Ratan Tata invests in a start-up helping Indian seniors find companionship

Tata Sons Chairman Emeritus Ratan Tata recently invested an undisclosed amount in Goodfellows, a startup that will offer support and friendship to seniors.

The initiative was founded by 30-year-old Cornell University graduate Shantanu Naidu who is also Ratan Tata’s business assistant. The idea is to recruit “Goodfellows”, or graduates under the age of 30, to offer companionship to the elderly, or “Grandpals”.

As is the case around the world, India has seen a dramatic increase in life expectancy, but not without some footnotes. As the senior population skyrockets — and trends, cultural norms, and traditions change — many seniors find themselves without a source of companionship or companionship in their twilight years. Nuclear families, migration from rural areas for employment, and more, are part of the reason.

This has been made even more glaring during the ongoing pandemic, especially times of lockdown, where social isolation and loneliness have heightened health risks for older people. While one in two older people suffer from loneliness, this ‘perceived isolation’ is even more harmful than obesity, according to a report by The Indian Express.

The startup is Shantanu’s effort to help bridge that gap and offer a real connection instead of just services. The Goodfellows are “essentially grandchildren on demand,” says Shantanu.

The startup will make sure of this by thoroughly vetting each potential Goodfellow, who goes through psychometric tests that measure their empathy. Once chosen, a matching process is in place to ensure Goodfellow and GrandPal are a good fit.

They will help their elders with all daily tasks like taking walks, helping with errands, accompanying them to the doctor’s office, teaching them technology, helping them with paperwork, watching movies together, taking naps together, etc.

“Whether it’s chatting, reminiscing, sharing problems – or cookies and tea – playing carrom together, or just watching TV, our Goodfellows are eager to lend a listening ear. “says the Goodfellows website about their service.

Meanwhile, Ratan Tata said in a statement: ‘Intergenerational friendships are a kind, meaningful and genuine way to support older people living alone with companionship and warmth like Goodfellows offers. I can’t wait to see how Goodfellows progresses and wish Shantanu and his young team all the best.

“You don’t know what it’s like to be alone until you spend some alone time wishing for company,” he added.

Over the past six months, the startup has been beta testing, working with 20 alumni in Mumbai. It plans to expand its operations to Pune, Chennai and Bangalore in the next phase.

Goodfellows charges a monthly subscription for the service.

Edited by Divya Sethu

The GoodFellows start-up recovers from Ratan Tata by Rajesh Kurup, Financial Express, November 19, 2021
Ratan Tata’s latest seed investment – Goodfellows for seniors; ‘the elderly yearn for companionship’ by Surbhi Jain, Financial Express, August 16, 2022
GoodFellows, a companionship startup from Shantanu Naidu, offers on-demand grandchildren to reduce loneliness by Shantanu Naidu, Your Story, November 18, 2021
old and lonely by Jyotsna Singh, Down to Earth, May 15, 2014
Loneliness is as bad for seniors as obesity and smoking: study by L’Indien Express, April 30, 2019

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