Seniors go online shopping

Jun 01, 2014, 07:18 IST | Anu Prabhakar, a website that stocks up products for senior citizens, aims to help children take care of their aged parents in faraway cities

Rahul Upadhyay is an easy man to spot in a crowd, especially if he has his laptop with him. When we meet up at Starbucks in Powai (where the 41-year-old entrepreneur is a regular, much like other founders of start-up companies), Upadhyay is hunched over his laptop, which has the sticker ‘’ stuck on it.

“People here,” chuckles Upadhyay, looking around the cafe, “have approached me and asked what Senior Shelf is.”

Spoons for arthritic patients

A website for seniors
Upadhyay launched, a website that sells products from companies such as Pedder Johnson among others for senior citizens, months after he found himself stuck in heavy traffic in blistering Patna, while looking for a blood pressure machine for his 60-something-year-old mother.

“When I went back home, I realised that there is a need for a website that stocks up products which will be useful to senior citizens,” says Upadhyay.

Glow in the dark tapes
Glow in the dark tapes

Conversations with friends (one of whom shared with him an anecdote about how he spent hours searching for a walker in Benares for his mother who broke her leg) and a United Nations study which concluded that senior citizens find shopping alone most intimidating, only strengthened his resolve. “The idea is to help children take care of their aged parents who live in faraway cities,” elaborates Upadhyay. The website includes products that can prove handy and, in some cases, life-saving — like anti-skid tapes and toilet seat risers, to name a few. “In Mumbai, I get a lot of calls from people asking about toilet seat risers. It is priced between R1550 and R1900, but someone staying in Chembur will have to spend Rs 500 just to get to Princess Street, to get the product,” points out the entrepreneur.
The website aims to solve all that and much more. Senior Shelf has 1000 products for sale by suppliers spread across the country. A local delivery within Mumbai takes 48 hours, with the help of logistics services company Delhivery, which is in charge of picking up the product from the supplier, packing it and sending it off to the courier company.

Handy, life-saving products
Outside, we walk towards his car to take a good look at a few of the products. There is a large nail cutter with an attached magnifying glass for those with weak eyesight, glow-in-the-dark tapes to help direct the senior to the washroom in the middle of the night and a talking clock.

Talking clock
Talking clock

There are also bent spoons for arthritic patients. “Most of these products blew my mind. I hardly knew they existed,” says Upadhyay, who is always on the lookout for new, innovative products he can add to his website. “I recently saw these landline phones with huge dial buttons from Australia. The product’s supplier is based in Coimbatore and I am trying to convince him about featuring the product in the website,” he elaborates, adding that the market is still at a nascent stage in India.

The future
Going forward, Upadhyay aims to scale up operations and transform the website into a one stop shop for senior citizens — one that offers everything from mobile recharges to travel services, nursing care services, assisted living facilities and even clothes. “It is difficult for senior citizens to find something for themselves on other websites. Even finding a muffler or a monkey cap becomes a task for them,” he points out.

Rahul Upadhyay; A doorknob grip
Rahul Upadhyay; A doorknob grip

Running a business that sometimes calls for close interactions with senior citizens, who are not exactly interested in experimenting with net banking or even getting an email id, almost guarantees numerous heartwarming incidents. “Once, the courier guy called me up and said that the customer is not opening the door in spite of ringing the doorbell many times. Later, when I called the gentleman, he told me that he was having his post-lunch afternoon nap,” he chuckles.

Upadhyay does tend to lean towards the ‘social work’ aspect of the entire service. “I have given products to customers on credit,” says Upadhyay. “But it has never worked against me so far.”

“And anyway, it is okay,” he continues. “I hope it gets added somewhere else,” he smiles.

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