Here’s how startups and businesses are stepping in to fight COVID-19
The coronavirus pandemic has united a divided world. Globally, the disease has infected over a million people and killed over 59,000 people. India, which is currently under a 21-day lockdown that is scheduled to end on April 14, 2020, has 2,567 cases of COVID-19 and has registered 72 fatalities.
Many startups, mostly involved with delivery of essential commodities, had to face several hiccups initially. Many did not have the necessary permit to operate during the lockdown. However, against the odds, India’s resilient startups have come forward to support not just their customers but others as well.
Here’s how Startup India is helping in the fight against COVID-19.
Food delivery giant Swiggy announced that it had set up a relief fund called Swiggy Hunger Saviour COVID Relief fund, which will be used to ensure the safety and welfare of its delivery partners and their families.
Sriharsha Majety, Co-founder and CEO, Swiggy, has committed 50 percent of his annual salary towards this fund. Swiggy aims to raise Rs 10 crore for this fund, and has already raised over Rs 4 crore through initial contributions from Swiggy's founders and employees.
The corpus for the fund will be created by Swiggy with primary contributions from the founders, senior leaders, employees, and investors, as well as donations from customers and well-wishers.
In another initiative, Swiggy plans to deliver food and essentials to daily wage workers from partner restaurants, which are also at risk of shutting down due to lack of revenue. It claims to be helping thousands of kitchen workers, waiters, and chefs to earn a living in these times. The initiative is launched in partnership with non-profit Milaap.
Amid the 21-day lockdown period to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, Gurugram-based foodtech unicorn Zomato has entered the grocery delivery services with Zomato Market. Similar to its competitor’s Swiggy Stores, Zomato Market is a hyperlocal grocery delivery service. It is currently operational only in Delhi, Punjab, and Kerala.
Zomato also announced the launch of a Gold Support Fund earlier this week in support of millions of restaurant workers of the food industry to overcome the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. All proceeds from the purchase of Zomato Gold annual memberships in April 2020 will go towards supporting restaurant housekeepers, cooks, and servers, and their families in these uncertain times.
As a token of gratitude to customers, all users who purchase the Gold annual subscription during this month will get a two-year membership (instead of one year) at no additional cost, the foodtech startup added.
Grocery delivery unicorn Bigbasket was hit badly by the lockdown. Without the permission to deliver, the company had a huge backlog of pending orders. Once deliveries resumed, the heavy demand led to frequent app crashes.
The startup has since then tied up with cab aggregator service Uber for its last-mile delivery service. The company is also on a hiring spree to cater to the increased demand amid the three-week lockdown.
BigBasket on Friday announced that it was facing a shortage of warehouse and delivery staff to service this demand. To address this shortage, Bigbasket is looking at hiring 10,000 people for its warehouses and last-mile delivery to clear pending orders quickly and meet the spike in orders on account of the nationwide lockdown.This comes as welcome news at a time when the world is inching closer to a recession.
Flipkart-owned PhonePe has launched a unique coronavirus hospitalisation insurance policy, called Corona Care, in partnership with Bajaj Allianz General Insurance.
The policy is priced at Rs 156 with an insurance cover of Rs 50,000 for a person aged under 55 years, and the cover is applicable at any hospital offering coronavirus treatment.
Apart from this, the startup has launched a donation drive that aims to contribute up to Rs 100 crore to PM-CARES Fund towards fighting the crisis. PhonePe said it would contribute Rs 10 for every user who donates to the PM CARES Fund via the PhonePe app using UPI by April 30, 2020.
Sameer Nigam, Founder and CEO of PhonePe, said: "The Rs 100 crore pledge was an attempt to lift the mood of the country in this period of crisis."
On March 22, Paytm CEO and founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma announced Rs 5 crore for Indian innovators developing medical solutions related to coronavirus.
"We need more Indian innovators to start building such indigenous solutions for potential ventilators shortage and other COVID-19 cures. Paytm commits Rs 5 crore for such teams working on coronavirus-related medical solutions,” Sharma said in a tweet.
