Backed by Ratan Tata, Startup Connects Mumbai’s Senior Residents to ‘Grandkids’


“You’ve turned my life round,” Mr Gul Punjabi informed Shantanu Naidu, the co-founder of a companionship startup for the aged. Mr Punjabi was referring to the rollercoaster of happiness and love he had skilled within the months that he was part of the startup, The Goodfellows’ ‘grandpal’ group. 

Although he handed quickly after, his phrases stay etched in Shantanu’s reminiscence. On days he wanted to be reminded of the startup’s bigger function, they served him properly. 

Tracing again to the way it all formed up, he credit a pure affinity for the “silver-haired, gold-hearted folks” as he fondly calls them. “As quickly as I enter a room, I are likely to gravitate in direction of the senior residents,” he says. 

In 2021, decided to alchemise this love into one thing concrete, Shantanu put out an Instagram story which marketed the thought of connecting the aged people of Mumbai with the town’s youth.  His DMs (direct messages) have been quickly flooded with responses. Two stood out for his or her enthusiasm. 

Niki Thakur and Gargi Sandu appeared equally passionate about Shantanu’s concept. Because the latter brainstormed with them, he was oblivious to the truth that he had simply stumbled upon his two co-founders. 

The Goodfellows connects elderly people with youth through a unique model
The Goodfellows connects aged folks with youth by way of a singular mannequin, Image supply: Niki

And time ticked quick. 

Right now, because the three chat with The Higher India on spearheading a mannequin which is one among its variety, they discuss in regards to the quite a few sides that accompany working a enterprise of this scope. However their various experience is a bonus. 

Every of them brings to the desk one thing distinctive — Gargi together with her background in company legislation, Niki with a background in filmmaking and Shantanu who’s the final supervisor on the workplace of Mr Ratan N Tata. 

Collectively they envision a social enterprise with the potential to change the lives of thousands and thousands of aged throughout India. 

Gargi Sandu enjoys spending time with one of the grandpals part of the startup's community
Gargi Sandu enjoys spending time with one of many grandpals a part of the startup’s group, Image supply: Niki

Rekindling distinctive bonds 

Senior residents are fast to choose up on the power of individuals round them; Shantanu’s interactions with aged neighbours and kinfolk led him to this conclusion. So, when it got here to designing ‘The Goodfellows’ mannequin, the three determined to convey collectively two polar reverse generations. 

This might guarantee the aged have been surrounded by enjoyable and vigorous youth. “We wished to create a wealthy combine,” explains Shantanu. 

With this crux in place, the beta part of The Goodfellows mannequin was rolled out in August 2021. 

The startup frequently organises events for the grandpal community to come together and enjoy themselves
The startup ceaselessly organises occasions for the grandpal group to return collectively and revel in themselves, Image supply: Niki

The spirited and empathetic youth members are referred to as ‘the goodfellows’, whereas the aged who require help with duties or companionship are known as ‘ the grandpals’. 

Niki, who was a goodfellow throughout this part, and likewise an integral a part of designing it, says, “We wished the bond between the grandpal and the goodfellow to be just like the connection shared between a grandparent and grandchild. We requested folks we knew to appoint senior residents in search of firm.”

Preliminary scepticism about whether or not the mannequin would work was quickly changed with confidence. 

Talking about her personal expertise of being a goodfellow, Niki calls it transformational. “Dadu  (the senior citizen she was paired with) liked watching films and performs. We had plenty of shared pursuits.” 

Shedding his spouse through the COVID-19 pandemic meant Dadu was lonely. However he quickly had firm to look ahead to. “Generally he’d ask me to accompany him to observe a play. Different occasions he’d wish to go on a stroll,” shares Niki, who liked obliging. 

Having grown up and not using a grandfather herself, she got here to cherish the connection she shaped with Dadu. “He nonetheless introduces me as his granddaughter once we exit,” she smiles. 

Together with Niki, the beta part noticed quite a few different youths additionally construct particular bonds with the grandpals assigned to them. In August 2022, after a yr of success, The Goodfellows was formally launched. 

Shantanu, Niki and Gargi have spearheaded the startup from an idea to a booming platform
From L to R: Shantanu, Niki and Gargi have spearheaded the startup from an concept to a booming platform, Image supply: Niki

Are you trying to be a goodfellow? 

What’s fascinating in regards to the social enterprise is the human method to every little thing they do. Synthetic intelligence (AI) has no place right here. And rightly so. 

Shantanu, who leads the recruitment and pairing course of, says, “AI wouldn’t be capable of choose up on nuances through the introductory visits to the grandpals’ houses. There’s a lot to be taken be aware of aside from the circumstantial and demographic parameters. This takes a eager eye.” 

“Generally we see these senior residents repeating a bit of knowledge ceaselessly. Different occasions they cease mid-sentence trying to carry again saying one thing. These parameters are evaluated throughout our visits,” Shantanu provides, who then works with the group to give you a primary character body. 

