It bothered Aparna Pujar that when she moved to the U.S. with her husband, she was leaving behind her aging parents, possibly with no support.
“I was simply looking for a system that would provide me round-the-clock updates on how my parents were doing,” Pujar told indica, explaining that she was trying to find how best to be a remote caregiver for her parents in Bangalore.
It was challenging planning phone calls across time zones, getting information about their health and well-being, including keeping track of doctor’s visits and changing care plans. She soon found out that she was not all alone; many of her friends are going through the same thing.
To address the issue on a larger scale, Pujar started Zemplee, an AI-powered application working with sensors to help the elderly in place.
Pujar, who recently won the Dell Startup Pitch Competition at TiEcon 2022, said Zemplee uses a sensor kit at the elderly person’s location and works in tandem with a cloud-based AI application. The sensors track movement and activity, and the data is processed to gauge activity and behavior patterns.
“The nice thing is that our kit does not include a video or wearable. Upholding dignity is a big part of caring for the elderly. Our solution is not only highly reliable, but addresses privacy concerns for the elderly,” Pujar said, adding that AI detects anomalies and deviations, which can include anything from falls, wandering off, signs of mental health conditions arising from isolation and depression, and alerts for care teams or families.
The passive sensors and attentive AI together act as a virtual monitor for the elderly and gives families peace of mind, she said, adding that the venture was intended to be both affordable and scalable.
Given her experience in companies like Yahoo! and eBay, she had learned that only with scale can costs be driven down.
“Currently, we address the US elder care market – including assisted living, independent living, home care, home health and health systems,” Pujar said. “We have customers nationwide.”
In the U.S., every day more than 10,000 people turn 65. About 80% of these elders live on their own. More than half of these elders have remote family members (sons or daughters). In fact, in a few years, there will be more people aged 65 and above than children under 5.
“As a population, we are living longer,” Pujar said. “The average lifespan is 73 years and we are living with more chronic conditions. The rising cost of care and diminishing insurance coverage is making families take on the caregiving responsibility, many quitting their primary jobs and source or earnings to care for their parents or elderly loved ones. It has a circular impact – especially because Medicare depends on an optimal amount of contributions going into Medicare from the working generation.”
Asked how challenging COVID-19 was for Zemplee, since its customers are seniors, Pujar admitted that things have been extremely difficult for the elder care industry worldwide.
“For Zemplee specifically, it was a good way to stress-test business and our offering to the market,” Pujar said, “We were not only able to grow our business but also expanded our footprint into different market segments. We also strengthened our IP, invested in product development and expanded our team and our board.”
Zamplee is Pujar’s first venture, one that was essentially self-funded, though she said she had raised funds in a few angel rounds, details of which she did not provide.