With the Indian government doing all it can to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, help has come from many quarters. On Monday (March 16), OYO founder Ritesh Agarwal said the company has started discussions to offer its network of hotels as quarantine centres for suspected Covid-19 cases as well as those who have to compulsorily self-isolate themselves.
The suggestion came from a Twitter user who said OYO should tie-up with the government to offer its hotels as backup quarantine centres. Agarwal responded saying the company is ready to take up the charge.
A company spokesperson then told Inc42 that immediately after the founder’s commitment, OYO reached out to health departments in all state governments to leverage its network of hotels as makeshift quarantine facilities for travellers, as mandated by any state or central government authorities. The company said the service would be offered at an affordable rate.
Further, OYO is setting up a central helpline number for service requests for the quarantine facility from the public as well as all state governments and relevant authorities, as the case may be.
Also, the company has reached out to the health ministry and World Health Organisation to discuss initiatives that OYO can quickly implement for the benefit of travellers and those looking for self-quarantine or isolation facilities.
OYO’s initiative is a welcome move as India has recorded over 120 positive cases of coronavirus. Further, over 12 Lakh passengers have been screened at airports who have to self-quarantine even if they have tested negative for coronavirus. Moreover, government hospitals are already running close to full capacity, as per reports.
Hence, it opens up the need for facilities beyond hospitals considering the limited capacity for beds in India’s healthcare system. Similar developments were seen in China at the peak of the pandemic in the country last month.
The Maharashtra government has tied up with Mirage Hotels and ITC to set up similar facilities in Mumbai for travellers arriving with compulsory quarantine rules in place. These will be provided at an undisclosed charge to patients or suspected cases who do not want to use government hospital facilities. In a similar move, the Delhi government has already reached out to hotels and capped maximum price for a per-day rate so anyone can choose the option they prefer and avail the same.
The startup ecosystem has also suffered from the impact of the global pandemic and several startups have made it mandatory for employees to work from home. Reihem Roy, partner at Omnivore Partners, said, “Startups are well positioned in these uncertain times to lead by example.”
However, incidents such as Grofers’ questionable promotion of its private-label handwash or Dunzo’s memes about government-run alerts have raised questions about the responsibility of brands in times of crisis and uncertainty.
But like OYO, this is a moment for startups to have a real social impact and display their brand values, while stepping up and helping as they can.