Ratan Tata, the octogenarian industrialist who ran the $128 billion Tata Group for decades, has backed a startup that connects seniors with recent graduates for meaningful friendships.
Goodfellows, which promotes “intergenerational friendships”, said on Tuesday it had received a seed investment of an undisclosed sum from Tata, the influential chairman emeritus of Tata Sons Ltd., which runs around 150 businesses, including some of the most valuable of India, such as software. sub-contractor Tata Consultancy Service Ltd. and the country’s largest steelmaker, Tata Steel Ltd.
The startup was founded by 30-year-old Shantanu Naidu, who manages Ratan Tata’s office and startup investment portfolio, in the role of managing director. Naidu also assists Tata as chairman of the group’s massive philanthropic arm, Tata Trusts.
“You don’t know what it’s like to be alone until you spend some alone time wishing for company,” Tata said on Tuesday at the startup’s official launch in Mumbai. “You don’t mind getting older, until you get older and you find it’s a tough world,” he said, addressing a group of elders and their youngsters. friends.
Naidu said the idea for the startup came from his own rapport with Tata, which he called “a cutting-edge example of cross-generational friendship given the five-and-a-half-year age difference”. He added that he gravitates to those like Tata for their newfound innocence, wisdom and the motto to savor every moment.
Tata is credited with turning around the traditional 168-year-old airline steel group founded by his great-grandfather. But he came into his own after stepping out of his leadership role with the group five years ago, unexpectedly becoming a star figure in Indian startup circles. He has since backed more than 50 startups, including eyewear retailer Lenskart, digital payments brand Paytm, electric vehicle startup Ola Electric Mobility Pvt. and online stock trading platform Upstox.
Even a small check from Ratan Tata is considered a badge of honor among the country’s entrepreneurial fraternity. Naidu, a design engineer and MBA graduate from Cornell University, Ratan Tata’s alma mater, connected with Tata when he sought funding for his first startup, Motopaws, a social enterprise that provided reflective collars for street dogs. The two bonded instantly.
“He picks his investments intuitively,” Naidu said in a post-launch phone conversation. “It aligns with young people and supports their drive and the social impact they will have. It is never about financial returns.
Goodfellows matches about 50 “great friends”, men and women over the age of 70, with “good friends” in their twenties, an eclectic group of employees, chosen after several rounds of verifications and intense psychometric tests. Many are recent engineering, arts or film graduates and are paid.
In a country of around 1.4 billion people, one in two Indians is under 25. But more than 15 million older Indians live alone, either because they have no family or because their children are abroad, posing mental and physical health challenges.
The subscription service is currently only available in Mumbai, but will soon be offered in other cities including Bangalore. The startup emphasizes camaraderie, which can mean anything from a leisurely stroll or watching a movie to just striking up conversations. Nonprofit models that have attempted this have failed, Naidu said, because the companions are unpaid volunteers who don’t have a long-term commitment.