The Silver Angels newsletter brings you news, stories and trends from the silver economy in India, in a short, easy-to-read format. Businesses, brands, investors, startups, researchers and analysts following this space are likely to find it interesting.
Nidhi Chawla is co-founder of Silver Talkies, India’s leading active ageing company focused on 55+ adults. Individuals can opt in for subscriptions to access curated content, a community of like-minded individuals, events, and a host of other community activities for healthy and happy ageing. Silver Talkies has engaged with over 20000 older adults, both digitally and in physical formats across India. The Silver Talkies magazine, with a subscriber base of 8000 adults, is one of India’s leading active ageing publications focused on older adults. Based in Bangalore, Nidhi previously worked with McKinsey & Company and is a pioneer in the active ageing space.
An active proponent of healthy and happy ageing, Nidhi is co-authoring a book for Penguin Random House on how the landscape of ageing is shifting in India. Nidhi has been the recipient of leadership awards for her work in the eldercare space and is currently a member of the CII Seniorcare committee. In this interview, I chat with Nidhi to understand active ageing, why it is more relevant than before, and how Silver Talkies is shaping those conversations.
Nidhi, we first met in early 2020 and I recall you speaking passionately about the eldercare ecosystem and particularly about active and happy ageing. What do you mean by active ageing? Why is it important, particularly for older adults and seniors?
As per International Council of Active Ageing, active ageing rests on 7 pillars – physical, intellectual, emotional, social, vocational, spiritual and environmental well-being and if you were to ponder over these aspects deeply with regards to the elders in your own life you would find that each and every pillar is vital for an older adult’s well-being. We discovered this through our own experience with our ageing parents at home. Their intrinsic well-being needs to be complemented with extrinsic factors, including how our system, society and infrastructure supports them with their ageing needs.
With age comes natural physical changes which are often accompanied by decline in mental, social and emotional well-being due to various reasons like empty nests, nuclear families, shrinking social circles due to death and disabilities, lack of engagement opportunities etc. Early retirement age, increased longevity, progress of technology leaving seniors behind have only added to this mix, thereby making it increasingly important that we address these issues exclusively for our seniors.
We must give them opportunities for social and intellectual engagement, looking beyond their physical health and catering to their holistic well-being. We must empower them with the necessary skills, information and opportunities so they continue to stay included in our society and age gracefully, happily and with dignity. It’s time to redefine ageing and make it a lively experience despite the inevitable downgrade in health and abilities.
You have seen the evolution of the eldercare space in India over the past decade. What has changed over the past few years, and what hasn’t?
Back when we started out there were hardly any players in the eldercare space, many of them being in the unorganized sector. Over time we saw many companies with interesting concepts come and go, either because the market was not ready for the idea or there was no funding available to scale up.
The focus continued to be on physical health and senior living. Concepts like companionship, second careers and engagement continued to be unheard of. Over the years the landscape has been evolving and hopefully shifting for the better. Even the healthcare and senior living sector is seeing more depth in terms of the kinds of offering that are coming up in the market. Home healthcare, transition and palliative care are emerging; assisted living and ageing in place concepts are being introduced and are better understood. However, there still remains a large unexplored territory that can lend heavily into an older adult’s overall well-being. Focus on physical health continues and active ageing centers are far and few.
Pandemic has put a spotlight on the needs of seniors like never before, prompting organizations, government as well as investors to take a serious look at the sector as a potential opportunity. However, success will still be hard to come by unless a mindset shift happens where there is an increased awareness about the positive impact that all these services can have on the lives of older adults. With the next generation used to a different lifestyle, have better financial freedom and a stronger desire to stay well and independent, we are likely to see adoption of these services much more quickly.
Silver Talkies has gone through different phases of evolution. What are the core activities you undertake, and who is your target audience?
Silver Talkies has three main verticals.
Our digital magazine covers topics across four main categories – health & wellness, money matters, living and people & stories. Our magazine features original and well researched content generated either in-house or through our contributing experts and members, across topics that would be of relevance to seniors and their caregivers. We also shine light on awe-inspiring seniors and focus on positive ageing stories.
