How Does Khyaal Empower Senior Citizens to Be ‘Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise’ in the Digital Realm?

Khyaal founder Hemanshu Jain
Khyaal founder Hemanshu Jain

There comes a point in life when the roles between you and your parents reverse. Once, they stopped you from eating sand; now, you prevent them from clicking on online scams. For me, this switcheroo becomes apparent during my endeavours to help my father, a senior citizen, navigate apps like Swiggy and Paytm, explaining for the ‘nth’ time the difference between tapping and swiping and how to locate the menu (hamburger) icon.

My experiences have led me to believe that a lot of the mainstream apps and solutions we use today are simply not designed for the sensibilities of elderly users. I’m sure a lot of people reading this have faced similar issues with parents trying to grapple with the digital world, which feels both alien and daunting.

Considering that India has more than 140 million senior citizens (aged 60+),  this is a considerable user base that our product leaders are ignoring, and it leaves a huge problem to solve.

To discover the unique problems and needs of senior citizens in the digital landscape, we reached out to Hemanshu Jain, the founder of Khyaal (which translates to ‘care’ in Hindi).

With 1.2 million users, the Khyaal: Senior Citizens App is India’s largest agetech platform, helping seniors overcome challenges that discourage them from actively participating in the digital world. Here are lessons from Khyaal’s journey that product leaders could use to build elder-friendly digital solutions.

The AgeTech Market and the App Opportunity

Khyaal is a community-based platform that recreates a senior citizen’s club in a virtual environment. Khyaal’s solutions are delivered through their app, which has 12 tiles (core services or functionalities): Events, Khyaal Club, Rewards, Khyaal Card, Travel, Digi Gold, Assistance, Shop, Fun Zone, Pay Bills, Jobs, and Referral.

Khyaal app

The relevance of an app like Khyaal for eldercare in the Indian market is underscored by the country’s demographic trends. With over 140 million people above the age of 65, India presents a unique opportunity for agetech startups.

“India is the hottest market because of the digital penetration,” Hemanshu explains. “A greater number of seniors are using mobile phones in our country than in any other country. Affordable data and mobile phones have made it easier for us to reach a large number of seniors through apps and digital platforms.”

Khyaal’s success speaks for itself. Despite being a young platform that caters to a technologically less inclined demography, Khyaal’s monthly active users (MAU) stand at an impressive 375,000, and daily active users are 45,000, out of a total user base of 1.2 million users (which is roughly 1% of India’s elderly population).

Although countries like Japan or Germany have a higher percentage of senior citizens as a part of their population, the significantly higher numbers of elderly people living in India, combined with the increasing trend of younger generations moving abroad or to different cities for better opportunities, creates a demand for solutions like Khyaal.

“Daily, more than 15,000 people are turning 60+. The numbers are higher than what the data shows, and the AgeTech market will grow rapidly. We will soon surpass even Japan in terms of the density of the elderly population in the next three to four years,” Hemanshu highlights, emphasizing the growing need for eldercare solutions.

Community-First Approach

Khyaal was founded in 2020 amidst the pandemic, when loneliness and social isolation among seniors rose to unprecedented heights.

Hemanshu says, “The seniors were struggling the most during the pandemic, especially those living away from their children. They figured they now had to be independent and quickly learn how to interact with apps and all the digital products out there.”

senior citizen alone

In order to address these issues, Khyaal conducted Zoom-based workshops on digital literacy and started WhatsApp groups/communities for seniors to interact and engage with each other. Soon, the workshops became popular and covered a range of topics, like healthcare, financial literacy, and protection from online fraud.

Till 2022, the primary mode of discovery of Khyaal’s content, workshops, and services was through Khyaal’s WhatsApp groups, which grew rapidly to include more than 10,000 members.

The growth of the Khyaal community demanded an app, having reached the limits of what’s possible on WhatsApp. The Khyaal app was built using insights from their senior citizens’ community.

“We created the community first, and the community told us what to build. The easiest way to achieve product market fit is when your consumers tell you what to build," says Hemanshu.

Insights from Senior Citizen Community

Hemanshu’s community-first approach to building Khyaal was also partly driven by the absence of readily available data about the user behavior of senior citizens and how they interact with digital platforms.

"Our community gives feedback on even the smallest feature we launch. It goes through a panel of senior citizens, and they tell us whether they're able to complete the entire flow. The community approach is the right way to build because they are the ones who will basically consume this.”

User research from the community unlocked key findings that shaped the Khyaal app:

Three Main Cohorts: Khyaal’s community helped them in identifying the primary issues seniors faced, such as loneliness, cognitive decline, physical and emotional challenges, fraud, wealth management, and difficulties navigating the digital world. They categorized these into three main cohorts: being healthy, wealthy, and wise, which later formed the foundation for their platform’s features.

Increase in Average Lifespan: A lot of seniors think that after retirement they don’t have life ahead of them. This is not true. The average lifespan of Indians is now around 75, and it will increase, making it imperative to focus on health and finance related services to improve the quality of life of senior citizens for a longer period of time after retiring.

User adoption through referrals and events: Traditional marketing techniques don’t work with seniors. They need a personal touch to build trust and adopt new products.

Lack of Pre-existing Data: Data on how seniors use digital platforms was scarce. Thus, Khyaal had to conduct extensive user experience research from scratch through their community.

Driving App Discovery and User Adoption through Events

Khyaal conducts free events and workshops that play a huge part in driving user adoption and engagement on the platform. App discovery happens through these events, where participants are evangelized about Khyaal’s services and how to avail of them through the app.

“The first tile you see on the Khyaal app after installing is Events. All seniors can join the app and start attending our workshops for free. These live workshops are designed to help senior citizens lead a life that is healthy, wealthy, and wise. As soon as they start attending our workshops, they get engaged and understand the value offering."

