Procter & Gamble is looking to get into the senior care innovation game. In 2015, the company created P&G Ventures to partner with startups, entrepreneurs and investors to build new brands within the consumer space in categories where the company doesn’t currently play. One area of focus for P&G Ventures is active aging for seniors. The company is looking for disruptive products to solve a problem and “delight the consumer” said Chetan Parekh, Senior Brand Director and Innovation Portfolio Leader. What does a disruptive retail product look like? HomeCare sat down to chat with Parekh about the company on the eve of the International Day of Older Persons.

HomeCare: Why did Procter & Gamble start P&G Ventures?

PAREKH: In 2015 our then CEO approached my manager Leigh Radford [now Senior VP and GM of P&G Ventures] asking how she would navigate the dilemma of new businesses that really has promise, but weren't ready for the intense hurdle rate of a global corporation. In face of the big multibillion-dollar brands that we have, a project needs to show early promise and be in line with where the category is operating. However, the idea here was how do you extend that vision for incubating new businesses—new categories versus existing categories. That really was the impetus was for P&G Ventures as an organization—the early stage startup studio that would reside within the walls of P&G, but would be its own separate entity so that it was free to focus on new categories and creating billion-dollar brands in those new categories for P&G. 

The question was: How do we position ourselves to capitalize on that unknown future by creating something that is separate from existing categories? Because if I'm within fabric care, obviously my worldview is around fabric and that's the direction in which I will take my innovation. But as a category that might be other things outside of that as a consequence that may not come under my focus that I should be focusing on. If I am thinking about sustaining the company over decades, because that's how we look at our worldview is over decades versus quarters.

HomeCare: How do you define active aging?

PAREKH: Active aging is about being able to age where and how you want. This category—as it is defined today—is all about deficit. We define it as being all about potential. It's not about what do you call home. You might call anything home. The definition again is how you want to age and where you want to age, the choices in your hand, and how can we enable you to do that?

HomeCare: A lot of the solutions that are requested by the active aging project are already available at home medical equipment retailers. What makes a submission disruptive?

PAREKH: I think a lot of the solutions that are available in home medical are obviously critical. And at the same time, there are some really exciting and interesting possibilities that get overlooked either because there isn't enough awareness about the issues for example, or the solutions are not good enough. So, I think that's where our job and our focus as a company to truly get to the bottom of consumer insights, consumer pain points and unmet needs to then identify unique solutions. What would be disruptive is maybe something very mundane, but it approaches the consumer pain point in a unique, insightful and disruptive manner that truly delights the consumer.

We've spent hours upon hours with this particular consumer in where ever they call home, and the one thing that comes up over and over again, is that the product does its job, but it's ugly and I don't feel like using it. It’s not designed properly, [the designer] didn't even put the basic thinking into it to put the handle here versus here. It's those little things that turn something into a great product. And I may or may not like using it, but at least I know it will do its job versus it annoying me, or it just doesn't work. So I think it definitely the role of design is super critical across the board for any consumer. But certainly, for this consumer that has so underserved in that regard.

HomeCare: What gaps is P&G Ventures looking to fill in the home medical space?

PAREKH: I would like to slightly expand this beyond just the home medical space, and put it in the home space. Obviously everything ultimately connects to human body and health. But there are various different ways of looking at the consumer needs, which goes back to the inherent motivation of wanting to age wherever it is you call home. What are some of the things that are preventing you from aging in your home? And that opens up some really exciting possibilities around fall prevention, around the shower, which is where a lot of the falls actually occur. Looking at incontinence, there's a huge issue of dignity associated behind it, and it reaches into areas like skin health management, where even the smallest of issues, if not diagnosed properly or treated the right way could turn into something a lot bigger. Those are some of the interesting areas within this world that we are interested in.

HomeCare: Why do you think it's important for seniors to be able to age where they want?

PAREKH: You know if you look at the AARP survey from several years ago, which basically asked the question of where do you want to age? And nine out of 10 adults said at home. That's the natural motivation, again, as different limitations seep in because of reduced mobility, diseases, etc. I think the innate human desire to maintain control over yourself never goes away. And the best place to express that sense of being in control is in your home. P&G as a company is in every facet of your home—we understand your life largely since the time you were born until your adulthood. So we’re asking how can we take that into your later adulthood to extend our understanding?

You're starting at Pampers. So now we’re basically journeying with you through the years and making sure that some of your critical needs inside the home are being met by superior products.

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