With nationwide coronavirus lockdown plaguing economic activity, startups in India are most impacted by the current situation with immediate concerns of taxation and compliance issues, need for flexible credit and cash flow putting their continuity at risk. The Indian government is looking at means and measures to ease their working capital issues and liquidity crunch created by the pandemic to help them tide over the financial constraints impeding their near-term growth prospects.
Nevertheless, their undeterred commitment to help India Inc. root out causes and cases of coronavirus from the system stays strong. Today the Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Prime Minister's Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund' (PM CARES Fund)' to help Indian citizens cope with distress times like these to help together build capacities for quick emergency response, institutional enhancement and strong infrastructure to mitigate/control damage and alleviate the sufferings of those affected. He invites citizens of the country to generously donate towards building this fund to support difficult times of today and for the future.
Mission to Save Lives: Collaboration and Funding Support
Bhavish Aggarwal, co-founder of Ola Cabs allocated Rs 20 crore towards 'Drive the Driver' fund to help drivers and their families in these times of crisis, faced due to nationwide lockdown. He said, "Millions of drivers and their families find themselves without an income today. To support them, we are launching the 'Drive the Driver' fund. I'm contributing my next year salary and Ola along with employees will contribute Rs 20 crore to the fund."
Encouraging more startups to contribute towards the cause of saving lives infected by coronavirus, Aggarwal tweeted, "Even a small contribution will have a lasting impact on the well-being of millions of families. We invite everyone to join us and help the entire driver community in their times of need."
PhonePe takes the Rs 100-crore pledge to fight out coronavirus with help and support from its customers and patrons. Through this #DonateKaroNaIndia campaign by PhonePe, the digital payment startup aims to get 10 crore people to donate. PhonePe will add Rs 10 to everyone's contribution. So, if 10 crore people donate, PhonePe will add Rs 100 crore eventually to the coronavirus fund.
Sameer Nigam, Founder and CEO of PhonePe tweeted, "Come on India! Join @PhonePe_#100CrorePledge! We will add Rs.10 to everyone's donation to the PM CARES FUND! Donate via @UPI_NPCI now and let's get 10 crore Indians to donate to this amazing cause. We will pledge Rs.100 crores on top!"
Appreciating the initiative by startup PhonePe, PM Modi tweeted, "This will inspire and enable a large number of Indians to donate to PM-CARES! #IndiaFightsCorona" According to recent update from PhonePe, they are nearing 1.5 lakh donors and have crossed Rs 4.2 crore in donations so far.
Haptik, a Mumbai-based startup that builds intelligent virtual assistant solutions recently launched a WhatsApp hotline, that acts as a chatbot to provide accurate information about the novel coronavirus. Machine learning helps process the user's query on the backend and respond accordingly. The hotline provides information on five crucial topics: what is coronavirus, symptoms, busts myth, provides travel advisory and suggests ways to protect yourself from getting infected.
Another Delhi-based startup Nanoclean Global has increased the production of Naso mask – an N95/FFP2 grade face mask since more than 5 lakh units of the product priced at Rs 149 was sold due to the coronavirus outbreak. The company is beefing up its manufacturing and production capacity of 'Nasofilter' to be able to cater to more citizens in the times of need.
Funding startups to stand strong against Covid-19
Meanwhile Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI, an artificial intelligence research lab, is funding startups who can quickly develop ventilators, conduct screening of existing drugs for effectiveness, produce masks and gowns, develop novel approaches to vaccines which big corporations are struggling to innovate in the current times. Indirectly, Altman is creating a financial stream for startups and contributing collectively in the fight against Covid-19.
Earlier last week, a 600-member strong collective called "Startups vs Covid-19" was formed to fight out coronavirus from multiple fronts. The group comprising of founders of Bounce, Flipkart exec Mekin Maheshwari, Homelane, BlackBuck, Cred MyGate, 1mg, , Urban Company, MapMyIndia and venture capitalists such as Stellaris Venture Partners and Matrix Partners suggested to the government to enforce a nationwide lockdown forcing citizens to quarantine despite understanding the impact of such moves on the startup ecosystem in the country.
The group has built various applications for coronavirus tracking, onboarded healthcare professionals to devise a two-stage testing method for Covid-19, is developing a portal for citizens to report symptoms and a heatmap of the infection according to symptoms stated by doctors.rom