For 67-year-old retired banker K.H. Krishna Murti and his 63-year-old teacher wife Vidya Krishna Murti, life after retirement has been quite pleasant. "We are thoroughly enjoying life on our own," says the couple. One reason is the daily living aids they have bought from Seniority, the RPG Ventures company that sells products for senior citizens. "Its products have enhanced the quality of our lives. We need to look no further for assisted living aids and leisure accessories," says Vidya.
Till a few years ago, retirement spelt the end of active life. It meant moving in with children, often compromising on desires, even health, and being dependant on others for recreation. But things are different today. With more spending power, increase in longevity and shift in mindsets, geriatrics are a fast-growing demographic segment for marketers. In 2011, of the total population of 121 crore, the number of those over 60 was 10.83 crore (8.95 per cent of the total). By 2020, of the expected population of 139 crore, the number of senior citizens will be 14.5 crore (10.5 per cent of the population). Over the next decade or so, the population of 60-plus people is expected to rise by 2.9 per cent every year, while the overall population will grow at 1.15 per cent.
RPG Ventures, the new ventures arm of the Rs 22,000 crore RPG Group, started Seniority in 2016 with a Rs 6.5 crore investment. Seniority offers specially curated products exclusively for the use of senior citizens. "RPG Ventures, which incubates new businesses, identified potential in this segment," says Kunjan Chikhlikar, Head, RPG Ventures. "The elderly population is far more tech-savvy today. Moreover, senior citizens of today do not mind spending on themselves." With just one showroom, in Pune, Seniority's business comes mainly from online sales via seniority.in. It has over 3,000 products, and caters primarily to the online-first customer base.
"Our product range is diverse," says Tapan Mishra, co-founder, Seniority, who owns a minority stake in the company and looks after product sourcing, management, finance and operations. "We have surgical, medical and leisure products, though the major chunk of sales (60 per cent) comes from leisure products," he says. "With over 200-250 orders a day, and a 60-70 per cent month-on-month growth rate, Seniority is already generating over Rs 1 crore of revenue on a monthly basis in about a year after its launch," says Chikhlikar.
As of now, the platform has no label of its own. "We plan to develop our own brand and get into serious brand building by the end of this calendar year," says co-founder Ayush Agrawal who also has a minority stake in the company.
It makes sense to take one step at a time. In a market with Rs 10,000 crore potential that is unorganised and has a handful of players, Seniority's first aim is to build a customer base. "Fifteen per cent of our sales are from repeat customers," says Mishra. "Since our cost of acquisition is 20 per cent less than that of other start-ups, our focus is on vertical growth and building clientele, increasing the size of the market," says Chikhlikar. "We aim to achieve a growth rate of 15-20 per cent month-on-month for the rest of 2017 and in 2018," he adds.
To build visibility, Seniority carries out targeted activities. For instance, to encourage community building, the Seniority store also acts as a hub where groups get together for social activities. "It's a kind of an experience zone. We also host corporate events," says Mishra. The company also plans to extend its visibility through other channels. "We will look at other formats too. On the anvil are a 'shop-in-shop' model inside a hospital, or a captive store inside a retirement community," says Agrawal. "We also plan to set up our stores in other parts of the country in the second half of 2018," he adds.
Agrawal, who handles sales and marketing, recently attended a workshop by the International Longevity Centre Global Alliance (ILC Global Alliance), a multinational consortium of 17 organisations that addresses longevity and population ageing issues. The ILC also made the staff at Seniority aware about the needs of the elderly. "Ten years ago, India was not even thinking of this section of the population. Things have changed," says Anjali Raje, Executive Director, ILC's India chapter. "Though Seniority caters mostly to the middle and upper class, it works fine, as in the absence of family members, who have moved out, there is an increasing trend among the elderly in these classes to get dependent on medical aids and leisure gadgets," says Raje.
Identifying the trend, Seniority has expanded its product range to include daily living aids and leisure accessories. "When we started out in 2016 with a rudimentary version of our website, we were primarily focussed on medical aids. But, following the ILCs awareness sessions, with our online business doing well, we decided to extend our product range and launch a website," says Agrawal.
The company has also tied up with Mumbai's Ezymov Taxi service, whose customers can avail of special discounts for Seniority's products, for which the latter pays Ezymor a referral commission. "It works well for us as 90 per cent of Ezymore's riders are senior citizens," says Agrawal.
Besides this, Seniority has offered space in its store to the Mumbai-based `1.5 crore ReLiva Physiotherapy and Rehab on a revenue-sharing basis. "We offer our services to those who visit the Seniority store. Since it is focussed on curated products, we also refer customers at other centres to its store," says Subodh Gupta, Founder and CEO, ReLiva.
So, how different is the Seniority experience from the regular e-commerce sites where similar products are available? The Krishna Murtis find the website user-friendly and products useful. "Seniority's products are innovative and cater to even those who are much older than us," says Vidya. With over 3,000 products from 50-plus brands - such as the UK-based Nilaqua's waterless shampoo or motorised wheelchairs from the Taiwan-based medical products company Karma and stairlifts from the British company Acorn - Seniority products cover a wide range. The portfolio includes medical and daily living aids such as wheelchairs, walkers, BP monitors, eye care products, hearing/vision aids and dining accessories, apart from orthopaedic and sanitary products and bathroom accessories such as shower chairs, grab bars and commodes.
But what's really helped sales are leisure and lifestyle accessories and rehabilitation tools. The Sa Re Ga Ma radio and audio player Carvaan that comes pre-loaded with 5,000 old Hindi songs is one such product that is quite popular, as are smart products such as the blue tooth key finder, magnifying lens with LED or the anti-spill smart mug. Products such as telescopic torch with magnetic head, the projection alarm clock that displays time on the ceiling and home automation system also find quite a few takers. "It is a balanced portfolio that includes music, DIY kits and personal care products," says Chikhlikar.
With 40 per cent of its sales coming from the top 10 cities in India, Seniority now plans to focus on Tier-II and Tier-III towns. "There's a huge market there," says Mishra. "We deliver our products through speed post and have already done so to 3,000 pin codes across the country," he claims.
Moupia Basu is a Pune-based freelance writer