How B2B startup Bizongo re-engineered its platform to provide PPE kits for coronavirus healthcare warriors
The advent of coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic has brought everyday human activity to a grinding standstill, with economies across the world taking a hit. This has also severely impacted the startup ecosystem in the country but this environment also provides the avenue to re-engineer oneself to cater to the new demand.
Bizongo, the Mumbai-headquartered B2B startup focused on the packaging industry, has just done that by turning its energy and attention to the supply of the much-needed personal protective equipment (PPE) during the coronavirus crisis.
The total number of coronavirus cases in the country has crossed 46,000 and there is an increasing demand for PPE whether in the form of gloves, masks, sanitising equipment etc, not just for the healthcare industry but also for others battling the pandemic at the frontlines.
Sachin Agarwal, Chief Operating Officer and Co-founder of Bizongo, in a conversation with YourStory, says, “From March 20, we were studying the situation not just in India but globally and we decided to do something about this.”
Bizongo, founded in 2015 with the backing of investors such as Accel, Chiratae Ventures, IFC, and Schroder Adveq, started to re-engineer its platform to understand the demand for PPE products across the country as well as figured out the entities which could ensure the supply.
Sachin explains that there were three key elements which they were trying to map: demand, supply and supply chain networks, and a funding initiative which was required to help procure these goods and supply them to the constituencies most in need.
Within three days, Bizongo came out with its digital platform which could effectively map all these three elements.
“We started thinking on the effective ways to capture the demand as we did not want to burden them with long forms of questions,” says Sachin.
Mapping the chain
The startup kept it quite simple and was able to get all the information required. Bizongo co-founder claims that their demand forecasting has been fully accurate and, in some cases, much better than the projections of those who have been urgently demanding the PPE products.
At the same time, there were challenges on the supply side, which came not just from the lockdown restrictions but also on determining whether there were enough manufacturers who could provide these goods.
As Sachin remarks, “Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, if the demand for PPE kits was one lakh per year, it is now one lakh per day.”
However, Bizongo found a way around this given the relationship it has built over the years with manufacturers from a diverse set of industries while helping them out with their packaging requirements.
“Our approach has always been to find India-made products. We approached various manufacturers, especially from the textile sector, to understand their capability and intent,” explains Sachin.
Bizongo also built a technical knowledge base on what products are to be produced and what are the parameters for the quality standards. This was also shared with its supplier community.
Within just 10 days from the time they started planning, i.e. on April 1, Bizongo was ready to supply the PPE kits. Bizongo has already supplied over 1.3 lakh PPE kits to over 170 public hospitals, reaching to more than 65,000 frontline healthcare workers.
Besides the mapping of supply and demand, Bizongo had to look into the funding aspect of PPE kits. Though people were financing them through donations, the startup ensured that there was a genuineness in the entire transaction.
Bizongo runs on Microsoft’s cloud platform Azure. Sangeeta Bavi, Director – Startups, Microsoft India, says, “Microsoft is committed to enabling governments, enterprises, startups as well as communities at scale, especially in these challenging times. Our trusted and scalable cloud platform and technologies present a transformative opportunity for startups to innovate and build ground-breaking solutions to help the country.”
She further says, “We’re privileged to be able to make a difference to the community through this thriving startup community as it addresses the most essential needs in dealing with this pandemic. By leveraging Microsoft’s cloud technology, Bizongo has been able to bring in agility and automation in their supply chain to manage inventory of PPE kits in a secure way.”
Praise for governments and SMEs
Sachin is all praise for the manufacturers, especially the small and medium enterprises (SMEs), for rising to the challenge as many of them were making goods which were not their forte.
“I have not heard in the last one month even from a single SME that they would not be able to do it,” he says.
Today, Bizongo is enabling the supply of these critical PPE kits across the country. The supply is not restricted to just the metros and has gone into Tier-II & III cities, as well as remote locations.
Sachin is also thankful for the efforts put in by the government and its various agencies like Startup India and Invest India in enabling a seamless supply of the PPE kits by cutting the red tape with transport permits, quick approval to start manufacturing, etc.
Sachin remains confident of meeting the future demand for PPE kits. “Till now we have supplied around 1.4 lakh kits but from May 1, we can provide 50,000 units per day,” he says.
The co-founder also believes that the demand for PPE products in the near future will still be strong, even after the lockdown restrictions are eased. The requirements may originate from non-medical sectors.
“We have already started to think about the future of such products as many of them unbranded. This gives us tremendous opportunity to help the SMEs to package their unbranded products more effectively for the market,” says Sachin.
Edited by Kanishk Singh