ISBInsight: Why did you choose a senior living project as a case study topic for a services and operations management course?
Manpreet Hora: There are three reasons why the senior living project intrigued me. First, in spite of globalisation, services that cater to life events such as marriage, retirement and death are offered and consumed differently in various parts of the world. Second, I teach service operations. There is a dearth of cases in new service development and in the service innovation sector. The Antara senior living service is trying to change the Indian mindset and cultural stigma commonly associated with senior living communities. Third, major life events, both planned and unplanned, interest me as topics to study and teach. I like to see how services create demand or cluster around the demand of life events.
Why do you think the senior living sector has not caught up in India yet?
Manpreet Hora: In India, besides infrastructural challenges, you have societal and cultural challenges. There are judgments from families, extended families and beyond that are linked to the decision of moving to senior living homes. Also consider the financial challenges of moving to senior living homes. Unlike the current younger working generation in India, where homes are acquired and bought at a younger age and mortgages are paid through EMIs, the generation that falls under the current senior resident market has worked towards an aspiration of owning a home during their retirement. To shift that mindset from home ownership to senior living is not a trivial task.
Moreover, India is a young country. If you think of the potential residents of senior living projects from 2010 onwards, they are 60 years of age and were perhaps born in late 1940s and 1950s. So, this is a generation born around the country’s independence in 1947.
Antara caters to a certain demographic within this generation that is more open to adopting an independent lifestyle and values service delivery provided by senior living projects like Antara. As we move on to the next decade and beyond, I believe senior living projects will become more accepted.
How important were the synergies with Max Group for Antara’s success?
Manpreet Hora: Being linked with Max Group strengthens Antara’s value proposition. When you talk to Antara CEO Ms. Tara Singh Vachani, she talks about three aspects: life sciences, wellness and healthcare. Max Group helps with access to healthcare because its portfolio of healthcare services is geographically very close to Antara’s current project in Dehradun. It becomes an extension of their existing ecosystem. From a customer acquisition perspective, these synergies also help.
Tara Vachani, CEO of Antara Senior Living, on the cost-benefit analysis of senior living services
What are some key challenges that Antara is encountering or is likely to encounter as it tries to establish itself as a luxury senior living offering?
Manpreet Hora: The first challenge is customer acquisition. Senior living is a category that is new for the Indian customer base and it is new for companies such as Antara. The second challenge is that consumers in India are not accustomed to paying for bundled services. People are ready to pay separately for vegetable vendors and laundry. However, the concept of collected amount is difficult for consumers to accept.
Finally, the challenge for Antara is to find the right staff, i.e., people who not only understand hospitality but also are trained to cater to the services required by a certain demographic. These are consumers who may have health needs and service needs on a daily basis. So, it’s about finding talent as well as training and retaining that talent.
How is running a senior living home different from a resort or service apartment in the hospitality sector?
Manpreet Hora: It’s hugely different. There might be similarity in infrastructure. But the service design and delivery aspects are different. In a senior living home, residents intend to stay for the rest of their life journey. In the service apartment, the residents may be in transition and have different customer expectations. Second, in a service apartment, healthcare and wellness need to be accessible but are generally not part of the core service delivery. Here at Antara, it’s a way of life. Also, there is a sense of community.
Could you give a brief description of your visit to Antara?
Manpreet Hora: I have visited Antara a few times. Once I went there as a mystery shopper just to get a feel of the project as a potential customer. Then I spoke to Tara Vachani as well as Saumyajit Roy, Director- Business Planning & Performance at Antara. With their help, I went and saw the inner workings of the system when the project was being developed and again it was functional. These visits have allowed me to bring an inner perspective to the classroom.
How was the experience of teaching the case? Do you find cultural differences on the topic of senior living homes?
Manpreet Hora: Teaching the case does indeed bring out cultural differences in the classroom, not only between students from different nationalities and origins but also within the same nationality. For example, students from India are divided on whether they can see their own parents in senior living. But interestingly, there is some convergence when I ask if decades later they can see themselves being part of senior living.
The global audience reacts in different ways. Students who are born and brought up in the US find senior living pretty acceptable. the senior living sector in the US is similar to the hospitality sector: across both sectors, the US has varied levels of service offerings that target and segment customers. Finally, the discussion on value proposition always makes for a good debate. It makes for an exciting and interactive class which I enjoy.