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#StartupsVsCovid19: Uber, BigBasket Fight Grocery Woes; Govt Battles Fake News On Lockdown Day 9

#StartupsVsCovid19: Uber, BigBasket Fight Grocery Woes; Govt Battles Fake News On Lockdown Day 9

Uber is now delivering grocery orders for BigBasket customers

OYO has set up a global welfare fund for the welfare of employees and asset partners

Yatra and Paytm are offering hotels at better prices to health care workers

In the last eight days of the lockdown, Indian startups have come up with unique ways to tackle the coronavirus lockdown and the impacts on the business world. On day nine, much of this continued with collaborations between Indian startups that are finding big solutions.

To start with, BigBasket and Uber have partnered to solve disruptions faced by the grocery delivery startups in reaching out to the customers. Uber is now providing last-mile delivery service to address the growing needs of consumers to access everyday essentials amid the lockdown.

Besides BigBasket, Uber is also in talks with Flipkart to help the ecommerce major deliver essential items to its customers. The company is providing UberGo, UberXL and bike ride service UberMOTO and is sharing its technology to help these companies.

After facing disruptions in the business due to the lockdown, Snapdeal has now resumed operations in 96 cities covering more than 15K pin codes. Besides the metro, smaller cities like Agra, Bhopal, Dehradun, Jalandhar, Kanpur, Lucknow, Jaipur, Kota, Nashik, Patna, Raipur, Surat, among others.

The current operations cover essential goods in high demand and including grocery items like rice, tea, coffee, atta etc. Also, supplies of household cleaning supplies are being prioritised by Snapdeal.

Curbing Covid-19 Fake News

In response to the Supreme Court’s directives to set up dashboards to disseminate credible and timely information related to coronavirus, the Indian government is now setting up a web-portal for people to verify facts and unverified news.

Additionally, the centre has now also asked all the state governments to come up with effective solutions to fight fake news. In a letter to all the chief secretaries of the state, secretary to the home ministry Ajay Bhalla said that the apex court has given directions on taking effective measures to check the circulation of the fake news.

Bhalla added that states and union territories have also been requested to create a similar mechanism at their level for issues relating to them. He further asked them to update the home ministry about the actions taken by them to prevent the circulation of fake news.

Further, in order to ensure that citizens of Delhi have easy access to credible information around Covid-19, the health and family welfare department of Delhi has launched a dedicated WhatsApp helpline number — 8800007722. To use this, one has to save the number and drop a ‘Hi’ on WhatsApp message. This chatbot has been built on the WhatsApp Business API and will be available in English.

Information on topics such as coronavirus prevention and symptoms along with tips on containment, other service helpline numbers, applying for e-passes and general information on measures that the state is taking to tackle this crisis will be provided by the chatbot.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said that the Delhi government is doing everything to keep citizens safe in these challenging times and urge everyone to stay indoors and ensure they rely only on verified channels of information.

Supporting Healthcare Professionals

While most of the people are locked down inside their homes, healthcare professionals are still going out to prevent India from coronavirus. In these times, Indian startups are coming with their support to these healthcare professionals.

For instance, online travel aggregator Yatra, associating with its hotel partners and chains, is now offering stays at special fares to essential service workers and healthcare professionals during the Covid-19 pandemic. At the time of check-in, essential service workers and healthcare professionals need to provide their valid staff ID cards to avail this service.

Similarly, Paytm has launched a special hotel listings page on its app to provide temporary accommodation to medical frontline staff fighting Covid-19. Around 300 hotels in more than 60 cities have partnered with Paytm for this programme.

The list of hotels is available on the app under the ‘#WESALUTEYOUALL’ tag. OYO, Treebo, Ginger Hotels are offering their hotels in this initiative. Paytm is looking to partner with more hotels for the initiative.

Further, healthtech startup Tattvan is supporting those doctors who have helped the country to remain disease-free but are now locked inside their homes. Tattvan has launched “Swastha Samarth” initiative to support doctors in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. As most of the clinics are closed in these cities, their operations have suffered significant losses. So, it helps these doctors to get some income amid lockdown. Additionally, it will help chronic patients like diabetes, asthma, cancer, and hypertension to seek medical attention in these times.

Helping Hand For Employees, Partners

In these times, most of the employees and partners of major Indian startups are facing financial challenges. To support its employees and partners, hospitality unicorn OYO has announced that it has set up a global Welfare fund towards benefit and welfare of the employees at OYO properties, asset partners and their staff members impacted by Covid-19. Founder and CEO Ritesh Agarwal has foregone his salary for the year.

The company’s executive leadership team has taken a voluntary pay cut starting at 25%, with many opting for an additional uncapped amount, and some going up to 50% to enable building the runway for the company. The OYO leadership team and company are further contributing INR 2.5 Cr to the Indian PM CARES fund.

Further, Zomato has set up a Zomato Gold Support Fund. According to the founder and CEO Deepinder Goyal, all the money raised by the company by selling its Gold membership will be pooled in the fund.

In a series of Tweet, Goyal said that restaurants face an unprecedented challenge amid the lockdown. “Restaurateurs are fighting to pay their rentals, and afford even the most basic livelihood to the workers — cooks, servers, housekeeping,” he added.