Our community invites older adults to join Silver Talkies Club – a safe space for seniors to discover themselves as well as find new friendships across geographies. Our club members enjoy exclusive events, learning opportunities, meet-ups, buddy support, expert help, partner offers and vocational opportunities. They also contribute to our magazine and share their skills and knowledge with other members.
Our workshops and weekly classes are open to both club members and non-members and cater to different interests and needs. Our awareness sessions are also open to all.
Our target audience is anyone who is 55+ residing anywhere on the globe. Our current offerings are available only in English language. In the near future we plan to introduce programs in at least a couple of Indian languages as well.
With longer lifespans, older adults prefer assisted living arrangements or ageing-at-home services to support activities of daily living (ADLs), nursing and attendant care needs, mostly in urban areas. Do you work with such partners to support healthy ageing?
Yes indeed, these are practical needs of any older adult. We are working at meeting all needs of seniors under one roof by having strategic tie-ups with carefully selected and leading players across different segments of eldercare. We already have tie-ups in the healthcare, tech assistive devices and lifestyle segments and in the due course will be buffering up this strategic pool of partners. We also facilitate connecting our members to right experts and service providers in the senior living sector as and when requested.
Can you expand on the general customer profile of Silver Talkies members? How do they benefit from your membership services? Any anecdotes would be much appreciated.
Silver Talkies members come from varied backgrounds and consist of homemakers to lawmakers; introverts and extroverts. Diverse personalities have found home at Silver Talkies Club. They are well-educated and cosmopolitan in their attitude. They may be 55+ but they are young at heart with great zeal towards life. They are adventurers and lifelong learners, willing to experiment and explore new horizons.
With Silver Talkies’ engagement opportunities our members have been able to fulfil their dormant desires and also acquire new skills. They have found multi-city friendships and managed to banish the loneliness blues. They have been able to get and give advice, share their own skills while also learning from others in the group. They have learned to dance, sing, act and walk the ramp! They have discovered the writer in them and have become digitally literate. With the common interest groups like gardening, quiz, literary, wellness they have found shared interests with other members and actively interact with them on these topics.
Anecdotes are plenty, sharing a couple of them.
Sunita Thakker a member from Mumbai who was experiencing the empty nest syndrome after her only daughter’s marriage is now an active and exuberant member of Silver Talkies community. She has not only found multi-city friends who are ever ready to host her when she is in their town, she has also found a new passion for painting and music. Thakker has also been taking care of her physical health through online fitness classes. She is a regular at monthly quiz and storytelling sessions and makes it a point to attend as many activities as possible, as the virtual format allows her to fit them into her schedule easily. She is just one shining example of a senior who has found a new zeal of life after joining a community like ours.
Col. Tavamani who served the nation all his active years, now lives alone while his married daughter lives some distance away. Col. Tavamani was dependent on his wife to take care of him and the household. He didn’t even know how to make a cup of tea. So, when she passed away, he found himself spiraling into depression. In his words becoming part of Silver Talkies rescued him and he is now an active learner and member. Col. Tavamani has benefitted from the tech classes and now proudly considers himself tech literate.
How big is your team and what is next in the journey for Silver Talkies?
We are currently a ten-member team including the core operations and the tech team. The year 2020 was a silver lining for us amidst the dark clouds. The pandemic pushed us to pivot our model from being a Bangalore only community to becoming a pan-India virtual community. Currently we have members from 12 different cities. With the help of our technology partner, we are working at offering our services through both web and mobile channels, making our services easily accessible through preferred channels. We would continue to simplify accessibility while leveraging technology to scale up and positively impact lives of seniors across the globe.
Our vision is to be a global platform with city chapters, offering our engagement modules virtually while holding city meet-ups quarterly. Currently, we are working at enhancing our value proposition and introducing the missing building blocks of the active ageing framework. We envision an empowered society of older adults who have learnt to take care of themselves and are able to age with grace and dignity.
Silver Talkies invites non-members to experience the benefit of the club membership via a 30-day preview offer where they can attend member exclusive events and learning modules and participate in all member activities. All details are available at www.silvertalkies.com
The newsletter brings you news, stories and trends from the silver economy in India, in a short, easy-to-read format. Businesses, brands, investors, startups, researchers and analysts following this space are likely to find it interesting.
