The week that was: from a textbook techie to startups taking the fight to coronavirus

India continued to battle the coronavirus pandemic as people stayed home amid a country-wide lockdown. Here is how Indian startups are dealing with this unprecedented crisis.

The coronavirus pandemic has brought the world to a grinding halt. The total number of cases worldwide has crossed one million, with 5 percent of the confirmed cases dying.  With India crossing the 3,000-mark, more tests are needed. 

Through the week, YourStory focused on stories that spotlighted the work that startups are doing to help tackle COVID-19.

Check out our weekly video wrap to know more:

Dr Velumani A, the Founder of Diagnostics, speaks about the need for multiple tests and the challenges unique to India. He explains that given the cost constraints in the market, even with the test costing Rs 4,500, there is a loss of Rs 1,000. But that doesn’t mean testing needs to stop; there needs to be a bigger push for tests.  In conversation with YourStory, Velumani talks about what needs to be done to combat the current medical crisis that India and the world are facing

Dr Velumani A, Thyrocare,

Image credit: Bizencyclopedia

Now, let’s talk about apps that are taking the fight to coronavirus.  Gurugram-based KlinicApp, an e-diagnostics startup, launched COVID-19 tests on its platform, becoming one of the few ICMR-authorised entities to enable home testing for coronavirus detection.

The tests are being provided in collaboration with government-approved labs like Thyrocare and Metropolis. KlinicApp is also in talks with other stakeholders to be able to source “100 percent-certified” testing kits and ramp up its capacity. Each ‘SARS-COV-2 Detection’ package costs Rs 4,500 as per the Indian Council of Medical Research guidelines, and results are made available in 48 hours.

The novel coronavirus has hit the economy worse than the Great Recession of 2008. Companies are laying off jobs, delaying promotions, and employee bonuses have taken a backseat. In fact, amid the COVID-19 crisis, people are more worried about remaining employed, more than anything else.

It isn’t surprising that the Indian startup ecosystem is facing the brunt of this economic slowdown.

While startups in the metros are well equipped and have the facilities to “work from home”, how are small-town startups dealing with the situation? YourStory spoke to a few startups from Tier II and III cities of India to understand how they are dealing with the unfolding coronavirus crisis.

Focusing on medical workers

While India continues to observe the coronavirus lockdown, healthcare providers do not have the luxury to afford social distancing. Putting their health at risk, numerous doctors, nurses, orderlies, diagnostics crew, administrative staff, and clinic assistants, among others, are leading the charge against COVID-19.

An increased number of coronavirus cases has not only put pressure on medical infrastructure,  but also on healthcare providers who are working hard to take care of affected patients.

Amid this, startups are doing focusing on doing their bit.

In a bid to aid the government’s efforts, Arjun and Parth Panchal, Co-founders of 3D printer manufacturer Boson Machines, are providing healthcare professionals with face shields to keep them safe from contracting the infection from patients. 

Founded in 2017, Mumbai-based Boson Machines is now using its 3D printing technology to manufacture protective face shields for healthcare personnel. With the help of Dr Swapneil Parikh, Boson Machines connected with experts and doctors who helped in curating and designing the product.  

Speaking to YourStory, Arjun says that the current capacity of the manufacturing startup is 500-800 shields per day, but this can be scaled to 4,000 pieces under full capacity. However, this won’t is not enough to meet the current demand.  

“There are 20,000 face shields being used by doctors across India. The total requirement for the shields is more than four lakh in Maharashtra alone,” he notes

Credit: Arjun Panchal Twitter

Moving on to logistics, the lifeblood of any economy. 

Bengaluru-headquartered Blowhorn was built to solve the toughest logistic problems in an asset-light fashion. Claiming to be India’s first and only full-stack logistics company, Blowhorn has capabilities in all three elements of the logistics value chain: warehouses, transportation, and tech-enabled systems. 

Co-founder and CEO Mithun Srivatsa tells YourStory, “Whether it is a fashion brand, which sells via multiple internet channels, or an agritech company distributing fresh farm goods, we facilitate it all using the same platform.” 

Mithun and Nikhil, the Co-founders of Blowhorn.

The founders decided to stay bootstrapped until the startup started generating revenues. Blowhorn registered a 3x growth in revenue and maintained its capital efficiency in the first two-and-half years, Mithun says. Today, the logistics startup is backed by billionaire venture capitalist Tim Draper, who has also funded Skype, Tesla and SpaceX.

Tech to the rescue

In this week’s Techie Tuesday, we meet Kanav Arora, the textbook definition of a techie. Throughout his career, he has focused on and built products that stemmed from a personal pain point, and then opened up the technology to the world. 

While startups build businesses and then use tech to complement them, Kanav is a strong proponent of tech being the starting point for companies looking to solve real problems and create impact.

Today, as Vice President of Engineering at Urban Company (previously called UrbanClap), he is doing just that. Leading the experience arm of technology at the home services soonicorn, Kanav has been responsible for building the core technology for the platform, the app, and its multiple micro services

“A developer is a person who understands how to use technology as a tool to create something impactful and leverage it in the real world,” he says.  

In this candid interview with YourStory, Kanav traces his journey from India to Singapore and the US, his tryst with some of the world’s biggest tech companies, including Microsoft, a run-in with Uber, and, finally, leveraging tech for impactful problem-solving back in his home country again