Pandemic Brings Startup Community Together For Aid, Problem-Solving

Pandemic Brings Startup Community Together For Aid, Problem-Solving


AngelList and Paytm have announced special funds to support innovators and researchers

Mahindra Group chairman Anand Mahindra is looking to manufacture ventilators in India to meet the shortage

Wingify founder Paras Chopra will host special virtual hackathons to develop possible solutions

As the coronavirus pandemic has taken a serious turn not just for people but for the Indian economy as well, the Indian startup community has been standing tall to help each other find effective solutions by offering its moral support, mentorship and capital. After a group of founders and investors came together to call for a lockdown in India besides taking steps to create a quarantine app, the Indian startup ecosystem has shown that it’s more than just a collection of disparate companies, but actually a community that helps and supports each other.

Here are some of the ways that India’s startup ecosystem stakeholders are supporting the Indian government’s efforts and helping startups overcome the economic impact of coronavirus.

AngelList Launches INR 50 Lakh Fund

For starters, the Indian arm of AngelList — US-based online platform for startups, angel investors and job seekers looking to work at or with a startup — has committed to invest INR 50 Lakh into the startups that are working on possible solutions for Covid-19 or coronavirus.

The investment will be made through The Collective, which is an India-focused fund launched in April 2019. The fund has been backed by angel investors like Bain Capital Ventures’ Salil Deshpande, Flipkart’s cofounder Binny Bansal, Matrix Partners’ Avnish Bajaj, DST Global’s Rahul Mehta, Falcon Edge Capital’s Navroj Udwadia, along with other venture funds such as Kalaari Capital, Beenext and more.

During its launch, AngelList had announced that the fund will be used to invest an average ticket size of about INR 1 Cr each in over 60 to 80 Indian startups. Startups working on solutions for the coronavirus pandemic can also participate by submitting their details on the official website.

Paytm Commits INR 5 Cr For Indian Researchers

Digital payments giant Paytm has also announced that it will be investing INR 5 Cr to help innovators and companies in finding solutions to tackle the potential shortage of clinical ventilators and other medical equipment.

“If you think that your innovation can help save lives, we are here to help you in every way possible. Please drop us a note with your contact details and enough information for us to act. You can reach us at — [email protected],” the company said in a press note.

Startup Founders Develop Quarantine App

Almost 70 startup founders and investors have been working on a Quarantine App, which will help the government track people who have been advised to be under self-quarantine and even those who have been tested positive.

The app will use location tracking to keep a check on the users. This will also allow people who have returned from a trip overseas to declare themselves as quarantined. The idea was pitched by founders of vernacular knowledge-sharing platform Vokal Aprameya Radhakrishna and Mayank Bidawatka. The app will also be sending out notifications and updates related to coronavirus in vernacular languages.

Online Hackathon For Startups

Wingify founder Paras Chopra has announced an online hackathon for startups developing solutions for coronavirus pandemic. So far, Chopra has been joined by Sparsh Gupta, CEO of Wingify, but the duo is also looking for other stakeholders to join in.

The hackathon has been organised so that innovators, researchers and startups could join other tech startups, businesses and players from the healthcare community to build special projects that will minimise the impact of coronavirus on India. As per a tweet made by Chopra on March 23 at 9:38 PM, more than 600 members have joined the initiatives and there are close to 7 ongoing projects as well.

The hackathon was flagged off on March 22, and will continue to run until the pandemic has been gotten under control. The teams will be formed online and will use communication platforms like Slack to coordinate. The demo day for the hackathon will be held on every Sunday evening, where the members will showcase and demonstrate the progress made by them. Anybody is free to join in and see the projects.

A Special Fund For Gig Workers 

Global diversified metal and mining company Vedanta Resources’ chairman Anil Agarwal has set aside INR 100 Cr to support daily wage workers and contract employees, who have been affected by the shut down of mining industry due to the coronavirus pandemic. Agarwal specified that the company will increase the corpus if needed.

Besides this, Vedanta Resources has assured that they will not be cutting any salaries or firing any employees during this period. Casual workers will also be included in this policy. Besides this, the company is planning to offer one-time insurance policy to cover employees and their family against coronavirus or Covid-19.

CEOs Giving Up Salary

While India is expecting a consequential economic slowdown, several companies have announced pay cuts to keep their treasury afloat. This includes Indian airlines like Indigo and Air India. Indigo has decided to deduct up to 25% of the salary of its senior executives. Meanwhile, Air India has announced that it will withdraw allowances of executive pilots, cabin crew and officers. GoAir has also laid off some of its pilots. Besides this, certain manufacturing, services and tourism companies have also followed similar steps.

Amidst this, some Indian CEOs have decided to take the burden on themselves and forgo their salaries during the period of distress.  These CEOs include Paytm founder and CEO Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Bajaj Auto CEO and MD Rajiv Bajaj, besides Anand Mahindra.

Mahindra To Manufacture Ventilators 

A report by Hindustan Times estimated that India has only 40K working ventilators for the 1.3 Bn people. Several experts have highlighted that the number is inadequate as in approximately 5% of cases of coronavirus, patients require intensive care unit (ICU) with acute breathing problems.

Taking this into consideration, chairman of Mahindra Group, Anand Mahindra has decided to start manufacturing ventilators to meet the shortage. Mahindra assured that the company will immediately start working on the manufacturing facilities. The company has also decided to transform Mahindra Holidays resorts into temporary care facilities to assist the government and army.

Besides this, the chairman has also decided to give up on his salary and use it to deal with the coronavirus pandemic affecting India. He believes that India is close to reaching stage 3 of transmission, which is community transmission.

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