Shreya Bajaj Shah is co-founder at Easy Hai, a social learning company focused on the 50 plus adult population. Shreya and her sister Surabhi started Easy Hai in mid-2020 and what started as simple smartphone familiarization sessions on Zoom is today a vibrant community that has touched ~10000 adults in 1.5 years.
A proud Bangalorean, Shreya is a chartered accountant with an MBA from ISB, actively involved in her family business and part of other ventures in hospitality and sports. In this insightful conversation, Shreya breaks down her fun entrepreneurial journey at Easy Hai.
“Easy Hai today is my full-time business endevour. All my time is spent on building Easy Hai because I genuinely believe in its cause. I feel like it’s such a meaningful business because it really helps me sleep better at night knowing that I actually made a tiny bit of difference in someone’s life. My sister is my co-founder and she handles the complete backend, the operational part of it. I’m the main teacher at Easy Hai and we do have two other teachers as well who take some of our day-to-day classes like Google pay or Google photos, Netflix, Facebook, WhatsApp, so on and so forth.”
Shreya, I had the opportunity to be a silent participant in one of your online sessions where your alumni were presenting social media analytics of their respective Instagram accounts. Let us start here. What was the journey for that cohort?
Good morning, Mahesh. I’m so glad that you were part of our analytics class. Now the journey of this is backdated quite a bit. We usually have a five-week masterclass called Instagram transformation course. This is 10 sessions, which is two sessions a week, and the session is very detailed including study of Instagram for business accounts. If you’re trying to build a personal brand or trying to look at Instagram for monetization reasons, of course it’s recommended. Now, this course includes everything from understanding your account, making your perfect bio, having an aesthetic feed, understanding the difference between stories, post, reels, Instagram guide, Instagram life, so on and so forth.
The Instagram transformation course has a mix of strategy and of course, how to use the tool. It is very step by step and a clear-cut instructions-based course, and it comes in with a bit of a strategy because the audience for this course are people who are already in service. They include doctors, physiotherapists, reiki healers, yoga therapists, and those in business.
Some of them have either started their own business or are part of a family business. Or they want to start a business in the near future, or they’re probably using Instagram very seriously for their personal branding purposes or for getting speaking engagements in the future. Because people have a definite goal, they do this very detailed course. We work on a WhatsApp group a week, come up with different challenges that people kind of take part in as a community.
Once the five weeks course is over, they all get transferred to an alumni group. And in this alumni group, we meet once a month and these sessions are conducted by me for free. We don’t charge the learners and, in these sessions, we just discuss about the new features of Instagram. Alternately, we take any topic, like on the day you attended, we took the topic of understanding Instagram analytics. And from there on, we make smaller groups, you know, groups of three and asked the team to pick one account among the team members and do a deep dive into their account and present their analysis. This way, they come to know what kind of content works, what are the mistakes they’ve been making as well as what should the strategy in the subsequent months. So that’s the journey of that cohort-based learning.
One of the most interesting parts of being part of that session was watching you switch between being a friend, expert and teacher. Many of your students are successful in their own right but come with a shared passion to learn. Can you give us a little insight into the profile of your students? How diverse or mixed is it?
That’s a very interesting observation. I probably do that subconsciously, but I guess you’re right as I think about it. And the reason for that is, I always want to have fun with my learners because I think learning is a lot more enjoyable and also it ends up there’s a, there’s a much deeper penetration if you’re able to enjoy those classes. And I guess just being a friend and being funny helps in all of that, but at the same time, learning has to come with a certain amount of discipline, and hence I do become a strict teacher as well. Yes, most of my learners are successful in their own right. They come with a very, very rich experience, but what amazes me is how humble they are. And they have absolutely no airs about not knowing technology. It overwhelms them, but you know, it’s not like, why do I need to learn this? There is a very deep-rooted curiosity and an interest in learning what’s new and being part of the changing world. And I guess for me, that is, as someone who is growing up, to have that for inspiration is fantastic.
