The covid-19 outbreak is opening up new business opportunities for companies providing care for senior citizens, as families seek to shield elders who are easy targets for the novel coronavirus.
Executives at several such companies reported brisk business as the pandemic and the accompanying lockdown have increased the requirement for special homes for the aged.
People above 65 are considered to be particularly vulnerable to the virus, and the lack of domestic help due to the lockdown has rendered many seniors stranded.
The easing of the lockdown has led to a spike in infections in many places.
“Before this, the entire industry had struggled just to bring the focus to seniors and the need for specialized services for the elderly because it was always considered an individual responsibility and not the responsibility of either the government or community,” Epoch Elder Care co-founder and chief executive officer Neha Sinha said. The company is looking to expand, anticipating a gradual increase in demand.
“The pandemic has also accentuated the need for safe and secure places, and emergency care for seniors,” Antara Senior Living managing director and chief executive officer Rajit Mehta said.
Antara, a subsidiary of Max India Ltd, is among companies planning to expand their presence in senior citizen care.
Assisted living is a $1 billion segment by market value while home healthcare is estimated to be around $4 billion in a roughly $10-12 billion fragmented senior care market, a research conducted by McKinsey for the Max Group had shown, as per Mehta.
Antara, started by Max Group founder Analjit Singh’s daughter Tara Singh Vachani, expects the covid-19 pandemic to boost demand for such services as people seek to isolate and protect their elderly. Such facilities have traditionally catered to senior citizens with assisted living needs.
Antara this week launched new projects: Care Home—a rental housing-cum-service—and Care at Home—a housing service—this week, as part of a business revamp called ‘Antara 2.0’.
The firm said it will spend ₹300 crore over the next 3-4 years to expand its business.
Real estate developer Ozone Group, which operates a retirement community, Covai Urbana Irene, in Bengaluru, has seen a 25-30% increase in enquiries for its senior living facilities over the last one month as compared to before the lockdown, group chief executive officer Srinivasan Gopalan said.
“We have now changed our strategy and are converting normal buildings into two launches of senior living by next month or September. One is in Bengaluru and the other in Chennai,” Gopalan said.
India’s senior citizens are expected to make up around 20% of the population by 2050, up from about 8% in 2015, according to a report that year by HelpAge India.
The agency had then said that India needs to devise appropriate social and economic policies to make room for the rapid increase.
Five years on, there has still not been enough focus from the government on the segment, and the industry hopes that will change now.
Industry body Association of Senior Living India (ASLI) said that the government should remove goods and services tax (GST) on the services, and also come out with regulations and a code of practice for the sector. “Senior living and care is an idea whose time has come for India. We need government support and handholding but that is not happening,” ASLI founder and chairman-emeritus Mansoor Dalal said.