The coronavirus pandemic did what years of industrious marketing could not: it made online and ecommerce services mainstream. Be it grocery shopping, paying bills, or entertainment, everything went digital.
But even as most of us adopted the new normal, a section didn’t find it easy to adapt: the elderly.
It was to empower senior citizens by teaching them digital skills and making them independent that sisters Shreya and Surbhi Bajaj started Easy Hai.
The Bengaluru-based duo had noticed how their own elderly family members struggled with technology and failed to use their smartphones for their benefit.
“During lockdown, when Zoom calls and chats became the mode of communication, I realised that a lot of elderly people around me didn't know how to make use of technology. Many people I spoke to were wary of using online modes of payment; they did not know about the processes or safety measures,” Shreya tells YourStory.
They began to teach their family members how they could use their phones and internet connections to order groceries, connect with people via social media, or make online payments during the lockdown.
As more people started to reach out for assistance, the duo realised that this was a larger problem that needed a solution and launched Easy Hai, an initiative to teach seniors how to best use technology by using Zoom classes.
In the beginning
Shreya, a chartered accountant and MBA, had earlier founded two restaurants and itshandmade.in, an online marketplace for handmade products. Surbhi is an MBA Grad from SP Jain Institute. Both sisters have also been working in their family business of plastics, PVC pipes, and packaging. After the COVID-19 pandemic, Shreya realised that it would be difficult to sustain her restaurant business and thus the duo launched Easy Hai with an investment of Rs 5,000.
“ We started with people aged above 60 years but slowly realised many people above the 40-plus age group knew some of the basics but did not know how to completely leverage the internet. Now, we provide classes to anyone who would like to learn about operating electronic devices and the internet,” Shreya says.
Easy Hai aims to improve the lives of adults and seniors by boosting their digital literacy and teaching them about smartphone and laptop usage through simple classes and tutorials conducted over Zoom calls. What do the classes teach them? How to use Google Maps, how to operate Facebook, how to order groceries, how to use Aarogya Setu app, what is Wi-fi and data, and more. Users can also put in requests about they would like to learn about.
Seniors are also instructed on the kind of data apps use.
“The platform does not instruct them on whether they should use the apps or not…our classes just inform them on what data the apps are using so that they can judge for themselves,” Shreya says.
Apart from this, the initiative also takes classes to help seniors differentiate between fake news and regular forwarded messages on WhatsApp.
Shreya adds that along with the classes, Easy Hai also helps users find companions with similar interests, ensuring mental wellbeing in these unprecedented times.
The business and vision
Easy Hai follows a pay-per-class model. Users need to pay Rs 150 for one class. However, package deals are also available. Buying five classes brings the cost down to Rs 120 per class while a package of 10 classes costs Rs 100 per session.
Three sessions are held per day from Monday to Saturday, and a maximum of 20 people may join one session.
“We started the initiative from Bengaluru but now have students across the country. Most of our learners are from Mumbai, followed by Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata, and Pune,” Shreya says.
Going forward, Shreya explains that the company may consider launching an app for the service. “Many students have said they sometimes forget details and would like to revisit the lessons again. So I am considering an app where they could get access to videos at any time with continued support. The app will also prove to be another model of revenue for us.”
Speaking about future plans, Shreya says the plan is to scale up Easy Hai as an edtech startup. They also aim to onboard young people such as college students for taking classes. This will help the youth connect with senior citizens and also create job opportunities. As of now, Easy Hai has four teachers.
Currently, classes are conducted in English and Hindi. The founders plans to start sessions in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, and Gujarati in the next three months.
Different from existing solutions
Video tutorials and classes are also very popular on YouTube. When asked about how Easy Hai competes with YouTube videos, Shreya says using YouTube itself is a problem for many seniors as they often get “intimidated”.
“Even if they search on YouTube, one topic may have several videos listed and it becomes difficult for them to understand what would suit them best. In this case, personal classes help them get a better understanding.”
Several elder care startups have come forward during this trying time to lend seniors a helping hand. They include Chennai-based Alserv, which provides assisted living services - such as food, concierge, medical security and housekeeping- to senior citizens. It also allows subscribers to call for helpers to help them with digital services.
According to Caring for Our Elders: Early Responses, India Ageing Report-2017, “By 2050, the elderly population is likely to increase by three times to reach around 300 million, accounting for 20 percent of the country’s total population. By the end of the century, the elderly will constitute nearly 34 percent of the total population in the country.”
Reason enough for the boom in startups catering specifically to senior citizens, be it with web platforms, healthcare, or tutoring services.
But Shreya says Easy Hai’s differentiator is the fact that they want to empower seniors to carry out tasks on their own instead of relying on anyone.
“Eventually, in the long run, we may tap into the concierge services segment but we will definitely not take up medical, security, or other services,” Shreya says.
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)
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