The digital payment platform has also launched the ‘India Fights Corona’ campaign to help prevent and manage the spread of novel coronavirus in communities.
It has partnered with hygiene brand Lifebuoy and Yuvraj Singh’s YouWeCan Foundation.
Opening up to donations, Paytm is appealing to Indians to contribute on the Paytm app and help in the distribution of Lifebuoy hygiene products among vulnerable sections of the society. As a part of this campaign, the company this week has partnered with fast-food chain McDonald’s to distribute burgers, chilli paneer pockets, and other food items to frontline workers, who are tirelessly working to contain the spread of COVID-19 across India.
In another initiative, with the rise in the number of coronavirus cases forcing the government to take tough measures on the movement of goods and people, Paytm Mall has decided to help its merchant partners who are facing issues with stocking up on inventory and fulfillment of orders by waiving off the Service Level Agreement (SLA).
Amid the 21-day lockdown across the country, ride-hailing app Ola announced the launch of Sahyog, an interest-free micro-credit programme that would help driver partners get instant access to cash in their bank account, to tide over any financial crisis.
Working in partnership with fintech startup Avail Finance, Sahyog offers pre-approved credit of Rs 3,600 to be disbursed over three weeks. It aims to impact over 100,000 families of driver partners, in need of liquidity for immediate household expenses.
All eligible driver partners will be able to access loan amounts of up to Rs 1,200 per week, disbursed over the course of three weeks.
Ola has also agreed to give 500 vehicles to the government to help facilitate the transit of healthcare professionals, senior citizens, government officials, and quick response teams who need mobility options in Karnataka.
The startup is in discussions with various state governments and the Centre to offer its transportation and kitchen services during the lockdown across the country.
OYO has opened its hotels and homes in USA to provide free to stay doctors, nurses, healthcare professionals, and first responders fighting to curb the spread of coronavirus on an everyday basis.
It has reached out to over 15 embassies to support stranded foreign tourists and travellers from the US, Brazil, Belgium, Portugal, Australia, Chile, Argentina, and Indonesia with accommodation during the nationwide lockdown in OYO properties across different cities.
Ritesh Agarwal, the CEO of the Gurugram-headquartered hospitality firm, will forego his salary for the rest of the year. The OYO executive leadership team will take voluntary pay cuts as the hospitality industry reels under the coronavirus pandemic.
Apart from this on March 30, Apollo Hospital announced via a virtual conference call the launch of Project Stay I, partnering with Zomato, OYO, Biocon, Lemon Tree, Ginger Hotels, and other companies, to add 5,000 rooms for coronavirus patients to stay in isolation. The project is funded by Hindustan Unilever Limited, SBI, and Deutsche Bank.
The soonicorn has come forward to protect first responders. Droom has sanitised the Gurugram Police’s fleet of cars and motorcycles with its Germ Shield.
Part of Droom Health, this recently introduced service uses a special anti-microbial coating, which inhibits the growth of microorganisms such as bacteria, algae, yeast, moulds, and mildew. It has also been effective against droplet-based viruses.
The startup claims that Germ Shield has a 99.99 percent microbial reduction rate.
The self-drive car rental startup has set aside 1,000 cars for free-of-cost travel for doctors and healthcare workers at the forefront of the battle against coronavirus. This service will initially be available in Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru, and Chennai. The company plans to launch in other cities as the demand escalates.
Revv has also tied up with citizen volunteer group The Corona Warriors in Karnataka to facilitate cars for healthcare workers. It is also exploring non-commercial partnerships with hospitals and treatment facilities.
Amazon has suspended regular operations and is prioritising medical supplies and household staples during the lockdown. The company is delivering from AmazonFresh in four cities and from Amazon Pantry in 100-plus cities.
In addition to this, Amazon's Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos announced that the company would be hiring for one lakh new roles, and raising wages for its hourly workers, who have been fulfilling orders and delivering to its customers in this time of stress and turmoil.
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)