Coronavirus pandemic has taken the world by storm causing many startups to shut shop and others to trim down their operations, even as global markets crash. The story is no different in India — according to Business In The Times Of Coronavirus: India And The World report by Inc42 DataLabs, the country is among the top 15 economies affected.
As a result, the government, stalwarts from the ecosystem and the corporate giants — teaming up with startups — are all trying to come up with newer ways to counter the pandemic. Among these names is a B2B corporate accelerator programme, Cisco LaunchPad, which focusses on deeptech startups working to develop solutions that bring value to the organisation and the society.
There is no denying that while the pandemic has wreaked havoc on the country’s startup ecosystem, the unprecedented event has also brought new and untapped opportunities for many startups.
Understanding the challenges and opportunities in the current scenarios, Krishna Sundaresan, the VP of engineering at Cisco told Inc42 that it is extending mentorship, connects and support to all the startups who have been associated with it in the best way possible.
“Cisco LaunchPad has always been more than an accelerator. We stay connected with the startups and derive mutual value through joint-go-to-market, projects and PoCs,” — Krishna Sundaresan, VP engineering, Cisco.
A testament of the growth of its startups, even in the current times, is Yellow Messenger’s Series B funding of $20 Mn led by Lightspeed Venture Partners and Lightspeed India Partners, enabling the global expansion of its conversational AI platform. Additionally, Cloudneeti — now acquired by Zscaler — and Orbo.ai — which acquired US-based Gemia — both were a part of Cisco LaunchPad’s sixth and fifth cohort, respectively.
“Cisco LaunchPad has been instrumental in the success of the startups – strengthening their business fundamentals with proven strategies, providing them relevant exposure and opportunities to scale up and connect the right dots,” – Sruthi Kannan, head, Cisco LaunchPad
Cisco LaunchPad Deeptech Startups Fight Covid-19
There are various startups from across verticals, which are today striving to flatten the curve of the pandemic. Among these startups are names from Cisco LaunchPad portfolio that have taken high-tech approaches to provide innovative solutions for the existing challenges.
Customer-Centricity Amidst Crisis
Vernacular.ai launched the Vernacular Intelligent Virtual Agent (VIVA) — a multilingual AI platform — last year. It helps automate repetitive call centre queries. Supporting over 10 Indian languages, the startup claims to have achieved a high level of accuracy in understanding and solving customer queries and concerns.
In the current crisis, VIVA is helping businesses stay customer-centric and become more aware of customer anxiety and increase sensitivity in their communication and messaging. Through this, it aims at helping organisations convince users of their efficient decision-making capabilities, thus retaining as well as acquiring consumers.
Easing Work For Critical Healthcare Providers
Cloudphysician is providing intensivists or ICU doctors, with a 360-degree view of the patient and also helps in the analysis of the patient’s medical and health data. Its product RADAR uses data to run analytics and a decision support engine that allows clinicians to write notes faster, deliver protocolised care and cut errors across the board.
Connecting command centres, staffed with ICU doctors and nurses, to remote hospital ICUs, RADAR enables each provider to cater to the needs of 60-80 sick patients in multiple locations as opposed to the current ratio of 1:15. RADAR’s real-time two-way audio-video communication platform further enables them to coordinate with bedside providers. In addition, RADAR has clinical tools and automated early warning systems to ensure a prompt, safe and high-quality response.
Ensuring Containment Of Positive Cases
COIN units cover the entire place with a mesh network connected to the cloud via WiFi or ethernet gateway. Covid-19 patients can further be tagged with an additional set of FIND units, which enable accurate real-time location tracking via the cloud. One can also create a geofence to trigger alerts when the patient enters or leaves a designated area. Total time spent can also be monitored at various zones. All the alerts can be sent via SMS and email to the concerned person.
AI-Powered Chatbots To Spread Awareness
Yellow Messenger is leveraging AI-powered chatbots to help spread the information and curb the spread, at a mass level. These informational chatbots interact and help people by providing information about the virus, sending authentic helpline numbers, helping assess the risk of virus, and more. These chatbots are deployed on WhatsApp, web and Facebook Messenger and can easily scale on to telephony and IVR.
“Apart from this, we’ve also seen a huge surge in demand for such chatbots from our enterprise clients. Some of our clients who’ve already deployed COVID-19 Assessment Chatbots are Allianz, Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail, and Dr Reddy Labs,” said Raghu Ravinutala, cofounder and CEO, Yellow Messenger.
XR For Covid-19’s Frontline Workforce
Imaginate has come with two solutions, Atom and Assist to provide device-agnostic conferencing capabilities in virtual, augmented and mixed reality (VR/AR/MR).
While Atom enables individuals from across the globe to come together in the same virtual space using any AR/VR device or even their PCs, the latter connects field workers with experts who can assist them with important information, using Augmented Reality. Atom ensures smooth and hassle-free enterprise collaboration for enhanced productivity. The product can also be used to deploy guides to develop for the frontline workforce and medical professionals and equip them for the Covid-19 situation.
Drones For Fleet Management
FlytBase is working with drone operators and drone service providers who are directly working with police and government authorities to conduct aerial patrols during the current lockdown. FlytBase provides these businesses with remote drone connectivity and fleet management software to fly a fleet of drones and see live video feeds from areas around the city at a central location. This is to help police monitor areas at scale and take suitable action to curb crowding at several locations.
Cisco LaunchPad’s Innovation Counters Covid-19 Impact
During the course of its programme, it helps startups in its cohort with participatory and performance-based grants, besides providing coworking space, investor connects, mentorship and more. Till date, the LaunchPad has helped mentor over 47 startups across six cohorts.
“Most of the startups from our portfolio faced challenges with respect to physical spaces, devices and access to the proponents of digital transformation. So, we have moved most of our engagements to the virtual world which is the new normal,” said Kannan.
Cisco WebEx helps meet business continuity plans within the accelerator programme, which has enabled online mentoring sessions, conferences and more. The LaunchPad told Inc42 that it is more engaged with the startups now than ever, enabling them on all fronts — technology, solution architecting, market access, HR needs and more.
“We are hosting online webinars, learning sessions, current cohort monthly check-ins and other key business continuity aspects in order to deliver the best we could to our startups and communities alike,” added Kannan.
The Cisco LaunchPad head further explained that the programme works on a cohort model to ensure that startups learn to scale up faster. She credits Cisco mentors, leadership teams, partners and everyone associated with contributing to this platform that instills confidence into each startup in every cohort.