The grandpal is then paired with a youth who shares the similar pursuits as them. This a part of the method too is extremely meticulous. “In spite of everything, the objective is to not merely fulfil the necessity for primary companionship however quite to make it a wealthy expertise for each,” notes Shantanu. 

Niki Thakur cherishes the time she spends with the grandpals partaking in numerous activities
Niki Thakur cherishes the time she spends with the grandpals partaking in quite a few actions, Image supply: Niki

Along with companionship, the mannequin additionally necessitates that the goodfellow be accessible when errands should be run.  

Gargi pitches in right here saying that these errands might embody completely something a grandkid would do. “Some grandpals really feel intimidated to go to their physician’s visits alone. Most of us children too, really feel the identical. So you’ll be able to solely think about how isolating it should be for them.”

“Different grandpals may simply want somebody to have lunch with them as a result of they don’t wish to do it alone. Others may need assistance with procuring errands or travelling by public transport,” she provides. The duties could possibly be each trivial or very important. 

As an example, one of many goodfellows, Soham Pawar (24) recounts having an journey along with his grandpal in search of sandals. “I observed he wanted new slippers and determined to tug him right into a procuring spree.” Although hesitant at first, the latter quickly joined Soham and the duo spent three hours in pursuit of the proper pair of sandals. 

“Despite the fact that our mission didn’t precisely finish in victory, I look again on that day with a smile, grateful for the prospect to assist kaka and create some superior recollections,” Soham laughs. 

Whereas some conferences the duo spend collectively are crammed with enjoyable, different occasions they’re academic. As Aarohi Sawant (23) recollects, “Kersi uncle has been my grandpal for the final 5 months. We genuinely look ahead to hanging out. He’s had his fair proportion of robust moments, however he swears on specializing in the gorgeous bits. He has impressed me to carry onto the moments that make life comfortable.” 

It’s heartening to observe the bonds fostered between the 2 generations. However this additionally means grief when a goodfellow loses a grandpal. “However that is what makes the bond much more particular,” says Gargi. “The enjoyment or disappointment of somebody’s last years is determined by the goodfellows.” 

She provides that when one of many grandpals passes, the goodfellow is inspired to take day without work for his or her psychological well being. “There are additionally counsellors and psychologists on board who assist.” 

This additionally provides an concept of the sheer accountability of the goodfellows work — a cause behind the stringent recruitment course of. Whereas a sea of candidates apply, solely a handful are chosen. 

Shantanu interjects, “In different jobs, the recruiters entice you. However I do the other. I give them a blunt lowdown of the entire accountability that they may have. I then ask them to suppose it over and are available again with a solution.” This ensures that each goodfellow who’s a part of the group is aware of what they’re signing up for. 

The team of goodfellows aims to ease the difficulties that old age brings on by being there for the grandpals
The group of goodfellows goals to ease the difficulties that previous age brings on by being there for the grandpals, Image supply: Niki

Including life to somebody’s days 

Mukund and Madhavi Sule, a pair of their seventies, say that the spotlight of the week is their goodfellow Rupesh visiting them. Ever since Mukund was identified with Alzheimer’s, Rupesh has been a continuing assist to the couple. 

“It’s with him that Mukund is comfortable, engaged and prepared to stay life with enjoyable and mischief. We will belief Rupesh like our personal baby! Mukund appears to be like ahead to Rupesh’s arrival and anticipates their classes collectively!” Madhavi shares. 

Whether or not it’s writing out passages from the Bhagavad Gita and chanting shlokas, or taking part in the keyboard collectively, Mukund and Rupesh are a riot collectively. 

Madhavi Sule, Mukund Sule and Rupesh have formed a beautiful bond and look forward to the time they spend together
Madhavi Sule, Mukund Sule and Rupesh have shaped a stupendous bond and look ahead to the time they spend collectively, Image supply: Niki

In the meantime, one other grandpal, Rati Dady Wadia (81) calls herself the “luckiest woman on the planet”. 

The explanation she says is her sensible goodfellow. “She’s tech-savvy and is writing my memoirs. She is clever and exhibits a eager curiosity in serving to me write my e book. I typically overlook what I’ve written and each time I repeat, my goodfellow remembers and corrects me instantly.”

These tales are what retains Shantanu, Gargi and Niki going. With the appearance of nuclear household fashions, the aged are sometimes left alone with solely the pageant visits to look ahead to. However this distinctive initiative is bringing hope to many.  

“We’ve come throughout so many grandpals who inform us they really feel alone. Except for just a few utility folks, the bell by no means rings. However our mannequin is now altering issues. They’re hopeful and excited on the designated days of the week. They look ahead to the bell ringing,” says Niki. 

With over 65 goodfellows aged 18 to 24 a part of the group, and over 400 grandpals being impacted, the trio sees the long run as one crammed with hope. 

With each step they take, Mr Punjabi’s phrases ring loudly of their ears. “We’re trying to flip the world round for many individuals with what we’re doing,” Shantanu concludes. 

Edited by Padmashree Pande.



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