Goodfellows, supported by Ratan Tata, connects senior citizens with graduates who do everything a grandkid would


Shantanu Naidu’s new startup, Goodfellows, offers companionship for the elderly and focusses on how to make them feel less lonely

Shantanu Naidu’s new startup, Goodfellows, offers companionship for the elderly and focusses on how to make them feel less lonely

Mumbai-based Mrs. Demellow’s grandchild is part of a band. For a while now, she has been wanting to see him perform, but did not know how to. Recently, a “Goodfellow” created an Instagram account for her. The 86-year-old now enjoys watching her grandson’s activities on Insta stories.

Shantanu Naidu, the founder of Goodfellows, a startup that aims to provide companionship to senior citizens, is a big believer in how much generations can learn from each other. “My relationship with Mr. Tata gave me an insight into how rich inter generational relationship is,” says 30-year-old Naidu, who works as a general manager in the office of Ratan Naval Tata, Chairman Emeritus of Tata Sons. The startup received an undisclosed amount as seed investment from Mr. Tata.

The tagline of Goodfellows is “Everything grandkids do” and that’s exactly how it works. Senior citizens who subscribe to this platform are paired with graduates in the age group of 18 to 30, who over a course of time form meaningful bonds with them. During the six-month beta phase that began in October last year, the team noticed that the seniors, known as Grandpals and the Goodfellows bonded quickly. “It only took them five sessions of three hours each,” says Naidu.

They also understood that companionship means different things to different people. Some of the seniors wanted to play boardgames, go for a walk, have a conversation, or just sit together and do nothing at all. A few seniors wanted to travel. Goodfellows has now started a research to explore elderly travel projects.

Twenty three year-old-Niki Thakur, a graduate in communication and now a Goodfellow says that she never knew what it was like to be with this generation because she does not have grandparents. Through this service she met Mr. Dutta, whom she fondly calls “ daadu.” Together, they have gone on walks, temple visits, and she has also accompanied him to the hospital for his MRIs and tests. “After every interaction with a Grandpal, I find a change in myself. I feel I have become more patient and it’s changed the way I see life,” she says.

Goodfellows has launched in Mumbai for now with plans to set up services in Pune, Chennnai and Bengaluru. It follows a freemium subscription business model where the service is free for the first month, so the seniors can get a feel of it and see if it adds value. It is chargeable from the following months.

About 50 senior citizens have signed up for the service in Mumbai. Over the months, the startup received 800 applications from interested graduates. “We have hired 25 so far. And now we have received 300-plus applications from Kolkata, Pune and Bengaluru,” says Naidu.

At the launch of Goodfellows
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

We have a seven-layer recruitment process, he says. This includes three rounds of interviews, physiological tests that help familiarise with the applicant’s intent and emotions. They need to have sensitivity. This is followed by police verification, third party check and a month long probation.

The team also tries to make sure that the senior gets the same Goodfellow every time. Otherwise there is no meaningful connect, says Naidu. It is a paid role that requires full-time commitment. On days that they are not with their Grandpals, Goodfellows can work in specific departments of the Goodfellow office. For example, a marketing graduate can be a part of the marketing team, a lawyer can join the legal team, etc.

“We initially thought that the only people living alone are the ones who don’t have anybody or have their families living abroad. But we found that some people live in the same city as their children but don’t get to see them. We are not blaming anyone. This is also the byproduct of a fast moving professional culture,” says Naidu, who during the research stage of the project realised that 15 million seniors live alone in India.

The Goodfellows team

The Goodfellows team
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

There were a lot of factors that led to Naidu starting this service. During the pandemic he noticed a lot of his neighbours were alone as their children lived in other cities. “This made me realise how important it is to spend time with them,” he says adding that he has a general fondness for the elderly. “They have wisdom, and the innocence of a child. It is a symbiotic relationship for the generations,” he adds.

There are also monthly events planned for the Grandpals. The focus is on how to make them less lonely. “During the last event, one of the seniors said: I would put my wedding day second to this day, and that was quite a compliment,” says Naidu.

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