Startup founders, technocrats, investors in Bengaluru pitch in with relief efforts

BENGALURU: Technology czars, startup founders and investors in India’s technology capital are leading a slew of efforts aimed at ensuring food, medicines and other essentials are delivered to the needy as the country battles the virulent spread of Covid-19.

Using technology platforms and managerial knowhow, several leaders including Wipro chairman Rishad Premji, serial investor K Ganesh, Infosys Foundation chairperson Sudha Murty as well as companies like online delivery platform Swiggy and fresh produce aggregator Ninjacart are working to alleviate the distress of daily wage labourers and underprivileged citizens displaced by the ongoing upheaval.

“We have now crossed supporting over half a million people through a mix of 60,000 freshly cooked meals daily through Wipro’s campus canteens and the rest through distribution of complete kits of ration for 14-21 days,” Premji wrote on microblogging platform Twitter on Monday. “Numbers are growing everyday”.

Unique Public-private Models

Home to some of the country’s most-valued startups, Bengaluru’s investors and entrepreneurs have also stepped up to pitch in their weight. K Ganesh, who has backed firms such as BigBasket, has set up an initiative called Feed My Bangalore to supply food to daily-wage labourers.

“We started at 500 meals a day. We are at 75,000 meals a day. Soon we will do 1 lakh meals a day. We are adding more cities,” said Ganesh, who started the initiative jointly with Prestige Group CEO Venkat K Narayana, and Juggy Marwaha, the executive managing director of JLL India. The trio expect over 30 lakh meals to be supplied by Aprilend. nfosys, through its foundation, is working with mid-day meal provider Akshaya Patra to provide food and essentials and has also partnered with Narayana Health to open a 100-room quarantine facility for economically weaker Covid-19 patients.

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“Diseases often hit the underprivileged the hardest, because they cannot afford proper treatment, and at the same time, they lose their livelihood while dealing with the illness,” Murty said. Such efforts to ameliorate the effects of the pandemic are also triggering unique public-private models. A centralised control room set up by the Karnataka government includes a call centre set up by Vindhya e-Infomedia, a Bengaluru backoffice firm, where agents handle calls from across the city and the state for support to tackle Covid-19.

Swiggy, has built a helpline dashboard to track and avoid duplication of incoming requests for food from poorer areas, besides a tool to estimate demand for food and supplies to the backend teams to ensure there is no wastage.

The online platform, which has built the tech backbone for Karnataka, called the Dasoha 2020 project, has hosted the solution on the Amazon cloud. “A small team of passionate engineers at Swiggy volunteered their time to automate the entire supply chain starting with dashboards to track incoming requests, manage inventory projections for food centres and build a CovidVolunteers App to help with the last mile distribution of food to the needy,” said Dale Vaz, head of engineering and data science, Swiggy.

These initiatives are supported by over 10,000 volunteers, from across sectors including technology firms and startups, who ensure that the food and supplies reach out to the needy and at the right time.

“The government is the enabler here. While the government does meet the food cost of some providers, there are a few others who are providing it free,” said Malavika Avinash, chairperson of the Covid-19 Warriors Task Force.

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Elsewhere, the Azim Premji foundation, Wipro and Wipro Enterprises, which has committed Rs 1,125 crore to tackle the crisis due to the virus spread, are working with over 300 civil society organisations. Infosys Foundation has committed Rs 100 crore towards Covid-19 relief efforts, including medical equipment, ventilators, testing kits, meals for the underprivileged sections of society.

And fresh produce startup Ninjacart is supplying fruits and vegetables at subsidised prices to orphanages, old-age homes, slum areas and to migrant workers stuck inside construction sites in Bengaluru, said Thirukumaran Nagarajan, CEO of Ninjacart, who said his company has stepped up supplies by five times to 10 tonnes a day.

“It is becoming a movement. We are dependent on daily wage earners and today they need us,” said Prestige Group’s Narayana. “There is a lot more to be done and together we can make a difference. Our motto is no one goes hungry”.


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