Connecting Generations: Ratan Tata’s Startup Unites Seniors

Started by Shantanu Naidu, Niki Thakur, and Gargi Sandu, The Goodfellows, supported by Ratan Tata, aims to alleviate senior loneliness. The trio’s affection for their grandparents sparked the idea, focusing on bringing companionship to the elderly.

For Shantanu, the heartfelt gratitude from Mr. Gul Punjabi, a member of their ‘grandpal’ community, remains a poignant reminder of their mission’s impact. This passion for seniors led Shantanu to conceive the concept of connecting Mumbai’s elderly with its youth, drawing overwhelming responses on social media.

Among the enthusiastic respondents were Niki and Gargi, both equally dedicated to Shantanu’s vision. Unbeknownst to him, they would soon become his co-founders. Their diverse backgrounds—corporate law, filmmaking, and executive management—form a robust foundation for their unique social venture aimed at transforming the lives of India’s elderly population.

Creating unique connections:

Shantanu’s interactions with elders highlighted their sensitivity to surrounding energies. It inspired ‘The Goodfellows’ model, bridging two distinct generations to enrich the lives of seniors. The aim was to pair lively youth with elderly individuals, fostering a vibrant blend.

Launched in August 2021, the beta phase introduced ‘goodfellows’, the spirited youth, to ‘grandpals’, seniors seeking companionship or assistance. The goal was to emulate grandparent-grandchild relationships, encouraging nominations for seniors longing for companionship.

Initial doubts about the model’s viability were swiftly dispelled. Niki, a goodfellow herself, found the experience transformative. Her bond with Dadu, the senior she connected with, revolved around shared interests, from movies to walks. For Niki, who grew up without a grandfather, the relationship became cherished. The beta phase witnessed many youths forming significant connections with their assigned grandpals. After a successful year, The Goodfellows was officially launched in August 2022, marking a culmination of their impactful journey.

The Background Story of Founders:

The trio behind The Goodfellows, Shantanu Naidu, Niki Thakur, and Gargi Sandu, were united by a shared affection for spending time with their grandparents. Their individual experiences and connections with elderly relatives ignited a collective passion to alleviate loneliness among seniors.

Shantanu, touched by his interactions with the elderly in his neighborhood, envisioned a platform that could bridge generations. Niki and Gargi resonated with this vision, which led to their collaboration. Shantanu’s innate inclination toward seniors, Niki’s background in filmmaking, and Gargi’s expertise in corporate law became the foundation of their complementary skills.

In 2021, Shantanu initiated the idea through an Instagram story, seeking to connect Mumbai’s elderly with the city’s youth. Their initiative received overwhelming responses, and amid these, Niki and Gargi emerged as enthusiastic partners. Together, they designed and executed the beta phase, which laid the groundwork for The Goodfellows’ official launch in August 2022. Their unique model thrived on intergenerational connections and mutual support between “goodfellows” and “grandpals,” enriching both parties’ lives through shared experiences and companionship.

Are you interested in becoming a goodfellow? 

One remarkable aspect of this social venture is its human-centric approach. There’s no room for artificial intelligence (AI) here, and that’s intentional. Shantanu spearheads the recruitment and pairing process, emphasizing that AI lacks the discernment to capture the subtle nuances observed during initial visits to the grandpals’ homes.  During these visits, they observe various cues, such as repetitive information sharing or hesitations mid-conversation. These details are used to build a basic character frame, aiding in matching the grandpal with a like-minded youth. Shantanu emphasizes that the goal isn’t just companionship but creating a fulfilling experience for both parties.

Aside from companionship, the goodfellows also assist with errands. Gargi mentions how these tasks range from accompanying grandpals to doctor’s visits or simply having lunch together, highlighting the broad spectrum of assistance provided. Reflecting on his experience, goodfellow Soham recalls a memorable shopping expedition for sandals with his grandpal, cherishing the chance to assist and create lasting memories. Sometimes these interactions are lighthearted, while others are enriching and educational. Aarohi shares how her grandpal, Kersi, has inspired her to cherish life’s positive moments, despite facing challenges.

The bonds formed between these generations are profound, but it’s also a journey that involves grief when a goodfellow loses a grandpal. Gargi notes the pivotal role goodfellows play in determining the joy or sorrow of a senior’s final years. The responsibility is immense, and the recruitment process is stringent. Shantanu ensures potential goodfellows comprehend the gravity of their role, encouraging thoughtful consideration before joining the team. This meticulous process ensures that each goodfellow comprehends the commitment they’re undertaking.

Bringing Vibrancy to Daily Lives:

Mukund and Madhavi Sule, both in their seventies, cherish the weekly visits from their goodfellow, Rupesh. Ever since Mukund was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Rupesh has been a pillar of support for the couple. We trust him like our own child! Mukund eagerly awaits Rupesh’s arrival and eagerly anticipates their time together,” Madhavi shares. Their activities range from chanting shlokas and passages from the Bhagavad Gita to creating music on the keyboard – Mukund and Rupesh form an exuberant duo. Madhavi lauds her brilliant goodfellow for her tech-savvy skills and assistance in writing her memoirs. Often, I forget my written passages, but my goodfellow remembers and corrects me promptly.”

These heartwarming tales fuel Shantanu, Gargi, and Niki’s dedication. In a society often dominated by nuclear families, the elderly can feel isolated, only anticipating festive visits. However, this innovative initiative instills hope. “We’ve encountered many grandpals who feel alone. Apart from essential services, the doorbell rarely rings. But our model is changing that. They now await and feel hopeful and excited on scheduled days,” explains Niki. With a team of over 65 goodfellows aged 18 to 24 and positively impacting more than 400 grandpals, the trio envisions a future brimming with optimism. As they stride ahead, Mr. Punjabi’s words resonate profoundly. “We aim to transform lives with our efforts,” concludes Shantanu.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q1: What inspired the founders to start this initiative?

The founders were moved by their own relationships with their grandparents, recognizing the loneliness many seniors face. This inspired them to create a platform bridging the gap between generations.

Q2: How does the platform match seniors with younger members?

The platform uses a meticulous process involving personal visits and detailed profiling to pair seniors and younger individuals with shared interests and compatibility.

Q3: What activities do seniors and younger members engage in?

The activities are diverse, ranging from recreational pursuits like watching movies or attending events to more practical tasks like accompanying seniors for medical visits or shopping.

Q4: How does the platform ensure safety and trust in these relationships?

There is a thorough vetting process for all members, and the founders encourage openness and communication while also providing guidance and support for any concerns.

Q5: Is there any training or support provided for the younger members?

Yes, the platform offers training, guidance, and professional support for the younger members to ensure they’re well-equipped to assist and bond with seniors effectively.


“Connecting Generations: Ratan Tata’s Startup Unites Seniors” concludes with a testament to the transformative impact this initiative has made in bridging generational gaps and alleviating loneliness among seniors. Through heartfelt connections and meaningful interactions, the platform has created a thriving community where seniors find companionship and the younger generation discovers purpose in contributing to their lives. The founders remain committed to expanding their vision, aiming to reach more seniors and fostering a brighter future built on empathy, companionship, and intergenerational understanding. This initiative stands as a beacon of hope, demonstrating the power of human connection and compassion in enriching lives across generations.

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