Varun Jain, The Economic Times
New Delhi, 18 February 2015
E-tailers in India are coming up with products and offerings exclusively for senior citizens, turning their attention to a category of consumers that they had hitherto ignored in their rush to reach the growing young population in the country.
Mumbai-based Rahul Upadhyay, whose Seniorshelf.com caters exclusively to senior citizens with mobility aids, toilet safety products and items meant for arthritis patients, said the venture was inspired by a personal experience when he went to visit his parents and then spent three hours looking for a blood pressure machine.
"It was just not available. That is when I realised that there is virtually no retail – online or offline – which is catering to the elderly while they are the most vulnerable ones. Despite having the means, senior citizens in India are mostly left to fend for themselves and in many ways the market has ignored them as a consuming class with needs of their own," said Upadhyay, who was encouraged by the growth of e-commerce business in the country to take the plunge.
A similar situation faced by the promoters of oldisgoldstore.com led to the opening of this south India-based online and offline company, which sells health care products exclusively for the senior citizens.
"There are over 120 million people over the age of 60 in India. That is more than the entire population of most of the countries in the world. With improved health care, more people are living longer and this is increasing the need for home health care as well. This means that there is a significant growing market for e-commerce players in this sector," said Sanjay Dattari, one of the three promoters of oldisgoldstore.com.
New Delhi-based Healthgenie.in, which started about two years ago and is in talks to raise $1 million (about Rs 6.2 crore) in funding, has a category especially for elderly health care. According to Manu Grover, founder of Healthgenie.in, whose family has been into manufacturing of medical devices for 50 years, the health care requirement of a person over the age of 60 years increases drastically.
"Combine this with better life expectancy and we can see the market size increasing and gaining a substantial foothold in the coming five years. But still there are not many e-commerce players in this domain who cater to the elderly," said Grover.
The lack of easy availability offline of the products required by senior citizens also provides a ready opportunity to such ventures. As per Upadhyay’s estimates, the e-commerce market for the elderly is barely 5% of the overall market that is estimated at Rs 10,000 crore.
"Hence there is a huge potential to leverage this gap and enable elderly access products and services regardless of which part of the country they live in," said Upadhyay.
According to Devangshu Dutta, CEO of retail consultancy firm Third Eyesight, products that are targeted at seniors will also be those that are not easily available through other channels, and therefore discounting pressures on the seller are less and the business can make healthier margins. "Provided consistent products, sensible pricing and excellent service, the consumer’s stickiness with the retailer would also be higher," said Dutta.
These e-commerce players have tied up with various medical services companies which provide doctors, nursing physiotherapy, diagnostics and equipments at home, to provide a seamless experience for the elderly. One such company, Portea, whose large portion of customer base is the elderly population, is also associated with e-commerce players catering to senior citizens.
(Published in The Economic Times.)