, with over 65 per cent of its population under the age of 35 years. However, there are 110 million elders in this country, who are above the age of 60, out of whom, 40 per cent live in urban India. From adult diapers, diagnostic and medical services to senior citizens residential complexes, security devices to offering eldercare focused products and solutions, the elder care market in India is worth $1.5 billion. As per the latest industry reports, the share of elders, as a percentage of the total population in the country, is expected to increase from around 7.5 percent in 2001 to almost 12.5 percent by 2026, and surpass 19.5 percent by 2050. Additionally, as per a WHO report, nearly 20 million senior citizens are staying alone in the country, and this number is expected to rise significantly in the next 20 years. With nuclear families becoming much more prevalent, rise in life expectancy, and young people being compelled to stay away from families to work across geographies, the responsibility and the thrust of taking proper care of the elderly is largely compromised.

The 15 year old senior care industry is largely fragmented and unregulated with disparate players representing varied segments such as move in - senior living concepts, eldercare at home as and when required, caregivers staying at home focused on health related requirements alone and assisted living elder care solutions. The current COVID 19 pandemic has triggered the demand for elder care solutions in general and we have witnessed a strong preference for at-home elder care services as elders are among the high-risk population.

5. How did Emoha re-imagine eldercare in the times of COVID-19?

In mid-March this year, prior to the announcement of the COVID 19 lockdown, we had decided to start building a technology powered community-based response mechanism to help elders across the National Capital Region (NCR), our headquarters, irrespective of whether they were part of our paid customers or not. When the team explored its readiness to help the elderly in the area, we understood that it might be difficult for the team of 70 to manage the needs of the elderly that are spread across in millions. It required thousands of volunteers to coordinate proper supply of daily essentials, clinical help, emergency coordination with nearby hospitals and ambulance providers and correct elder specific pandemic related information while the elders stood confined to their homes. We reinvented our on-roll workforce to oversee a volunteer base and extending our 24/7 helpdesk and elder app. We had 2,500 young volunteers ready to help the seniors and within 15 days of going live with #MissionEldersFirst response, and had on-boarded 3,500+ elders on the programme.

At Emoha, COVID pushed us to innovate and design a system of virtual engagement that could tackle loneliness, a global pandemic bigger than Covid-19. We launched “MOH TV” or Ministry of Happiness TV, online interactive programming on ZOOM to enable elders to remain engaged, learn new things, and forge friendships. Through the MOH TV platform, elders can share their wisdoms and life experiences with the world, benefit from diverse programming like physical therapy sessions, financial wellness talks, comedy shows, poetry and more. In a short span of three months, the 350+ programs of MOH TV have fostered social bonding between elders, enabling them to feel a sense of community while aging in place in their own home.

We believe the experiments with MOH TV have paved the way for defining the blueprint of the antidote to loneliness. An antidote so powerful, it can connect a Mr. Roy sitting out of India with a Dr. Bég sitting out of New York, stitching new friendships across the globe.

6. As per reports at-home geriatric care providers have seen an increase in demand since the pandemic. Do share Emoha’s growth since the lockdown.

Traditionally, at home care services have been under appreciated within India’s healthcare industry. More importantly, these services are often employed when a senior is discharged from the hospital or when they don’t wish to move to an assisted living or nursing home. According to the Ministry of health and family welfare, those aged above 60 and above account for 53% of COVID 19 deaths while those in the age group of 45 to 60 years for 35% of the fatalities. The COVID-19 pandemic has helped people understand that home care services are most effective for keeping seniors safe and healthy.

The pandemic has seen an over 40 per cent surge in the Indian elder care market – is accelerating the silver economy with demand for many geriatric services and products spiking. We at Emoha Elder Care also saw 30% spike in our business since the lockdown. In the month of January, we had 40 paying subscribers and the number has now reached the figure of over 600 paid homes. Our focus on offering high quality elder care solutions at home and thinking beyond healthcare has helped us make inroads to newer geos and eventual pan India presence.

7. What are your views on how elders can contribute to the silver economy?

At Emoha, we dream of a world where elders live in communities designed to promote and celebrate active aging. We see a future where elders feel connected through the power of online and offline communities, a world that leverages the power of Artificial Intelligence to ensure they can live safe and comfortable lives in their own homes, a world where the carers in their neighbourhood are activated to envelope them with support across the continuum of their needs, and a world where the power of an elders’ wisdom is treasured, not institutionalized. We wholehearted believe that elders can contribute to the silver economy significantly not just by being consumers but also producing services. Elders come with wealth of experience and knowledge which makes them eligible for varied roles pertaining to counselling, consulting or coaching which can be extremely beneficial for the younger generation as well. Active contribution by elders is an unexplored opportunity and it is important to focus on re-skilling and meaningfully engaging with the seniors. It is also imperative that we start promoting these ideas in a big way otherwise the elders will continue to be perceived only from a healthcare dimension.

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