Niche online portals find India with 100 million elderly a good market

It was his inability to find a blood pressure monitoring machine for his father in Patna that gave marketing executive Rahul Upadhay the idea for his new venture.

“I realised people had no idea of several products that can make their parents and grandparents life easier like a toilet seat raiser or a nail cutter with a magnifying glass,” said Upadhya, 40 who set up seniorshelf.com in February. The twomonth-old portal already stocks about 700 products such as sticks, walkers and stair-climbing wheelchairs. Investors estimate that portals like these have their timing right. India has more than 100 million elderly, according to the United Nations Population Fund and by 2050 will be home to one out of every six of the world’s 60-year-olds, second only to China.

“I can smell the opportunity in a niche market. This is a demographic that hasn’t been paid attention to, and once it picks up, the revenue per customer will be higher than what we see at a Flipkart or Snapdeal,” said Sameer Mehta, a member of the Chennai Angels and a director of Mehta’s Hospitals . Mumbai-based seniorshelf aims to earn revenue of about Rs 12 crore by the end of next year.

Exclusive products online for senior citizens

The company plans to stock products and offers services as well. It has tied up with home care providers and travel companies that design specialised packages for the old. “I can buy a lot of things like silicon insoles, hearing aids and herbal teas that cannot be found in a retail store easily. It is convenient and faster for me to shop for my parents and grandparents online,” said Goa-based Satyam Singh, a regular customer at seniorshelf.com.

Exclusive tie-ups for products like stair -climbing wheelchairs and foods designed for those with dietary restrictions give these niche retailers an edge in the market.

“We don’t just see ourselves as product sellers, but solution providers. In this world of Amazon Flipkart and Snapdeal, there is still place for highly focused niche sites,” said Prithviraj Somdev, cofounder of Chennai-based OldIsGoldStore.com. Somdev, a University of Madras graduate, also cofounded office software development company Translogic Systems.

Set up in February last year by the 53-year-old , his wife Jayashree Somdev, 46, and friend Sanjay Dattari, 45, the idea came from the personal experience of the founders who were taking care of Prithviraj Somdev’s mother and sought to find tools and products to keep her life as comfortable and dignified as possible.

“Most of our orders are through referrals and wordof-mouth . Our customers are our greatest marketing tool,” said Somdev. His site, which stocks items including adult diapers to anti-skid mats and nail cutters with magnifying glass, expects revenue of about Rs 5 crore in one year. Typically such portals battle a lack of customer awareness of new products as well as very high cost of logistics.