On day seven of the 21-day lockdown period, the number of total positive cases of Covid-19 in India crossed the 1500 mark and the number is expected to soar significantly in the next few weeks with proper testing and despite the lockdown measures.
While Indian startups are coming up with unique propositions to curb this deadly virus, they are still unable to make a mark because of the lack of economic support in many cases. To support these startups, many venture capital companies along with entrepreneurs have set Action Covid Team (ACT) Grants.
VCs Pitch In
The INR 100 Cr fund is backed by VCs like Sequoia, Accel and Lightspeed and startup founders such as the founder of Curefit Mukesh Bansal, cofounder of UrbanClap Abhiraj Bhal, founder of Cred Kunal Shah, cofounder of Freshworks Girish Mathrubootham, CEO of Moglix Rahul Garg, cofounder of Rebel Foods Jaydeep Barman among others.
According to a report by ET, citing sources, this first-of-its-kind initiative has already achieved 40% of the target corpus. Besides pooling the money, the investors startup founders are also looking to back startups that are in dire need of funds.
Additionally, investment bank Bexley Advisors has set-up a Covid-19 Action Fund to provide funding to startups who are coming up with unique solutions to tackle challenges which have emerged because of the outbreak of coronavirus. It’ll connect the startups with investors to help them raise fundings in equity or debt. Also, the company will not charge any engagement fee for the transaction.
Further, Singapore-government backed holding company Temasek’s philanthropic arm Temasek Foundation has donated 30K Covid-19 test kits to the Indian government.
Supporting Partners In Need
With the lockdown in place, most contractual workers at startups have lost their sole source of income. Along with thousands of impacted daily wage workers, contractual and temporary staff has been laid off in many businesses.
However, many startups have come forward to help such employees. To start with, cab-hailing major Ola has announced a Sahyog programme, wherein the company is offering interest-free micro-credit to help driver-partners and their families get instant access to cash in their bank accounts. With the Sahyog programme, Ola is looking to help over 100K driver-partners and their families, who have been one of the worst-hit due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Food delivery platform Swiggy has also come forward to support delivery partners. The unicorn startup has established a ‘Swiggy Hunger Savior Covid Relief Fund’ for its delivery partners and their families. Swiggy’s CEO Sriharsha Majety has committed 50% of his annual salary towards this fund. The company is aiming to raise INR 10 Cr for this fund. So far, it has raised INR 4 Cr through initial contributions from founders and employees of the company.
While Ola and Swiggy are providing financial help to these partners, Grofers and BigBasket are partnering with organisations like the National Restaurant Association of India and Retail Association of India to offer jobs to those laid off due to the Covid-19 lockdown.
Besides contract workers, startups are also coming forward to help their business partners in these times when coronavirus has crippled the economy. For instance, Paytm’s ecommerce arm Paytm Mall has waived off order delay and cancellation penalities on merchants until 22 April 2020. The company said that there were over 100K orders placed by the customers which were yet to be processed by sellers, due to the restrictions announced by the government.
Payments gateway Razorpay has now allowed same-day settlements for all customers who provide essential products till April 15. Using this feature, businesses will receive funds in just a few hours instead of the usual three to five working days settlement period. “This will help businesses improve their cash flows and manage operational expenses better,” said CEO Harshil Mathur.
In a bid to support retail-partners like restaurants, Gurugram-based Magicpin has introduced pay now use later vouchers for a variety of products and services offered by these businesses. People can buy these vouchers at a flat 30% discount and 20% further savings with magicPoints. “We’ll ensure the businesses receives the money now when they most need it,” Magicpin said.
In addition to Magicpin, Dineout has also come with a unique solution to help restaurant-partners. The restaurant table booking platform has launched a petition demanding government aid for them. So far, over 20K people have signed the petition.
Ankit Mehrotra, Co-Founder & CEO, Dineout said, “The Indian food service industry is one our country’s largest industries in the service sector after retail and insurance that feeds not only 7 Mn plus households, it also supports multiple allied industries such as real estate, food processing, consulting and many more. Dining in contributes more than 92% to the overall margins for these small businesses, and the ongoing COVID-19 lockdowns and zero footfalls have led to huge monetary gaps that they are reeling under. We are heartened by the widespread support to our effort to draw attention to the struggles of this sector.”
Support For PM CARES Continues
In past, many startups and established businesses have come forward to help the government in the battle against coronavirus financially. From Paytm’s INR 500 Cr to PhonePe’s INR 100 Cr, Indian startups are helping to raise as much as they can to support the cause.
On day seven, the financial support to the coronavirus battle continued with ecommerce major Amazon announcing that it is raising INR 100 Cr to help the government fight coronavirus. For rach donations made on the platform, Amazon will contribute an additional 10% to the PM PM-CARES Fund or partner NGOs.
