Empowering the Elderly

‘Old is Gold’

The ‘Old is Gold’ store is located in a traditional home with easy access on the ground floor, making it comfortabe for the elderly to browse and shop at their own pace. As the name suggests, the brand serves the elderly, offering products that put them more in control of their lives. Prithviraj Somdev, the founder of ‘Old is Gold’ shares how he was motivated to focus on this segment. “My mother was an independent lady who would cook, garden, sew and engage in a lot of activities…until she lost her eyesight. Striving to make her life as independent as possible I looked around for products that could help. For example, I installed a wall railing that could guide her to the bathroom. But I soon realised that there was no specific store where I could buy all that was needed for her. There were stores for babies and newborns but none for the elderly. This was way back in 2011.” Having experienced the need for such a store firsthand, Prithvi, who was running a software business, lost no time in launching his first store in Padmanabha Nagar, Adyar, under the brand ‘Old is Gold’. The first endorsement for the name came from an autorickshaw driver who was delivering some supplies. When he declared, “Inda paer ninjilae padindiruchu sir!” (This name is stamped on my heart!” ) in true Kollywood style, Prithvi knew he had chosen right.

Prithviraj Somdev and Jayashree K.P
Prithviraj Somdev and Jayashree K.P
Incontinence Products
Incontinence Products and Toilet Aids

The initial honeymoon phase

Initially the orders came from customers in and around Adyar. They were excited to see a store for elders and would bring in their neighbours and friends to show the products available, though the range was quite limited then. When a gentleman caring for his sister, called in with a request, Prithvi realised his store had only two out of the ten products on his list. When all the products were procured and handed over, the only question the customer had was whether they accepted cheques. Convinced now that they were onto a good thing, Prithvi, supported by his wife Jayashree K.P, started sourcing and stocking more products. Given the demand, business grew briskly the first few years. They shifted to a new location in Indira Nagar and new branches were opened in OMR and Anna Nagar. All was well unil COVID put a brake on growth and business took a hit. Online traders selling at discounted price mushroomed and sales at the stores plummeted. Explaining how things had changed since they started off Prithvi says,”Previously, the elderly were keen to come and have a look at the products and understand the features. In fact some of them became so adept at it, they would do the selling to fellow customers! With COVID though things changed and they stopped visiting the stores. One other thing that’s changed since when we began is the spending pattern of the elderly. They would hesitate to spend on themselves though their children were well settled, many of them in the US. Over time though, they’ve understood that aging does not mean one has to meekly endure harships.We see a positive trend shift towards investing in their own comfort.”

Mobility Aids – walking canes, walkers, rollators, wheelchairs – attendant – Self propelled – manual – powered.

Clarity and a new sense of purpose

Post Covid was time for a rethink for ‘Old is Gold’ They knew the needs of the business and the space. They decided to harness this knowledge by launching their own brand of products contract manfactured exclusively for them. “Going forward, we see our revenue coming from B2B orders. But we’ll continue with B2C sales as it gives us a way to stay in touch with our customers. This personal interaction has provided valuable insights that have helped us understand customer needs better. For instance, when a customer comes to buy a wheelchair the specifics we get helps us sell the most suitable one. Would the user be able to propel the wheelchair or will he/she be assisted? Is the user bulky or lean, tall or short? Does the wheelchair have to be taken into the washroom? If yes, how wide is the entrance to it? What car do they have, in case they have to transport the wheelchair around? We train our staff to patiently handle this level of detailing. This is what has earned us our customers’ trust and it’s something precious for us.”

Choice of products for elders in an old fashioned brick & mortar store.

“We’ll see when it happens!” and Preventive Safety

Educating customers and caregivers of possible hazards that could lead to accidents at home is one of the main areas of focus at ‘Old is Gold’. Safety Audits are conducted free of cost. The customer’s home is inspected and recommendations to make the home safer for the elderly are listed in order of priority. These Safety Audits have been a useful tool to identify things that need immediate attention. Generally the advice is taken and it’s good for business too. But in some instances people don’t see the urgency and dismiss such recommendations with “We’ll see when it happens!” attitude. One person who ignored a suggestion to install an antiskid mat in the bathroom came back and picked up a full set when his mother fell. The mat may not prevent a fall but would definitely reduce the slippage. In Prithvi’s experience the first fall is the beginning of decline in health. This can be painful not just for the elderly but for the caregiver too.

Social enterprise more than just business

Though ‘Old is Gold’ is a private limited company, there’s more than monetary return on investment driving it. “When someone comes into the store and says with heartfelt thanks that we are doing a wonderful service, we feel validated and satisfied. Ultimately our aim is to help the elderly live happily and with dignity. I always tell them that just because they’re elderly doesn’t mean they need to be stiff and serious! I urge them to be socially active and have a blast.” Towards this end ‘Old is Gold’ has organised outings and workshops for the elderly. A subject matter expert speaks to them and this is followed by entertainment. A retro quiz they had conducted was a major success as it took them back to when they were younger! Small gifts were given and there was a marked difference in their excitement and energy levels when they left. Having this personal touch with elders makes a lot of difference. “A lot of elders sit in front of the television watching mindlessly. Social interaction is key to better health. We believe having a store in a neighbourhood will help rally the community around elders. This could be replicated as a franchisee model going forward.”

Prithvi is brimming with ideas for a host of services for the elderly. According to the ‘India Aging Report 2023’, India’s elderly population was around 149 million as of July 2022 and it’s set to double by 2050. That’s a huge market just ripe for tapping into. Many major players have already entered the space and it’ll be interesting to see how seasoned players like ‘Old is Gold’ innovate based on their insights to maintain their early entrant advantage.

For more details visit Oldisgoldstore.com

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