As India entered the sixth day of the 21-day lockdown period, the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 crossed the 1300 mark. The next two weeks will be crucial as India enters Stage 3 of transmission of the novel coronavirus. The only way to break the chain of infections is to stay at home and practice social distancing. And Indian startups are coming up with ways to enforce this by bringing essential services to homes.
Further, to ensure the timely delivery of essential products across the country, the Retailers Association of India (RAI) along with its partners has implemented the ‘Food Soldier’ project to overcome the shortage of people in the supply chain. RAI has created WhatsApp groups to connect retailers, ecommerce firms, manufacturers and local administration. Using these groups, they can request each other to help them in their operations.
Startups Continue Delivering Essentials
With increased numbers of grocery orders, online grocery platforms such as BigBasket and Grofers are facing a manpower crunch. Here, food delivery giants Swiggy and Zomato are helping out by providing their delivery-partners to ensure the effective supply of grocery orders.
With grocery deliveries coming back on track, one of India’s largest dairy companies Mother Dairy is now also looking to tap the infrastructure of platforms like BigBasket, Milkbasket and Supr Daily to maintain an uninterrupted supply of milk.
While issues with grocery deliveries are now looking to solving, a new government notification has spurred controversy with the delivery of medicines. Last week, the government allowed retail pharmacies to deliver medicines amid the lockdown.
In response, the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), on behalf of its e-pharma members, said that the notification fails to take into consideration the role played by online medicine selling platforms as it only recognises agencies with the license under Form-20 or Form-21 under the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945, to engage in the act of online sales and distribution of medicines.
IAMAI said that this could adversely impact the delivery of medicines by making it difficult for these players to deliver medicines, even though, by definition, medicines fall under essential services as allowed by the government under lockdown.
Startups Fleets To Ferry Out Covid-19 Challenges
With many logistics and last-mile connectivity services halted because of the lockdown, companies are now utilising their fleet to help the government in the fight against coronavirus.
To start with, ride-hailing unicorn Ola has offered 500 cars to the Karnataka government for Covid-19 pandemic-related work. With this, Ola taxis will now be available for healthcare staffers, transportation of medicine and other essential healthcare services for emergencies.
Also, Bengaluru-based self-drive car rental platform Zoomcar is utilising select vehicles to ensure emergency mobility for the frontline workforce, including bankers, healthcare professionals, and delivery executives.
Among the logistics startups, China-based Lalamove, which has operations in India, has come forward to help the government. The startup is supporting grocery delivery startups by offering its fleet of mini trucks and bikes to anyone involved in the supply chain of essentials. Lalamove is delivering food and groceries as well as medical supplies and other essentials of both B2B and B2C platforms. Currently, the service is available in Delhi NCR, Pune, Chennai, and Hyderabad.
Hospitality Startups Join Hands
In a bid to bring the community together to solve the coronavirus crisis, Apollo Hospitals has launched Project Stay I (Stay Isolated). With this, Apollo has brought together companies such as OYO, Zomato, Biocon, Lemon Tree, Ginger Hotels etc.
The objective is to create isolation and quarantine facilities away from the main hospitals in cities across the country and reduce the burden on hospitals providing acute care. Besides these companies, Hindustan Unilever Limited, SBI, and Deutsche Bank are making CSR donations.
Hospitality player Byke Hospitality has offered its properties for a quarantine facility. The company has already established one such quarantine centre at its Thane service apartment. It has also tied up with Lions Club and My Green Society to support daily wage workers by providing essential grocery items.
Fintech Startups Solving Financial Challenges
Mumbai-based fintech startup PayPoint has installed micro-ATMs at nearby shops selling essential products. Using these ATMs, people can withdraw cash, transfer money, and deposit cash without any extra charges.
Further, peer-to-merchant (P2M) UPI platform BharatPe has partnered with ICICI Lombard to launch a Covid-19 Protection Insurance Cover for shopkeepers. With this insurance, people will get 100% of the sum insured, irrespective of hospitalisation expenses. The premium of the insurance starts at INR 199 and provides a sum insured for INR 25K.
Also, digital lending startup Loanwalle is providing emergency loans to salaried and self-employed individuals amid the Covid-19 outbreak. The loan will help people who have been severely impacted financially because of the lockdown.