Khyaal charges users a minimal subscription fee (Rs. 999 per year) to become a member of the Khyaal Club, which unlocks exclusive benefits including unlimited access to events, rewards for participation, safe online payments with Khyaal Card, deals and discounts on travel, special benefits on on-demand assistance, and more.

For age-tech platforms, Hemanshu suggests an “offline to online push” by hosting physical events to help seniors adopt online products and services faster.

“We've done chapters in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, and other cities where we host workshops on how to use the app. We also have a manual for our app, since seniors read a lot. We meet existing members in these workshops and encourage them to bring their friends. There is a window of opportunity here to get new users, display new features, and collect feedback.”

Referrals: The secret to cracking agetech adoption

Hemanshu underscores that age-tech is a tough market to crack for startups, as seniors would not want to be a part of something unless you are genuine. So, product and service adoption primarily occurs through referrals from current users and not through traditional marketing and advertising channels.

“Almost 75% of our users are organic. User adoption is mostly through referrals, which is our top priority. We spend a very, very small amount of money on marketing because seniors know how advertisement works, and they stop believing in anything that is advertised.”

Speaking about referrals, Hemanshu also presents an interesting insight into the psyche of senior citizens and their relationship with their children.

“The referral has to come from someone who is in their own age-bracket. The seniors take the words of their friends and people of their same age more seriously than their sons or daughters. This is why our strategy is to reach out to senior citizens directly rather than their offspring.”

Khyaal Cards and Coins: Enabling Financial Inclusivity for Seniors in a Digital World

Khyaal’s services extended beyond workshops. One of their primary goals is to help seniors participate in the digital transactions that run the world today. For instance, members can get a smart payment card powered by VISA that can be managed through the Khyaal app.

Khyaal card

“The biggest fear that senior citizens have is that their primary bank accounts will become vulnerable in the event of a breach. We have created the Khyaal card to safeguard customers from digital fraud. The Khyaal card comes with safety limitations that restrict high value transactions and guarantee money back in the event of fraudulent transactions.”

The Khyaal Card, which is provided in partnership with M2P, LivQuik, and Visa, allows seniors to earn Khyaal Coins for every transaction, which can be redeemed for rewards within the Khyaal App.

“The rewards option was included in the Khyaal app after many seniors expressed a pain point where credit card companies don’t give them a card since they are not earning anymore, and the seniors are missing out on credit card offers and points. So, Khyaal curates special offers on products and services for senior citizens and gives loyalty points in the form of Khyaal Coins.”

The reward points also serve a secondary purpose to encourage seniors to participate in online banking services and transactions.

“The reason why we have created this is because we want seniors to be more independent in terms of doing financial transactions online. So, we gamified the entire experience to reduce fear of online transactions among senior citizens.”

Designing Sensible UI-UX for Senior Citizens

Khyaal’s research and design principles challenge common misconceptions about seniors’ abilities. For example, while the initial app design featured large fonts and icons, user feedback revealed that seniors found these changes patronizing.

“We all have this belief that seniors want to see big texts and images. But our seniors gave us feedback that they already have spectacles and can clearly see things. For instance, we know that most seniors are voracious readers, especially newspapers that have tiny fonts. So, we think very little about the abilities of senior citizens, and we have to change our thought process.”

Having gotten clarity over font size, Khyaal’s app now balances font size with minimal iconography and bold pictures to ensure readability and app usability.

“Seniors do not understand popular iconographs used in UI/UX, like the burger menu icon. That’s why in the Khyaal app, there is very minimal iconography. We make use of a lot of images and text to create a more friendly user experience for seniors.”

To make the user experience convenient for senior citizens who are not used to the digital landscape, Khyaal features an Assistance feature – which is a concierge service mirroring the personalized care seen in services like Amex’s concierge.

“We treat it just like the concierge services provided by Amex to provide top class experiences for senior citizens in Khyaal. But with Khyaal, even if the senior citizens don’t use a Khyaal card, they can still avail of our assistance. They can use this service for travel bookings, bill payments, healthcare services. repair and maintenance, etc.”

From a UI perspective, the Khyaal app features earthy colors like brown and green, symbolizing a connection to nature. The logo features a thought bubble resembling a tree and represents a safe space for seniors, emphasizing care and community.

Balancing Data Privacy and Product Development

Respecting senior citizens’ privacy, Khyaal collects minimal data and ensures consent is obtained for any information shared. This approach stems from user feedback indicating discomfort with intrusive data collection practices that are common in other apps.

“Our usability testing revealed that senior citizen users are very skeptical of such things. Our business is based on trust, which is why we don’t collect user data that we don’t actually require."

Khyaal does collect certain basic information to authenticate new users, ensuring only genuine individuals are given access to the community, making the platform a safe space for all senior citizens.

“The data that we collect is just required from an entry perspective in terms of authenticating a user as a genuine one, because we want to safeguard other senior citizens on the platform. After that, we don’t collect any unwanted user data, respecting the privacy of senior citizens.”

However, to deliver relevant services and product features to users, Khyaal gathers information about the preferences of seniors by rolling out polls and surveys in the community.

A Journey of Care and Innovation

Khyaal stands out as a digital platform meticulously designed for senior citizens, blending community feedback with innovative solutions. Its success lies in understanding and addressing the nuanced needs of its users, fostering a safe, engaging, and supportive environment.

For product and tech leaders, Khyaal’s journey underscores the importance of empathy-driven innovation and community engagement. It serves as a powerful reminder that behind every successful product is a story of understanding, resilience, and a relentless pursuit of making a difference.

As Hemanshu and his team continue to build and refine Khyaal, they offer a beacon of hope for seniors seeking independence and a better quality of life in the digital age.

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