Worried About Parents Living Alone? These Safety Devices Bring Help to Elders in Minutes
Kochi startup Ansfrid SmartCare Pvt Ltd aims to offer affordable emergency-alert devices to assist senior citizens living alone.
A common, enduring trend in recent times is that of people having nuclear families, who often witness their children moving away in pursuit of better opportunities. This, however, leaves senior citizens vulnerable.
According to census data, approximately 15 million senior citizens live alone, leaving them potentially exposed to unfavourable conditions, including loneliness. A recent survey conducted by the Delhi-based NGO, Agewell Foundation, reported that 24.44% of a sample of 10,000 elderly individuals lived in solitary conditions.
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The survey further revealed that “almost every second elderly person (48.88%) lives alone in the country,” a situation expected to worsen over time.
In response to this issue, a Kerala-based startup came up with affordable emergency-alert technology to assist senior citizens living in solitude.
Founded by Venunath V in 2021, Ansfrid SmartCare Pvt Ltd has launched nearly a dozen products to help the elderly live a safe and less vulnerable solitary life. In conversation with The Better India, Venunath talks about his personal experience with elderly care, the technology and the products his company offers.
‘My mind needed the right nudge’
As a school-going boy, all that Venunath dreamt of was to become an entrepreneur and have a business that he could grow independently. Even at that young age, his mind would be full of ideas and innovations.
His parents had to push him to first pursue professional education before he jumped into entrepreneurship.
“My very first business venture goes back to when I was in school. It was making profits and I was so invested in growing it that I had lost track of my education. It was my parents who told me to give it a break and focus on my studies,” he recalls.
The business Venunath had developed was of an inventory control software which he was selling to other businesses.
“I was earning some Rs 500 per sale which was a huge deal for me back then. However, as my parents kept on urging me to study hard, I decided to focus on that first,” he says.
Although Venunath moved his priorities towards his education, he did not stop working on his business. In the span of five years, he grew the business while completing his schooling and graduation.
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“It was going well and I had a small team of software developers working with me. However, I wanted to study more and open more avenues for myself,” he says. In 2012, he moved to Sweden for his postgraduate studies.
This move would eventually give Venunath the direction his innovative mind needed.
Making the lives of solitary senior citizens safe
“When I moved to Sweden, I had to look for accommodation as the college did not have any. I found a place with an elderly woman in a rural area,” he says.
The lady lived alone and had sublet her apartment to Venunath. “At the time, she was almost 80 years old and living with her made me realise how hard it can be to live alone,” he recalls.
“One night, she was not feeling well and the situation turned serious. She was wearing a pendant and when her condition started to worsen, she pressed a button on it. There was a device on her table that started talking to her and she listed her symptoms,” he says.
Within 20 minutes of pressing the button and talking to the device, there was a team of paramedics and helpers at the lady’s doorstep.
While she received her first aid, Venunath started to dismantle the device in his head.
“I was left quite intrigued and started to look into the device, how it worked and the company that was producing it. It was a great technology for solitary elderly people who wanted to know more about the technology as I could see a great scope for it in India,” he says.
Venunath found the company and ended up in their office.
“They simply asked me to leave,” he laughs, “Pursuing them for a while, they gave me 10 minutes to talk. In those 10 minutes, I gave them an idea of how this technology can be helpful in India in the coming years.”
However, the company refused to indulge in it as India was not on their roadmap. “The problem was in the massive amount of investment that the project required. I brainstormed ideas on how the cost of the device can be reduced,” he explains.
The best way to reduce the cost of Venunath was to develop the devices in India.
“While I was working in Sweden, I decided to start an R&D company in India. I used a part of my salary to fund the company and used the rest to fund my expenses in Sweden,” he says.
By 2019, Venunath had made up his mind to return to India. This decision was received with opposition from everyone in his family.
“They thought that I had lost my mind. For them, they could not fathom the idea of me leaving a well-settled life in Sweden and coming back to India. Even my distant relatives would contact me to advise me against the move,” he recalls.
Venunath had made up his mind and working a job was never in his long-term plans.
“I knew that India was ready and needed this kind of innovation. I returned to India in late 2019 and worked more on making the devices,” he says.
‘A network of companions, hospitals to help the elderly’
In 2021, he launched Ansfrid SmartCare Pvt Ltd. The company offers services across India and has most of its consumer base in Kerala.
The company offers a variety of products such as heat alarms, enuresis sensors, ‘Ansfrid Go’, ‘Pendant’, ‘Vibby fall detectors’, among others.
Explaining how the technology works, Venunath says, “In simple words, it is like a wifi router which you can connect to any device. Our device also allows you to connect with anything like pendants, or sensors etc,” he says.
He continues, “We have wireless fall sensors, for example, that are fitted on walls of bathrooms and other rooms. If an elderly person falls down, it immediately detects it and if the person does not move for 30 seconds, then it sends an alert to us. We then have a procedure where we try to contact the person and if that fails we send a team from the hospital to the person’s doorstep.”
They also have consumer care partners who are available on call for the assistance of elderly people in need. “We have hospitals in order of preference and priority. Our first preference is always to take them to the nearest hospitals. Then, we have a list of hospitals that the customer suggests we can take them to,” he says.
For this purpose, the company has a team of 20 people and has collaborated with more than 40 hospitals.
“We are trying to expand in cities like Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi and Bengaluru,” he says. The company has a B2B model where they provide their services to old age homes.
Found Venunath’s work interesting? Check out his website here.
(Edited by Padmashree Pande)
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