The week that was: From startup providing medicines to apps ensuring mental wellbeing during coronavirus
India extended the nationwide lockdown till May 3 to stem the rising number of coronavirus cases in the country. Here is how Indian startups are fighting the crisis.
Across the world, mobility has taken a huge hit due to the coronavirus pandemic. A mobility report by Google revealed that India has shown a 77 percent drop in trips to public places amid the nationwide lockdown, and with the central and state governments urging citizens to stay home and maintain social distancing.
But that hasn’t stopped Bengaluru-based mobility startup Drivezy. Started in 2015 to help people rent self-drive cars, the peer-to-peer vehicle-sharing platform has since expanded to two-wheelers and notched up the B2B consumer base as well.
The vehicle-sharing platform lets individuals rent cars, scooters, and motorcycles from people around them. It follows an asset-light business model, and has partnered with over 2,000 individual vehicle owners, fleet operators, and vehicle dealerships to enlist assets on its platform. “Our rental plans absolve the need of high investments for owning an automobile as customers can rent a vehicle by the hour, day, week or month,” says Ashwarya Singh, Co-founder and CEO, Drivezy.
The mobility startup began with leasing around 250 cars. Today, it has expanded its services to include 4,000 cars and 16,000 two-wheelers.
There is a lot of attention on healthcare startups and the coronavirus outbreak has made businesses across the world rethink, rebuild, and reinvent. Almost overnight, new strategies have been chalked out, new operational models implemented, new services launched, and new customers reached.
For omnichannel healthtech startup Medicalwale.com, it has been no different. The Mumbai-based startup, founded in 2017, served as a bridge between medical suppliers, distributors, and pharmacies — both offline and online — until now. It operated primarily on a B2B model, with only a segment of its business directly facing end consumers.
Through its med-commerce platform, users can shop from a wide selection of wellness, fitness, beauty, and health products. But when it came to everyday and emergency medicines, it wouldn’t let users place orders directly.
Medicalwale.com’s focus right now is to get “periodic medicines” delivered. These are usually requirements of senior citizens with pre-diagnosed illnesses like hypertension, diabetes, cardiac issues, etc., are ordered in bulk, and not required on an emergency basis.
Kiranas, essentials and ventilators
Everyone wants to know how life is getting back to the normal. In his third address to the nation on April 14, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the country-wide lockdown to stem the spread of coronavirus would be extended till May 3. PM Modi said the government would monitor the situation state-wise, and could provide some relaxation, depending on the number of cases. The prime minister added that the central and state governments were working to address supply chain issues.
This is a step forward for delivery startups such as Amazon, BigBasket, Swiggy, Zomato, and Dunzo. India went into lockdown from March 25, and although government guidelines had allowed movement of essential goods and services, things came to a standstill due to a complete breakdown of the supply chain.
Then there is a case for ventilators. As the rising COVID-19 cases scare hospitals and healthcare workers who have insufficient ventilators, the need of the hour is to ensure the availability of three main utilities of medical ventilators — electricity, oxygen, and medical air systems. While the government has assured the supply of electricity, it is the responsibility of medtech companies to come forward and supply the other two elements. Ahmedabad-based Technik Spirits is one such company manufacturing medical air, vacuum, and oxygen systems. It is currently manufacturing on-site medical oxygen generators and medical air systems. Founded by Siddharth Rajvanshi in 2018, Technik Spirits has sold around 10 systems till now, and is waiting for the approval of its patent rights.
From this, let us move to apps that can keep you busy during the lockdown.
Reviving reading books is a noble cause. In recent years, there has been a lot of concern over how today’s youth prefer Netflix to a good book. While Amazon’s Kindle got us digital books, now chat fiction is changing the way kids and millennials get their stories. With a focus on making the narrative more interesting and engaging for the youth, Abhay Gupta developed Ficting, an app which is a combination of fiction and texting.
Launched in November 2018, the app is trying to revive the habit of reading in the youth by providing an engaging and non-distractive narrative, which grabs their attention and hooks them on to the content. Currently incubated at IIT-Kanpur, the startup has also received a fellowship from NTT Data.
Aristotle famously said, “Man by nature is a social animal”. The human brain is wired to connect, which is why social distancing – the only present panacea to coronavirus – and quarantine go against our very nature. Multiple research has shown that, even in “normal” times, loneliness and isolation can be “twice as harmful to physical and mental health as obesity”. With COVID-19 putting millions of people across the world under house arrest, multiple challenges around mental health are emerging.
A recent report by Blind, a US-based anonymous professional network with 3.2 million verified users, stated that 52.9 percent of respondents across organisations such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, LinkedIn, and Walmart were facing loneliness during work from home and because of social distancing. Close to 56.4 percent had been “feeling anxiety during WFH and social distancing” and 53 percent said they were experiencing mental health issues.
While there is no sign on how long the coronavirus-led confinement will continue, some apps are tackling this mental health issues alongside the physical health crisis.
(Edited by Kanishk Singh)