Colonel A Sridharan, VSM interview with Jet Airways – GlobalLinker
Colonel A Sridharan, VSM brings the virtues he imbibed during his time in the military to managing a flourishing senior living initiative. He has fought the stigma around retirement homes and brought awareness and acceptance to the community in Coimbatore. The inspiration behind Covai Property Centre (India) P Ltd was ‘selfish’ according to Sridharan who said that he wondered what would happen to him and his wife when their daughters left home. Today, with an emphasis on ‘passion’ and ‘compassion’ he guides his loyal core team and considers them, along with the seniors in his care as part of one big family. His philosophy is to ensure that no matter what age a person is or what disability they may have; they still lead an active and happy life and enjoy their last innings. He is also diversifying into ‘PolyCare’ which seeks to bring the personalised care seen in times gone by when people had ‘family doctors’.
In conversation with GlobalLinker (GL) Colonel A Sridharan, VSM (SA) shares the journey of his enterprise that is looking to revolutionize senior living. Watch this video to learn more.
GL: Tell us about your business.
SA: I am a professional soldier. I joined the NDA in 1965 and served the army for about 30 years in the artillery division. In 1995 I took premature retirement. I partnered with three other people and ventured into the real estate business. In 2001, I began a company called Covai Property Centre India Pvt Ltd. For the last 13 years I have been involved in healthcare and living for seniors. We take care of the elderly. What led to my interest in senior living? It was a selfish motive. I have two daughters, one in the US. I wondered, what will happen to my wife and I when they leave us? So, we started CovaiCare with 48 cottages. We now have 450 families in our care.
Today with India’s senior population exploding to almost about 10 crores and this is projected to grow to 14 crores by 2040, I think, a lot of us will need senior living or retirement communities. We are all living long, so we need care, assisted or palliative.
We have developed several systems of care. We deal with special conditions like autism, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy. Even after the demise of the parents, we care for them with this model we have developed. We have also started the system of PolyCare in Coimbatore which aims to bring back the culture of family doctors which has been dying away in recent days.
My core team is only 35 strong in the senior living section. We have a large amount of staff in PolyCare and also field staff providing housekeeping, gardening, and cooking services. We also have many nurses and caregivers. My team is extremely important to me. People stay with us long term. My clients are part of the same large family. Once you think like that, everything falls into place.
GL: What is the USP of your business?
SA: Passion and compassion. My team’s passion and compassion is conveyed to all the seniors in CovaiCare. Being pioneers in this segment we’ve earned a good name. We offer a model for living that encourages an active life. Even if someone has a disability, or a stroke, or a hip fracture, we feel that life should not come to a standstill. It should go on and be enjoyed. We ensure that this ‘active life’ is given to the seniors. My staffs are very well trained with many SOPs established so that we can replicate the model. We believe in ideals, transparency, professionalism and the requirement to keep updated with technological advances in the industry and bring all this to our seniors at CovaiCare.
GL: What are the challenges you have faced in establishing your business?
SA: Initially, there was a non-acceptance of this concept. There was a stigma attached to it and it was seen as something for the destitute. But it has taken us a lot of time to break this stigma.
Senior citizens by nature can be very difficult. Satisfying everyone is challenging and we find the ways and means to keep them all happy and occupied. Senior citizens are also prone to depression when somebody loses their spouse or faces on illness? This is a challenge we address by creating a strong sense of community, so that nobody feels isolated.
GL: What role do you feel GlobalLinker plays in connecting & assisting SMEs?
SA: I feel this is a beautiful platform where SMEs can not only connect with each other; they can discuss a number of relevant topics. They can also project what their company is doing and what they want to do. I think this is a great platform because it is a large group. It is an open platform where anyone can contribute, everyone can write and share what they believe. No abuses and no criticism. This is what makes GlobalLinker stand apart.
GL: What is your big business dream?
SA: CovaiCare is a brand. My dream at the age of 68 is simple. Not only must we consider what we are doing, we must enter areas where there are deficiencies in the country. We want to see how we can contribute in society at every level with affordable living and improved quality of life for seniors.
GL: What is your message to aspiring entrepreneurs?
SA: Don’t get deterred by failures. Succeed, fail, stand up and succeed. Life will never be smooth sailing. You will have to overcome impediments. If every little failure affects you, you’re not meant to be an entrepreneur.