My Parents’ Death Pushed Me to Help the Elderly Access Emergency Care & Lead Safer Lives
Pune’s Tarun Sharma runs Yodda Care, a tech startup that helps senior citizens access emergency care, healthcare, and day-to-day help in managing daily lives. He shares what pushed him to start this.
After losing her husband a year ago, living alone became a challenge for Padmini Rajappa. The 84-year-old is a heart patient and suffers from Parkinson’s Disease. With no one around her, and her daughter living 13,000 km away in the US, managing life seemed like an uphill task, until she found Yodda Eldercare – a Pune-based parent care company.
“They help me in every way, right from buying vegetables, procuring medicines, and paying my electricity bills. Quite often I have to visit the doctor and they help me in that as well. Any old person would need such help. They are invariably polite and nice. They ensure I am fine. They are like another son or a daughter to me,” she tells The Better India in a breathy voice.
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Behind this care is Pune’s Tarun Sharma, who has launched Yodda Eldercare, a technology-driven startup that caters to senior citizens with emergency response, healthcare help, and day-to-day services at any time.
Two unfortunate events
A computer engineer by training, the 52-year-old has worked in the corporate sector for more than two decades. After living in the US for 14 years, he returned to India in 2009 to head an IT management company.
But it was two unfortunate events that gave birth to Yodda Eldercare. “Entrepreneurs end up making companies because the business plan looks attractive. But Yodda was not a planned company,” he tells The Better India.
Recalling the tragedies, he says, “In October 2019, my mother was detected with an aggressive form of breast cancer. Despite our best efforts, we lost her in March next year.”
“And three years back in 2016, I lost my dad to paralysis,” he adds.
Tarun says that his father could have been saved with the right emergency care. “As individuals, you are never prepared enough to handle health emergencies. When I got a call from my brother, he told me that Dad had fallen down. I assumed he had slipped but he said that Dad was not behaving right. I called an ambulance and I left for my Dad’s home, but even after I reached home, the ambulance had not arrived,” he recalls.
“I took him to the closest hospital and after the whole registration process, the doctor said that he is slowly being paralysed but they could do anything about it. So we again laid him in our car and took him to another big hospital in Pune. We lost a couple of hours in the whole process, and as a result, he lost his ability to sit, stand, talk, and eat, and that ended up costing him his life,” he adds.
Tarun says that if a company like Yodda had existed at that point in time, they would have not made such mistakes. “The ambulance would have arrived on time, we would have been to the right hospital, and we would have gotten the life-saving injection at the right time,” he sighs.
Although Tarun was fortunate to have lived in the same city as his parents at the time of emergency, he often wondered how he would have acted in these situations if he was still living in the US.
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This thought was followed by the fact that “as more and more young Indians choose to leave India to pursue careers abroad, their parents, who would be dealing with ailments, loneliness, and the hassles of day-to-day lives will be getting older in a world that is technologically evolving at an overwhelming pace. Each one of us has a duty towards our elderly parents. We wanted to become their support when their children are away,” he adds.
Being their son
Driven by his vision to ensure that every senior citizen has a comfortable and empowered life, Tarun started Yodda and runs its operations along with his co-founder and daughter Simran Sharma. With this, he has launched two applications: Yodda Care and Yodda Enable, which cost about Rs 2,400 and Rs 500 a month, respectively.
While Yodda Care is functional in cities like Pune, Hyderabad, and Mumbai where field operations are managed by a team of 20 army veterans, Yodda Enable is expanded across the country where senior citizens are assisted with the help of the community, neighbours, and relatives assisted by Yodda employees.
In both applications, children sign up for the service, no matter where they are, and a team of trustworthy army veterans and the 24/7 emergency command centre ensures their parents are safe and comfortable.
In case of emergency, the startup claims to save up to half an hour time. Additionally, a 24/7 emergency response and healthcare assistance, Yodda also looks after all day-to-day assistance that an elder may require. For instance, handling their insurance, bill payments, and accompanying them to doctor appointments.
Tarun says, “Every day, one of our employees also talks to every parent, and if the parent lives alone, they talk to them twice a day. If an elderly person does not answer the call three times in a row, we physically dispatch an employee to the house to ensure they are okay.”
“When you deliver services consistently and reliably, people develop trust and we develop a parent-child relationship. We have deployed army veterans, which are always looked upon as the highest-ranking institution in terms of trust and empathy,” he adds.
So far, he is actively associated with about 160 senior citizens across Pune, Hyderabad, and Mumbai through Yodda Care, and expects more than 10,000 users on Enable by the end of the year. “Within two years, we have managed at least 40 emergencies successfully, this is our greatest achievement,” says Tarun.
And this is what keeps him motivated. “It feels extremely gratifying to be able to cater to so many senior citizens. A lot of time people tend to equate the success of startups with money but other than money, if you are able to change the fabric of society, you have fulfilled the purpose of your startup,” he adds.
Edited by Divya Sethu
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