The dramatic spread of coronavirus across the globe has caught us all by surprise. There is a massive economic as well as human cost of the pandemic.
India has recently become the fifth most affected country with more than a quarter of a million cases and almost 7500 deaths. The pandemic hit came along with an economic crisis. However, the response from India Inc in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic has been laudable.
Tata Sons and Tata Trusts have once again proved to be value-driven enterprises. They were one of the initial companies to commit a financial help of Rs 1500 crore to fight the pandemic. Reliance Industries led by multi-billionaire Mukesh Ambani opened India’s first 100-bedded COVID-19 hospital in Mumbai. Ambani’s effort was listed on LinkedIn’s corona response report. Reliance Industries shared the page with big names like L’Oreal, Decathlon, LEGO, and GE Healthcare.
Watch: Mukesh Ambani and others pledge millions to fight COVID-19
In addition, Mukesh Ambani decided to produce 100,000 masks a day for emergency service providers. He is also providing free fuel to emergency vehicles. Reliance Life Sciences has imported COVID-19 testing kits to help the Maharashtra state administration ineffective testing. The Adani Group and the JSW Group has committed Rs 100 crore each to the pandemic response. One of India’s leading banks, Kotak Mahindra Bank, has donated Rs 25 crore to the PM Cares Fund and Rs 10 crore to Maharashtra Chief Minister’s Relief Fund. Other big companies that have extended financial help include ITC Ltd, Hero Cycles, Bajaj Group, TVS Motor, Axis Bank, and the Godrej Group.
Capacity Building and Supporting Government Efforts
Assistance from India Inc has not merely been financial, but they also extended the years of expertise and state of the art infrastructure in COVID-19 response.
ITC Ltd has been collaborating with some district administrations to assist the district health and rural healthcare ecosystem at times when the healthcare in India is under severe strain. Mahindra & Mahindra has offered its cutting-edge manufacturing units for providing ventilators, and it even came with a low-cost ventilator, AIR100. M&M is also helping the rural economy keep up helping with cottage industry initiatives like the Swaraj Prerna project. The South Korean auto major, Hyundai India, has ordered 25,000 COVID-19 testing kits from South Korea.
Maruti Suzuki, with AgVa Healthcare, has committed to manufacturing 10,000 ventilators every month over the next few months. It has also promised two million masks and protective clothing for healthcare professionals. Infosys Foundation will help the government set up smart classes in 1,000 government higher primary schools in Karnataka. Godrej Consumer has been distributing packets of Godrej Protekt Mr. Magic powder-to-liquid hand wash to instill hand hygiene among the masses.
Startups are doing what they are best at: Innovation
The Indian startup ecosystem has shown tremendous flexibility to make them count in the fight with COVID-19. Over the last few weeks, Indian startups have delivered a host of innovations. For instance, Milagrow Humantech‘s robots have proved effective in keeping infection at bay. Founder Rajeev Karwal says, “In fighting against the spread of this epidemic, our robots at Milagrow HumanTech help in both disinfection of the physical environments and protecting the medical staff by distancing them from patients and infected environments. We have witnessed 3000 to 4000 percent surge for various categories of its cleaning robots for the past 2 months.”
Watch: The Indian innovators amid the COVID-19 Pandemic
Asimov Robotics, a Kerala-based startup, has manufactured robots to dispense hand sanitizer and deliver public health advisories. They have been deployed at the entrances of office buildings and hospitals. Leading Indian healthcare startups, KlinicApp and Practo, took no time to adapt. They have been providing COVID-19 tests for easy use at home and boosted their online medical consultation window during the nation-wide lockdown.
A few Indian startups have dived into mitigating one of the most prominent worries for India’s COVID-19 response: the shortage of ventilators.
An IIT-Kanpur incubated startup, Nocca Robotics, has partnered with Aerobiosys Innovations, and AgVa Healthcare to develop portable ventilators. Once approved by the medical regulatory board, it can be a boon for Indian rural healthcare.
Aqoza technologies and PerSapien have come with a chemical formulation for disinfecting public places and a machine that is claimed of dispensing ionized water droplets to oxidize the viral protein. Chilli International holding (HK) has come out with a high-quality portable disinfection machine. CEO Sufian Motiwala says, “We have recently launched Chilli’s Killer 100, Blue Ray Nano Disinfection machine to further the cause of restoring normalcy and bringing everyone –be it individuals or companies. We have seen a 40-50% increase week on week and are expecting a 200% surge in demand in the coming 2-3 weeks. We will launch more innovative products and solutions focused on health and hygiene in the times to come. We also keep ourselves ready with 5000 units twice a week.”
Droom, an online auto market place, has come with ‘Corona Shield‘. It hinders microorganism growth on surface vehicles. It has already been tested on Gurugram police vehicles. MarutDrontech, a Hyderabad based startup, has partnered with state governments to monitor social distancing adherence on the local level. It is also used for delivering medical supplies and noting people’s temperature through thermal imaging. Several Indian startups came forward to help with the demand for quality facemasks. As Rakesh Kukreja, CEO, MYSWA Ventures explains, “I closely observed when Coronavirus originated from China and deduced it’s a pandemic on the way. After extensively studying the mask market in India for a couple of months, we started out operations in March.” Likewise, Biosup Healthcare offers a wide range of COVID-19 special products like disposable masks, KN95/N95 masks, hand sanitizers, hand rubs, PPE kits, infrared thermometers, face shield, gloves, goggles, and test kits. Founder Himanshu Bindal tells, “The demand has been high since the first phase of lockdown, and has skyrocketed now as we go further into the unlock phase. In order to ensure a 100% safe production and delivery of our products, we had laid out the social distancing SOPs which have been followed diligently. We have fulfilled about 4000 orders so far.”
Apart from providing technological acumen, startups have come with numerous crowdsourcing platforms. The platforms are engaged in a range of activities like emanating COVID-19 specific information and collaborating people for helping migrant workers stuck without food amidst the lockdown.
The response to the COVID-19 pandemic requires support and coordination from every front of our community, and India Inc has come out to back the government and social efforts. The Indian business ecosystem has shown impressive social responsibility during these tough times, and the startup community has adapted itself to be of assistance through innovative methods.