As Chennai gets battered by heavy rainfall and the government scrambles to expedite relief to stranded people in waterlogged areas, some startups have joined in to provide succour to hapless citizens.
In order to help citizens stranded in waterlogged Chennai, Ola has deployed boats in water logged and partially submerged areas, basis information provided by the Fire and Rescue Department of Tamil Nadu. The boats manned by professional rowers and fishermen, will also be used to provide food and drinking water in specific areas which are reportedly short of basic supplies. Both the ferrying services and supplies will be offered free of cost to citizens. Similarly, budget hotel aggregator Oyo offered rooms at discounted prices to provide a safe stay for people stranded due to floods.
The boats provided by Ola will be manned by two rowers and can ferry anywhere between five to nine people in a single attempt. In addition, Ola is also providing rain gear to all rowers, which will help them ferry people without any hassles. It has also stocked umbrellas in every boat for passengers. These services are expected to be available over the next three days and might get extended if water-logging continues in the city. Many employees and drivers of Ola are also coordinating with the fishermen on ground to enable smooth operations.
“Thousands of citizens have been stranded and are suffering due to heavy rains and water logging in Chennai. While we are addressing the increased demand for transportation in the city through the Ola app, we are working closely with local stakeholders to help ferry those stranded in water logged areas. Boats deployed by Ola will help ferry people to safer areas and in distribution of essential supplies like food and drinking water in affected areas,” said Ravi Teja, Business Head of Tamil Nadu at Ola, in a statement Ola shared with us.
Meanwhile, on being requested by citizens stranded in Chennai over Facebook for safe accommodation, OYO was prompt in providing rooms at discounted prices to them. Excerpts of a chat between Senthil from Chennai and OYO founder Ritesh Agarwal point out to the promptness exhibited by startups to help people in times of distress.
“We are very upset about what’s happening in Chennai. There are still places where the water-logging situation is bad and people are unable to travel to their homes. To save them the trouble of travelling in uncomfortable situations in search of safe accommodations, we are trying to contribute in our own small way by offering special prices at our hotels,” Anuj Tejpal, chief business development officer, OYO Rooms told Inc42.
“At 15 OYOs in Chennai, we are giving rooms at flat INR 799 for single, double and triple sharing. The customers can use the code OYOC799 to avail this. Moreover, at more than 100 properties across the city, people can book rooms at flat INR 899. Also, our city teams are in constant touch with hotel owners, who have been given special instructions to help the affected people to the best of their capabilities. We hope that the situation improves soon and things return to normal at the earliest,” he added.
The same spirit was demonstrated by many Indian startups at the time of the Nepal earthquake in April this year. Paytm had started an offer wherein they matched every contribution made by their customers for the Nepal Earthquake Relief Fund whereas ShopClues had put up a donation page on its website meant for Nepal earthquake victims and decided to match every rupee donated.
Similarly, others like IdeaForge had deployed an unmanned aerial vehicle system, along with the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), to Kathmandu and other villages in Nepal for site surveillance to help with the rescue efforts. Leading doctors’ networking app, Curofy, had sent 10 doctors using the app to provide medical support and treatment to those affected by the earthquake in Nepal. That time also, Ola had leveraged its network of customers across the country to help people get involved in the relief efforts. Ola’s customers could contribute towards the relief fund by entering the code ‘Nepal’ while recharging their Ola wallet. The total funds collected from customers along with Ola’s contribution of $23K (INR 15 Lakh) were donated be to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund.