2020 has been unlike any other year. Just as we were busy patting our collective selves on the back for our technological progress, be it self-driving autonomous cars or launching a mission to Mars, a little 120 nano meter virus splattered in our lives and created a big havoc. The COVID-19 pandemic has precipitated a crisis unlike any other. It forces us to adapt and change our work habits, our education, our social lifestyle. We struggle to adapt to our daily routines and most importantly, how we support and care for each other.
For most Indians based in US, caring for an ailing elderly family member has become a challenge – when a parent needs medical attention or care, there is no simple way to arrange it. You can research local hospitals, but good luck trying to call them and ask them to offer in-home service? The quality of care notwithstanding, how should we ensure the basics like food and healthcare service are available to our parents and family amidst such times. Relying on the good old neighbors – God bless their souls – takes us only so far. An occasional request is fine. Calling them three times a week is a drudgery neither they can bear, nor we are willing to inflict upon them.
In trying to solve problems, we often reach the most enterprising, the bravest of our childhood friends. We often tell ourselves, ‘everyone else will fail me, but this is one guy who I can rely upon at all times.’ But this time it’s different. COVID has created long term uncertainty and no one knows its impact and duration.
As this discussion started to become more mainstream, a small group of entrepreneurs came together to develop a services platform, called My Family Care India. The primary premise is to provide remote on-demand services for our parents and family members. As we know, health care is one service, but what are other challenges faced by Indians living abroad? But how should we design the offerings to serve the greatest number of people?
Is housekeeping – be it cleaning, cooking or groceries a challenge. Or how do elders manage technology related snafus? Can they connect to Zoom at a click of a keyboard? One childhood friend based in Hong Kong pointed out that as they were attending a remote Ganpati aarti conducted by their seventy five year old mother in Mumbai. But she could not find a way to un-mute Zoom. The next day her cell-phone fell down and the screen cracked. They had to find a way to ship a new handset to her. Such challenges exasperate everyone when technology is the connective tissue between family members.
In starting any service, the voice of the customer is important. In fact, it is the only voice that matters. They can help shape the journey, benefit from the services and improve the overall quality of our life. Agreed that the notional profits are part of the business proposition, but that’s not the primary objective. In such a service business, marginal profits are like oxygen – it keeps the entity active. But the only way it can be a success of any measure is when people trust, respect and support each other. After all, you cannot outsource some things in life.
I would love to know your insights, so please consider sharing your views via this brief survey.
Mahendra Ramsinghani is the author of two books – “The Business of Venture Capital” and “Startup Boards”. His blogs have appeared in MIT Technology Review, TechCrunch, Forbes and Huffington Post. He is based in San Francisco and recently joined the advisory board Mumbai based of My Family Care India.