That age is absolutely not a barrier to learning and really learning can happen at any age. And we’ve heard this quote so many times, but to see that in practice is really inspiring at another level. The people that come to my classes are typically quite varied. We have homemakers, people who are retired and want to make better use of their time, then there are people who have so many experiences and want to kind of make a digital archive of the same in the form of a podcast or in the form of a really solid social media profile or you know, like a YouTube channel or just probably write a book and they want to know how technology can ease that process for them.
Then of course, we have people from the business background. Most of them are self-made entrepreneurs or are running their startups now, especially as COVID give birth to home-based entrepreneurs. So that again is another mix of people that are coming to me. And then, people who have been in service. For example, there are lots of lawyers, doctors, you know, service-based backgrounds who want to now dive into the digital space because if the next generation is their target audience, then they feel like having a digital presence is important because that’s how we’re looking for resources in today’s time, right! Like we want to check a Google review or check their Instagram page before we make an appointment with the doctor or look them up somewhere to see how much of an expert they are in their field. And then there are people who are just there for the love of technology. They’re probably taking a sabbatical or they just want to know what Instagram is about, what the changing technology is and just for the love of learning. I have a lot of students even like that in they actually just say it, I just want to know what’s new and what’s happening, technology fascinates me and I want to be part of.
My learners are quite diverse and mixed in terms of demographics. 80% of my students are from India and others are from Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore, London, New York and Bangkok. And we planning to dive into the African market as well.
The first time I came across your Insta profile, I was intrigued with some of the topics you touch upon. Can you tell us what Easy Hai does today? Why the focus on technology?
Easy Hai’s mission is very, very simple. We’re here to teach technology to adults and seniors. Why the focus in technology because, in the first lockdown, when literally our country went into a standstill, the entire dependence was on technology, whether it is to keep ourselves safe using Arogya Setu, or to even learn about the pandemic, all the resources online, whether to believe the news that’s circulated on WhatsApp or to flag it as fake. How to register for a vaccination, using Cowin or how to even, you know, order your groceries and stay at home, getting an e-pass, whether it’s in the city travel or interstate, pretty much everything was digitally done. And there’s a huge startup society that wasn’t equipped to handle that change. And so really, I started teaching a lot of mainly my immediate family on how to use Google pay or how to buy groceries or how to make your electricity bill online without having to really go to the electricity office and slowly it let the word spread and more and more people started reaching out to us, which is when I realized that this problem exists beyond my family.
I then went on to test whether it was only north Indians because maybe English could be a problem. And perhaps south Indians would find it easier. But it wasn’t any of that. Actually, this is quite a global problem because now that I have students from different countries coming to me. I realized that it’s not about whether we speak good English or not, because technology is just another language. Just like you, you can be very fluent in English and you wouldn’t know anything in Tamil or Telugu or Malayalam for that matter. The computer language is treated the same way. You either know it or you have to learn it and that could mean understanding the basics of operating your phone, understand the basics of operating your laptop, understanding what computer terminology means and how to think, how the algorithm is built and that’s really what we teach in our class. So yes, we are super focused and teach only, and only teach technology.
We have over 40 topics, everything from a simple how to use Netflix or how to use YouTube all the way to Google, Instagram for business, how to use Canva for your designing needs and you know, all your aesthetic requirements. So yeah, the, the topics are varied. Basically, any app or software on your phone, iPad or laptop becomes a class for us, as simple as that.
In India, most academic degrees and programs have an age cut-off and hence the concept of continuous learning is more a personal endeavor. Thanks to technology, we can now access content/courses without those restrictions. You have been able to use digital well, bridge the learning gap and build a trusted community. What do you think is working well for you?
I think what’s worked for me is if I have discovered that I am a teacher, which is completely accidental and I guess the complete credit of that goes to my learners because they constantly give me feedback. And this audience, and particularly this age group, is so amazing to work with because they’re so grateful and they give you honest feedback and there is absolutely no superficiality in the whole thing. If they love it, they’re going to tell you that they love it and if they don’t understand it, then they’re also going to be brutally honest and tell you that they do not understand it. In the initial days, I think what worked really for us was honest feedback.