Additionally, fintech startups are also helping other startups to help them with solutions to solve their challenges. Notably, international payments major PayU has started an initiative — StartupsHelpingStartups — to help startups take help from each other and thrive during these difficult times. Using this platform, startups can avail offers provided by other Indian startups. Some of the notable startups offering their products or services under this initiative include Zoho, Shopmatic, Shopify, among others.
Covid-19 Fundraising Continues
While larger players in the India industry like Paytm and PhonePe have committed INR 500 Cr and INR 100 Cr towards the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM CARES) Fund, other startups are also aiming to help this fight with their contribution.
To start with, fitness startup Cult.fit has launched ‘#MovementForMovement’ challenge to support the government with funds in the fight against Covid-19. Under this challenge, a person has to accept the workout challenge via Cult.live and workout for 12 days between March 27 to April 15, 2020. For every person, completing the challenge, Cult.fit will donate INR 100 to PM CARES Fund.
Delhi-based healthcare startup myUpchar has also decided to donate all profits earned via delivery of medicines during the lockdown to the PM CARES Fund.
Meanwhile, Pune-based fitness platform FITTR is taking a slew of measures to sustain itself amid the coronavirus-led economic slowdown and help the government in the battle against Covid-19. To start with, founder Jitendra Chouksey is taking no salary until the crisis is over. The startup has also announced that it’ll not layoff any employees. To help the community, the startup is donating INR 5 Lakhs per month and has decided to give fitness classes to people for people.
Further, to support the education of EWS students, edtech platform Buddy4Study is disbursing scholarships worth INR 12.5 Cr to more than 5000 students directly in the bank accounts of the beneficiaries.
Medical Products To The Fore
As the pandemic impacts businesses of several small retailers, Chinese ecommerce company Club Factory has now offered to help them in importing medical gear from China. The company is helping to import essential goods such as masks, hand sanitisers and other protective medical gear.
While B2B industrial goods marketplace Moglix has decided to donate 1 Lakh surgical masks to doctors and nurses of government hospitals across Delhi-NCR, Delhi-based healthcare clinic chain Pristyn Care has pledged to donate 10,000 medical masks to Delhi police of the South-West district.
Also, personal care brand mCaffeine has partnered with healthtech startup Clinikk to provide free medical facilities to the employees and their families owing to the current Covid-19 pandemic.
Besides startups, smartphone maker Vivo, as part of CSR initiative, has also donated over two lakh surgical and N95 masks to healthcare personnel. Vivo is planning to donate more in the upcoming times.
Innovations To Drive Out Coronavirus
In these rough times, India is facing difficulties in the battle against coronavirus and to reduce the total number of cases. However, many startups are coming with unique propositions which can come effective in the fight against the novel coronavirus in India.
- Healthtech platform KlinicApp has launched a home test for testing Covid-19 in Mumbai. The service is being provided, in tie-ups with government-approved labs such as Thyrocare and Metropolis, at INR 4500. Results are generally available within 48 hours.
- Telangana-government startup accelerator platform T-Hub has launched a Covid-19 innovation programme in partnership with Q City. For this programme, T-Hub is inviting students to come up with innovative and feasible solutions to combat the deadly virus. Two winning student teams will receive direct mentoring and support from all the stakeholders to transform their ideas into viable business propositions.
- Tiruchirappalli-based Propeller Technologies has donated humanoid robots to a government hospital. These robots deliver medicines to patients kept in a Covid-19 isolation ward. As of now, four such robots are operational but the hospital will use them after getting approval from the local administration.
- Software maker Sapio has built a data-driven decision support system to help ward, district, state, and centre administrators to make the right decisions during these complicated times. As of, now Maharashtra and UP are using the software.
- Gurugram-based DronaMaps has developed a live dashboard to track Covid-19 patients and their activities. It is working with Haryana and Punjab governments.
Besides startups, UK-based book publishing company Pearson has launched an edtech platform Quikik to help students with online self-study solutions during these testing times. The AI-based learning platform helps students learn Mathematics in a fun and engaging way. Additionally, the company is also providing its IIT-JEE mock test to students for free.
Additionally, mobile phone maker Itel has announced the extension of the warranty period by two months for all its models. The extension will be applicable for the models whose warranty expires between March 20 to May 31.