Let's raise ₹100 crores to help the nation in this time of need. For each donation made to the PM-CARES Fund or our Partner NGOs via Amazon, we will contribute an additional 10%. #TogetherForIndia @PMOIndia @PiyushGoyalOffc pic.twitter.com/NQLpC0VfDC
— Amit Agarwal (@AmitAgarwal) March 31, 2020
Another ecommerce platform Snapdeal has decided to contribute a day’s salary of the entire team to the PM-CARES Fund. In a tweet, Snapdeal said that it is looking to find more ways to help those in need.
— Snapdeal (@snapdeal) March 30, 2020
Additionally. Mumbai-based edtech startup upGrad has launched a Covid-19 awareness programme through which it will be facilitating donation towards the PM-CARES Fund. As part of this programme, upGrad is providing a five-day-long online programme, where experts will be providing online counselling sessions to help people with their financial and career planning. The company is providing these courses at no cost and will donate INR 10 for every persón who joins it online.
The support to the PM-CARES Fund even came from outside the startup ecosystem. Notably, Sunil Mittal-led Bharti Enterprises and its subsidiaries — Bharti Airtel, Bharti Infratel, and others — are contributing a sum of over INR 100 Cr for India’s fight against Covid-19. A significant portion of the corpus will be immediately contributed to the PM-CARES Fund.
Some parts will be used to source masks, personal protective equipment, and other healthcare equipment for doctors and healthcare professionals. “Over a million N-95 masks are being procured and will be made available on an immediate basis,” Bharti Enterprises said.
Further, Piramal Group has pledged INR 25 Cr towards the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund. Piramal Group’s philanthropic arm Piramal Foundation is also providing primary healthcare and nutrition services to people in more than 25 states across India.
Extending Support To Healthcare Professionals
To help frontline healthcare workers and help the government contain the spread of Covid-19 in India, cab-hailing major Uber has launched UberMedic. Under this programme, Uber will ferry emergency and essential services personnel who still need to venture out amid the lockdown.
“UberMedic allows hospitals to easily and reliably arrange transportation for doctors and other health workers to and from their homes as well as to health care facilities,’’ said Pradeep Parameswaran, President, Uber India SA.
Online travel aggregator MakeMyTrip has launched a ‘Stays for Saviours’ initiative to help medical professionals who are still going out amid the lockdown. Under this programme, the company is providing temporary accommodations at special rates to these people.
Meanwhile, Mumbai-based B2B packaging marketplace Bizongo has started shipping personal protective equipment (PPE) kits, masks, caps, shoe covers, and sanitisers to essential service providers. The first shipment was delivered to BigBasket, Zomato and Shadowfax for safeguarding the health of their delivery-partners.
- Online classifieds platform Quikr has launched an online platform, Stillopen.in, to help people find nearby stores which are open and serving during the lockdown period. Using the platform, people can find nearest grocery stores, hospitals and pharmacies, Covid-19 centres, and other stores classified as essentials in real-time.
- Gurugram-based security startup DROR has introduced a new feature in the mobile application to promote social distancing practices. Users can measure their social distancing score in real-time on the app.
- IIT-Delhi based biotech startup Clensta International has launched Clensta Instant Hand Hygiene Solution. The startup claims that it is using an advanced formula for hand sanitization that provides 99.9% germ protection with antimicrobial and antiseptic properties.
- Edtech platform Avishkaar is working with government authorities to create some robot-based solutions
- Levering Exotel’s cloud telephony, state governments are setting up helplines to offer a virtual diagnosis of symptoms reported by people. It’ll them to take timely action without panicking. So far, Tamilnadu, Maharashtra and Goa are using these services.
- Bengaluru-based Cloudnine Group of Hospital has announced the launch of its teleconsultation service with doctors in response to the growing public health concerns
Government Scouts For Innovations
To bring the coronavirus pandemic under control, the Indian government has been looking for solutions, examples, and suggestions from the private sector and startups. Now, the government is turning to the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) to look for tech-enabled solutions to help deal with the outbreak that has already crossed 1,500 cases in India.
Further, a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court (SC), including Chief Justice S A Bobde and L Nageswara Rao, told the government to set up a real-time digital portal within 24 hours to disseminate accurate information. The bench highlighted that the panic around coronavirus would end up destroying more lives than the virus itself. The SC has also directed the government to take additional steps to tone down the panic around the issue.
While the central government is directed to launch a real-time portal, Andhra Pradesh has already adopted “Covid Alerting Tracking System” to keep track of over 25K individuals advised to self-quarantine. Besides government, the Indian Indian startup ecosystem also came up with unique innovations to help the government fight the novel coronavirus.