Tapan Mishra and Ayush Agrawal set up their startup, Seniority, taking stock of the fact that the country’s ecommerce boom has not given one pocket of society much thought: our senior citizens.
India, a country known for having the youngest population, has seen the birth of many solutions tailor-made for millennials and the Gen Z.
But one can’t ignore the reality that ‘Young India’ is ageing much faster than anticipated. Over 34 crore people will be above 60 years by 2050, according to government projections. With better healthcare and improvement in the standard of living, life expectancy has gone up too.
So Tapan and Ayush decided to serve what is currently considered a niche audience with a shopping platform that caters to the needs of senior citizens. The Pune-based startup, which was set up in 2017, has a curated product portfolio of over 6,000 products across the medical, wellness, kitchen, leisure and lifestyle categories.
The startup aims to provide a seamless experience to customers through its online website and retail stores in Pune, Coimbatore, Bhiwadi, and Chennai.
An idea comes of age
The idea first came to Ayush three years ago. At that time, he was managing the marketing efforts of CEAT Speciality, which is part of the Mumbai-based RPG Group.
The conglomerate, through its venture capital arm RPG Ventures, was mulling over on an innovative concept for senior citizens in India. That’s where the idea for Seniority was seeded. The RPG Group has invested $6 million in the startup.
“We understood that while everyone focussed on the youth as a growing demographic, most people failed to acknowledge India’s fast-growing senior citizens population – their needs, their lifestyle, and the society’s perception about them.
With more than 120 million senior population in India currently, this consumer group is increasingly becoming tech-savvy, is comfortable buying products online, with seniors willing to spend on themselves and their well-being,” says Ayush.
Further, a conversation with his mother sealed the deal for Seniority. When he found out her go-to places for everything — clothes, essentials, medicines — were all offline, Ayush understood the huge gap startups have not addressed in the country.
“The conversation made me realise that while we have progressed on many fronts, the question of innovation never came up when addressing the needs of our parents,” he says.
Building for an underserved market
Having decided on the idea, Ayush went about setting up the team for Seniority.
“Since operations and logistics are what truly define an ecommerce company, we needed someone who came with that experience. Tapan was heading operations for VoxPop Clothing and brought extensive experience in those domains. It seemed like a natural fit and things fell in place,” he says.
Seniority’s current team size is over 170. Tapan explains that for the first three months, they were experimenting with various versions of the business proposition to give it proper shape and direction.
The startup focussed on onboarding vendors, keeping a motivated team together, trying to meet industry leaders and getting their views, and closing the first few deals.
The degree of awareness, or the lack of it, when it comes to a category like senior care is a major challenge the team still faces, Ayush notes, as there are not many players addressing their lifestyle needs.
Besides, the other challenge was finding the right channels to get the brand's message across.
“There was no playbook for a brand like ours, which is an amalgamation of different categories, serving a gap that was never looked at before, and creating a new category altogether. Hence, there was a lot of piloting involved and we are still going great depths to learn and understand what works and what doesn’t,” Ayush explains.
From bathroom and mobility aids, massagers and pain relief products to books, music and personal care items, Seniority covers a gamut of products specially designed for the elderly.
While Seniority’s target consumers are senior citizens, and the startup receives maximum interest both online and offline from them, caregivers who are younger use the platform too.
“The 25-40 years age group is an equally important segment for us since they are the caregivers buying medical and gifting products for their ageing parents. Repeat customers contribute to about 40 percent of our online revenue, and 60-70 percent of offline revenue,” says Ayush.
The team opened the first store in Coimbatore, in association with CovaiCare, a brand focussed on senior care. Currently, Seniority has seven offline stores.
The startup notes it has been achieving 15 percent month-on-month growth in revenue.
“Since inception we have always outdone our projected figures, resulting in 30X growth in two years. The average order value is Rs 1,200 and we process about 1,000-1,300 of such orders every day. The website gets over a million visitors in a month,” Tapan adds.
The golden age of ecommerce
Ecommerce Goliaths Flipkart and Amazon may be battling it out to get the Indian online shopper’s attention, but niche ecommerce players that focus on smaller segments are fast catching up as well.
Hitherto untapped, senior care is now emerging as a contender as well. At present, startups like BeautifulYears, Senior Shelf, and Silver Talkies are focussed on senior citizens as their target audience. There also is ElderSmart, where one can shop by condition.
An IBEF report states that the senior care industry has been fast-growing and expanding and is believed to touch 1.4 million people by 2020.
In the coming years…
So how is the future looking for Seniority?
“While we have acquired over three lakh customers, that’s just a drop in the ocean, considering India has more than 120 million senior citizens today. Therefore, our key investments will be in customer acquisition, customer service, tech platform, and ensuring an ongoing supply of innovative products to the Indian customers,” says Tapan
The startup currently focusses on becoming the one-stop-shop for all medical, lifestyle and gifting needs of seniors and their caregivers.
“We are most excited about launching our private label brand, consisting of thoughtfully crafted and quality assured products to fulfil every need. While we have forged exclusive partnerships with renowned global brands, we are also keen to add to this portfolio to bring top-class engineered products to consumers.”
The startup is betting big on its ecommerce website and will soon be launching an app for its customers. “We have a strong focus on our community engagement initiatives, and will continue to harness the power of such events with our customers across the country,” Ayush adds.
(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)