MCA appeals for Covid-19 support, Google pledges relief fund as healthcare crumbles

MCA appeals for Covid-19 support, Google pledges relief fund as healthcare crumbles
Photo Credit: Reuters
26 Apr, 2021

As Indians flood social media platforms with SOS messages, asking for oxygen and drug supplies amid the deadly second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, technology startups across sectors have come forward to help patch the crumbling healthcare infrastructure.  

On Monday, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) website welcomed visitors with an appeal from Secretary Rajesh Verma, requesting corporates and startup founders to use their CSR (corporate social responsibility) funding and budgets for makeshifts hospitals and temporary Covid care facilities. Verma also suggested that vacant offices could also be converted into hospitals, given that most companies have switched to remote work. 

Search engine giant Google has announced a relief fund of Rs 135 crore ($18 million) for India. In a blog post, country head and VP for India Sanjay Gupta said that the aid “includes two grants from Google.org, Google’s philanthropic arm, totaling Rs 20 Crore ($2.6 million). The first is to GiveIndia to provide cash assistance to families hit hardest by the crisis to help with their everyday expenses. The second will go to UNICEF to help get urgent medical supplies, including oxygen and testing equipment, to where it’s needed most in India.” 

These donations also include funding raised from employee giving campaign, which contributed Rs 3.7 crore ($500,000) from 900 employees for organisations supporting high-risk and marginalized communities. 

A part of the funding will be further used to increase Ad Grant support for public health information campaign. “Since last year, we’ve helped MyGov and the World Health Organization reach audiences with messages focused on how to stay safe and facts about vaccines. We’re increasing our support today with an additional 112 Crore INR ($15 million) in Ad Grants to local health authorities and nonprofits for more language coverage options,” Gupta wrote. 

The Action COVID-19 Team (ACT) Grants is raising over Rs 75 crore to support hospitals with supplement medical workforce, and oxygen solutions and home health management. The payment link has been developed by Razorpay. ACT was formed by the key players of the startup ecosystem in the country. At present, it has a volunteer base of 100, apart from a five-member COVID-19 Prospecting Team. 

Last year, in March, ACT had raised Rs 100 crore from 34 founders and leaders, 44 funds, and 37 strategic partners. 

Indian-American venture capitalist Vinod Khosla tweeted that he will be funding hospitals in India that need to import bulk planeloads of oxygen and other supplies. He has joined hands with GiveIndia and Atul Satija (founder and CEO of The/ Nudge Foundation) for the purpose, he said.  

Hyperlocal delivery startup Delhivery earlier announced flying charters in the country to help bring oxygen concentrators and other essential supplies. The startup unicorn has also offered to build capacity depending on demand. 

India is currently in the middle of a major healthcare crisis, with over 17.3 million total Covid-19 cases reported and over 195,000 deaths. The central government said it plans to airlift 23 oxygen generation plants and containers from Germany.