Music streaming platform JioSaavn has launched an alternative revenue stream for artists. The company is streaming music shows of these artists by setting up a virtual stage on JioSaavn’s Facebook page. After the performances, the audio recording of each session will be hosted as an album for streaming within the JioSaavn app. The revenue generated from these streams will go directly to the artist. Additionally, while the live streams will be free, fans will be given a “pay what you want” option through event booking platform Insider.

Also, after-sales services company Onsitego has announced an ‘Onsitego Cares Fund’ initiative to provide financial assistance to employees and service partners. Any employee or service centre staff, affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, can avail these funds. The company has set up a corpus of INR 12 Lakhs for this fund.

Meanwhile, to support e-rickshaw divers, investment platform GoMassive Earth Network’s philanthropic arm Massive Earth Foundation is now raising funds to help them get proper meals. Speaking to Inc42, founder of Massive Mobility Shailesh Singh said that the organisation has started to help e-rickshaw partners in Delhi. “As of now, we are doing targetted delivery by reaching out to e-rickshaw drivers,” Singh added.

Moreover, for those startups who are already facing a cash crunch, fintech startups are coming forward with their lower interest or no-interest loans to support their employees. For instance, lending platform Avail Finance has launched a specially designed Covid-19 support-package named ‘Avail Assist’ for gig-economy platforms in India. Using Avail Assist, platforms employing gig-workers like ecommerce, food delivery, cab aggregators and grocery delivery can offer micro-loans to their employees. The company is already offering this programme to cab-hailing major Ola.

Ending Hunger

In the wake of the lockdown, daily wagers have gone completely jobless. With no source of income, they are getting it difficult to get a single meal in a day. To end their hunger, Bengaluru-based B2B foodtech startup HungerBox is working with its partners to deliver thousands of meals to daily wage workers and their families living in labour camps and slums.

As of now, they are distributing food in Bengaluru and Hyderabad. The meals are prepared in the kitchens of HungerBox and distributed as part of FeedMyBangalore and FeedMyHydearbad initiatives.

Besides HungerBox, Smile Foundation is also distributing free groceries to the underprivileged section of the society. Additionally, the non-profit organisation is also providing tele-counselling sessions to people in distress. Under this programme, Smile will be talking about how to prevent Covid-19 by practising social distancing and maintaining the hygiene of self and surroundings. Over 2 Lakh people across 10 worst-hit states are expected to benefit from the programme.

ASSOCHAM Seeks Relief Package

In response to RBI’s announcement on key rate cuts and measures to infuse liquidity, industry body ASSOCHAM’s secretary general Deepak Sood said that is a quick short term fix and the government would need to do much more in the immediate future amid coronavirus lockdown.

The RBI, on March 27, had announced a slew of measures to sustain the economy in these times. These measures are said to take with an intention to revive the market for corporate papers. However, most of these measures are totally dependent on banks discretion to take that call.

So, ASSOCHAM is now pointing out that some of these decisions, like EMI, the moratorium will put pressure on the financial stability of the banks. Sood pointed out that after the moratorium period comes to an end, one could see a rise in the NPAs and surpass the 10 per cent figure this year. Further, ASSOCHAM has urged the government to put together a stimulus package of about $100-120 Bn to revive the economy.

Startups Innovate To Fight Covid-19

On day nine, unique ideas from startups continued to pitch in their unique ideas aimed at tackling some of the larger problems which have arisen due to the coronavirus outbreak in India.

  • Pristyn Care has set up telemedicine and Covid-19 testing facility. The healthtech startup has established a control room for addressing any query related to Covid-19 through the dedicated helpline number 8010002266.
  • In a bid to help the government to get access to more drones for surveillance purposes, an online platform Droneman has been established by industry leaders. The platform helps drone startups to connect with the government directly.
  • Healthtech startup InnerHour has launched an IH21 initiative to offer a mental health programme for those struggling in the Covid-19 crisis. The initiative will help healthcare professionals, employees working from home, and university students to support their mental wellbeing in these very uncertain times.
  • On-demand home service provider Housejoy has collaborated with MP Tejasvi Surya to extend virus fumigation services in Bengaluru. The company will sanitize public places such as police stations, fire stations, government hospitals and offices, old-age homes, among others.
  • File sharing platform SHAREit has now launched a live updates section on Covid-19 in the application. With the majority of its user base in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities, SHAREit aims to help these users stay connected and updated. The application provides updates to users on the number of cases registered, both in India and globally, as well as the state-wise bifurcation of the spread of the virus, and also features latest news and videos on the topic.

Besides startups, automobile maker MG Motor India is scouting for a quick-to-produce ventilator design to serve the patients affected by Covid-19. Post evaluation by a team of medical experts, the best ventilator design concept will receive a grant of INR 10 lakh from MG Motor India. The carmaker will also provide production support for the proposed ventilator prototype at its Halol manufacturing facility to ensure enhanced market deployment.

Also, Governments of Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra have started to placed orders with private companies such as Pune-based MyLab to procure more Covid-19 testing kits.