We also accepted that feedback really quickly. I mean, when people told us that this class was very bad, we quickly figured out what wasn’t working in that case, whether the material was too long? Should we have given the recording of the class? Should we have broken this down? Was it too much that we dumped in one session? Should we have broken down that further? Was it the delivery of the class with the teacher? Not exciting enough? We really deep dived when the feedback was bad. And then when it was good, we used to also ask them the part of our class they liked. I guess the more common things that I hear is that your explanations are good because you break down technology concepts into simple mundane day-to-day language.
I also drop examples from real world so they’re able to understand the concepts a little better. That style of very relatable, conversational style of teaching technology, something that appeals to them. And other thing that they see is the energy that I bring to class because online classes otherwise are very boring, and of course our information, right.
And most people, they don’t just sign up for one class. They sign up for many classes because they get so hooked to technology. And because they’ve understood one thing, they want to now learn more things. And in the process, they keep coming to our classes. Say you have attended class one and now you’re in class two, if you have any doubts from class one, we usually come in 15 minutes early and stay back 15 minutes after every session so they can always ask us their doubts.
It’s very rounded. We don’t just say, press this button, press that button go left, go. Right. But we kind of try and get into the brain of the developer. Like, why did he do this? What’s the business model of that company? Functionalities remain same across all apps. For example, the minute you see a magnifying glass, it would probably mean use that to search anywhere on the app. I guess little, little information tips, tricks like this works. And then I guess another point that really works for us is because we are here even after the class is over. It’s not just that you come, you pay and you go to class, but if you have a doubt and we help you. We have a WhatsApp support. If you want additional help, you can take a one-on-one class. They’re always connected with us and it’s not like we’re really going away anywhere.
I guess, in very simple terms, it is that we really want the best for our students, and we put them in the center of our business. If they’ve understood, we’ve done our job. If they’ve not understood that we haven’t done well, and then we go back and rework on it, which is why with masterclasses like Instagram or Canva, they have continuous support in the form of free classes, because we’re really here to give them value to make them stay motivated and in turn, they are our biggest brand ambassadors and marketing heads.
All your programs are digital and you did mention about getting invitations to undertake such workshops in person. Is that part of the trajectory or is the goal to stay the fully digital path?
Actually, all our programs have been digital. And I think that I will continue to keep them digital because it’s not that I have people only from one city. We have people from across the globe that are part of our programs. And I don’t see that getting substituted. However, thoughts do cross my mind, for example, if I have to do a photography workshop, I think that would work better offline than online. And so sometime in the future, I would probably try and offline version of the same, but I think online is extremely comfortable because it’s so cost effective and people can really log in from anywhere, even if on the road, or in their office or at home, or even on vacation. People have attended our classes on vacation because you just have to take that one hour off and continue to learn while doing something else so I think we’re going to stay predominantly digital.
Where do you go from here with Easy Hai?
With Easy Hai, we will continue with our daily classes so you can decide to come and be part of any of our live classes. We also have a very strong masterclass set up and I’m probably going to add in more courses to that. Right now, we have Instagram and Canva but I’d also like to add in Google sheets for business owners as a very specific masterclass. Then there are a few more courses that are in the pipeline and we will be coming up with those as well. At the same time, I’m also going to experiment with on-demand recordings of courses because we’ve also gotten the feedback that our timings don’t work for everybody, especially because we have students from different countries. We are going to try that however; it won’t just be like purchase the course and watch it at your own comfort zone. It’s going to have a mix of a live Q&A every week. If you’ve purchased that course and you watched it at your own time or at your own pace, but you can always come and attend our Q&A sessions. That’s what I’m building on next and hopefully in the next one month, we should see a couple of those courses go live at Easy Hai.
The future of Easy Hai is to first kind of try and cover all strata of the society in terms of our course delivery so it’s going to be masterclasses, daily classes and on-demand videos. And then from there on, I want to start moving towards tier two and tier three cities because this is something that they need just as much as an urban population, probably more right, because technology is such a boon to everyone. So that’s going to be my second phase of marketing and growth.
You can connect with Shreya on LinkedIn, follow Teach Easy Hai on Instagram or just connect on WhatsApp to learn more.
The Silver Angels newsletter brings you news, stories and trends from the silver economy in India, in a short, easy-to-read format. Businesses, brands, investors, startups, researchers and analysts following this space are likely to find it interesting.