Tuktu services include driving, shopping, housekeeping, companionship and technical help, all at an affordable cost

Roslyn KuninThe year 2022 is finally over, and most of us would say good riddance. It was a year of wars and plagues, floods and famines, autocrats and accidents, inflation and uncertainty. As we start 2023, we really need to find some good news.

Fortunately, there is some out there if we look for it. And there are some individuals who, despite the daily depressing headlines, remain not only optimistic but also take positive action to help ensure that their hopes for a brighter future are realized.

One such person is Rastam Sengunta. Originally from Singapore, his first major venture was producing and selling solar panels in Asia, where sufficient energy, especially the clean variety, is in short supply. That business was then sold.

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It is Canada’s good fortune that Rastam has come to Vancouver, where he picked up a master’s degree in business at the University of British Columbia. Instead of waiting for someone to give him a job, he put his learning and experience to use in founding his own company.

I do not know what thought process he used in choosing what kind of business to start, but I am sure that, either consciously or not, Rastam asked himself the entrepreneurial question: what good or service can I supply that people need, want and are able to pay for?

He saw Canada’s population getting older and becoming increasingly in need of support services. He also saw more and more singles and couples aging on their own, childless or with children and family far away. They would need support as they became less independent, and there would be a real demand for such services, especially if they were offered affordably and as needed.

Thus Tuktu came into being. The word means caribou in an Inuit language. Tuktu offers a range of support services, including but not limited to driving, shopping, housekeeping, companionship and technical help on an hourly basis. Medical help is not available, but just about everything else up to that level is.

Tuktu carefully screens and trains people before sending them out. Do they have a criminal record? Have they been vaccinated? Is there a good fit with the client?

Services can be purchased directly by those in need. Family members can set up an account to look after their relatives, especially if distance is an issue. Affordability is increased because one only pays for the services and time used, and rates are reasonable.

An app is available to look after the details, such as selecting the service needed and arranging timing and location. There are several payment options to suit the customers’ needs. Some older customers might still prefer to send in a cheque, while others would be appalled at the thought of being unable to pay online.

For a venture to be successful, there must not only be a demand for its output. The firm must also be able to supply it and, therefore, must be able to acquire the necessary labour. Until recently, getting workers was not considered a major obstacle. Unemployment was a serious problem. Politicians got elected promising jobs, jobs, jobs because there were never enough. Any indications of vacant positions were swamped with applicants, and employers had their choice of staff.

How the labour market has changed. Now there is more than one vacancy for every person looking for work. Candidates interview potential employers rather than vice versa, and more than one business has had to curtail or cease operations for lack of staff.

Fortunately for Tuktu, the kind of workers they need are available. The services offered can be provided by just about anyone with good people skills. No advanced degrees, extensive experience or high levels of specialization are needed. Hours and locations are flexible and at the employee’s choice.

People meeting these conditions are more likely than others to be available and to want and benefit from the work. They are not now not looking for a full-time career but have some time and could benefit from some extra income. Students, retirees, homemakers and all those who want to work with people helping others are potential Tuktu staff.

By providing a necessary service to Canada’s older citizens and by offering flexible work and income to those who need them, Rastam and Tuktu are helping to make Canada a better place and 2023 a better year.

Dr. Roslyn Kunin is president of the Vancouver Institute and has been chair of the Vancouver Stock Exchange, WorkSafe BC, and Haida Enterprise Corporation. She has also been on the boards of the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) and the National Statistics Council.

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