While India stands amidst the crux of a demographic dividend – the largest working age cohort in world history – it is reasonable to say that fifty to seventy years down the line, the population of the elderly would be quite sizeable as well.
The previous sentence also needs to take other factors into account. For instance, the fact that more and more people are likely to be intellectually proficient owing to advances in healthcare, and are therefore likely to continue working well into their late eighties or nineties. What is work if not the constant application of mind and body to one’s chosen sphere of passion or interest? It is difficult to predict the future, but it is fair to say that amidst a constantly changing world, many older people, if not all, would prefer to put their experience to good use.
No one thinks about themselves being old, except when random thoughts lead towards old age or when contemplating about the seriousness or mundaneness of life. It is an inevitable fact of life, and fantasies of thwarting old age and death itself translate themselves into the intersection between life sciences and technology.
Today, at Bangalore Insider we spoke to Geeta Kumana, the founder of Prime Health Support, a proprietorship that supports elderly people who’re living alone. Her insights into dedicating herself towards her business is highly relevant for individuals keen to understand the dynamics of the market that caters to elderly people from a caregiving point of view.
Give a brief info about your startup?
Prime Health Support is a caregiving Proprietorship that looks after elderly people living alone in Mumbai, India, whose children live abroad. The caregiver takes them to doctors, hospitals, CT scans, sonographys, blood tests, MRI’s etc., writes up a report and sends them to the child or children who live abroad, over whatsapp or email, (whatever the client’s relatives prefer). Prime Health Support does exactly what their children/relatives would have done had they been staying with them.
This is not a Bureau which supplies nurses, ayabais and ward boys. Geeta Kumana, the founder of Prime Health Support, personally goes to the client’s (geriatric person’s) residence and takes them herself for these tests or Doctor’s visits.
This service is available from South Mumbai to Santacruz in Mumbai, India.
What made you start your startup and what problem does it solve
It all started when a friend living in the United States of America had asked me for advice on ways to take care of her old and ailing parents who lived thousands of miles away in Mumbai, India. The funny thing is that not everybody can be a ‘caregiver’. But, since I was already taking care of my old father who lived in Pune, Maharashtra, India, and had a lot of experience in dealing with similar situations, it made it easy for me to help my friend.
Prime Health Support primarily deals with looking after old people’s mental and physical health and assisting them in feeling better in their homes by making them feel in the Prime of health.
Many people who have migrated abroad often have elderly and ailing parents back home in Mumbai. Living thousands of miles away, they cannot come down to Mumbai to look after them. They go through a lot of worry, stress and also guilt feelings for not being able to do so. This is where we step in. We take care of their parents or relatives exactly the way they would have – at home, with compassion and kindness; just like a family member would.
Tell us about yourself, your previous jobs/ventures? What were you doing before this startup?
Before I started Prime Health Support, I was in the Real Estate business where I was giving out flats to sell or to rent. Unfortunately, I had to give that up to look after my old father in Pune. After his demise, I decided not to go back to Real Estate and start Prime Health Support, a caregiving business for elderly people living alone in Mumbai City whose children live abroad as it was a much-needed service for the city.
Where is your startup based out of? Why do you think that is the best place for you?
Prime Health Support currently runs from South Mumbai to Santacruz in India. This geographical area has been demarcated for the Proprietorship as I have lived in Mumbai for over 50 years and have a complete support system in the city. Since it is a start-up, South Mumbai to Santacruz is a very comfortable area for me.
As a startup founder, what are you paranoid about? What keeps you awake at night?
The most important challenge for a caregiver is not to get too attached or too emotional with the client. One needs to remember that a caregiver must keep a level head and make the client feel both physically, mentally & emotionally better.
It’s not so much the start-up that I worry about, but the health of my clients that sometimes keep me awake at nights. The responsibility of keeping them healthy is my job and keeping them in the Prime of Health can be worrying as they are old and frail and sometimes uncooperative.
Though my mantra is compassion, compassion, compassion, sometimes that mantra does not work and I need to think of another way to handle my clients with patience and understanding.
Another challenge is making the help (ward boys, nurses, maids, etc.) work together in harmony with each other to look after my client and to keep him/her in good spirits and excellent health.
Who are your competitors and how are you better than them?
Since this is a very unique business, I am not aware of my competitors.
Even if there are any, I know I am a very responsible, competent, reliable person who gives my business my everything and is not afraid of any form of competition. My work speaks for itself.
How hard is it to have a work-life balance as a startup founder and how do you manage it?
This is not very difficult for me as I am an unmarried woman with no children or other responsibilities like elderly parents or in-laws. Though it must be very hard for married women with children or unmarried/single women with children.
Being unmarried with no children, gives me a lot more time to concentrate on my business as I do not have the responsibility of looking after children or other relatives and can hence spend more time on my business development and growth.
Have you raised funding? If yes, then we would like to know the details. If no then please tell us if you are looking to raise.
Prime Health Support has raised funding for the initial start-up of the Proprietorship but ultimately the business will have to pay for itself by getting clients. Hence, we are currently not looking at funding.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about you? Why do they have that? What’s the reality?
Most people think I am younger than my age and feel that I do not have the experience of handling a business. I presume it’s my facial features that give people that impression of me. But, I consider myself an entrepreneur to contend with and have only my client’s best interests in mind. Hence, I am quite capable of handling my business and making it grow.
What gets you excited about this company?
I inherently feel the need to take care of people, especially old people and young children. The need to look after them, to make them smile, to keep them comfortable, are all the sentiments that automatically run through me. I am a very compassionate person and I like to evoke that from me into another person’s health and happiness. Looking after someone who is elderly, ill and ailing and making them feel better because of my care is an emotion I cannot explain. It is also because these people are dependent on me and lean on me for their well-being which I happily strive to achieve.
Tell us how a day in your life looks like? Your schedule for a day right from the time you get up till you hit the bed at night.
I go swimming at least once a week, windsurfing only during the season from October-April and also go regularly to the gym. I watch films in theatres, or on Netflix, and watch news and the Discovery Channel on TV. I am an avid reader of the newspaper, especially Times of India. As a distraction from my daily routine with geriatrics, I love playing with little children.
Tell us about your team and how did you meet each other?
Currently we are two of us at Prime Health Support. Myself being the main caregiver, a “grass roots” worker who goes with the client for all their health appointments, writes reports, meets clients, and has a “hands on” approach to the business.
The other person is more the “intellectual” one who looks after the back end of the business like PR, advertising, promotions etc. She is also my friend who I have known since the last twenty years and has a very strong background in advertising.
As Prime Health Support, (which has been around for some time now and has gathered enough experience in the field), expands, we plan to increase the caregivers first, running thorough background checks on the prospective caregivers whom it recruits; and second, taking them through a rigorous training schedule before assigning them any responsibilities.