How Entrepreneurs are Helping to Fight COVID-19?

Needless to mention, Coronavirus has affected every aspect of human life. Lockdowns and social distancing particularly has had immediate effect on several banking activities. Thus, at the same time, many efforts are being made to raise funds and help startups and SMEs. Experts in the sector have greatly underscored the need for focusing on digital channels and platforms during times like these. After the coronavirus wiped $7.6 trillion off the world’s stock markets in four days, global health groups are asking companies, governments and even the public for billions of dollars to fight the contagion. The World Health Organization(WHO)set up a website seeking contributions from anyone in an attempt to raise at least $7 billion.

On Tuesday (March 24) evening, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the whole country has been put on lockdown and had announced INR 15,000 Crore package to strengthen the Indian healthcare infrastructure in India. The fund will be used to develop testing facilities, personal protective equipment and procure more isolation beds, intensive care unit (ICU) beds and ventilators. Moreover, the government will be using the fund to train paramedical and medical staff helping in treating affected patients. Earlier in the day, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman had relaxed timelines for filing taxes and raising default thresholds for avoiding bankruptcy proceedings. She had added that the government will soon announce a package to address the coronavirus impact on the economy.

In one such efforts, Prime Minster of India, Narendra Modi announced a special emergency fund for the nation to fight crisis like COVID-19 on March 29. Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM CARES Fund), is a dedicated national fund with the primary objective of dealing with any kind of emergency or distress situation, like posed by the Coronavirus pandemic, and to provide relief to the affected. Hours after the announcement, entrepreneurs and celebrities from various walks of life have come together to show their appreciation.

Ratan Tata

Joining a number of India Inc leaders who are doing their bit in their own way, Ratan Tata has committed Rs 500 crore for protective equipment for frontline workers, respiratory systems for treatment of increasing cases and testing kits in the fight against COVID-19. In a tweet on March 28, Ratan Tata shared a post detailing how Tata Trusts and the group companies will help as India battles to contain the spread of COVID-19 crisis. Ratan Tata tweeted, “COVID-19 is one of the toughest challenges we will face as a race. The Tata Trusts and the Tata group companies have in the past risen to the needs of the nation. At this moment, the need of the hour is greater than any other time.” The amount would be used for personal protective equipment for the medical personnel on the frontline, respiratory systems for treating increasing cases, testing kits to increase per capita testing, setting up modular treatment facilities for infected patients, and knowledge management and training of health workers plus the general public.

Following Ratan Tata’s announcement, N. Chandrasekharan, chairman of Tata Sons, announced an additional Rs 1,000 crore in support towards COVID-19 and related activities. He said in a statement, "We will work together with the Tata Trusts and our Chairman Emeritus Mr. Tata and would be fully supporting their initiatives, and work in a collaborative manner to bring the full expertise of the group. In addition to the initiatives articulated by Tata Trusts, we are also bringing in the ventilators necessary and are gearing up to also manufacture the same soon in India."

Mukesh Ambani

One of the top business tycoons of India, Mukesh Ambani has also contributed in his own ways. In collaboration with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), the Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital has set up a dedicated 100-bed centre at Seven Hills Hospital, Mumbai, for patients who test positive for COVID-19. Reliance Industries Limited is enhancing its production capacities to produce 100,000 face-masks per day and a large number of personal protective equipment for the nation’s health-workers to equip them further to fight the coronavirus challenge. Reliance Industries has donated Rs 500 crore to PM's Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situation (PM CARES) Fund to help government in the fight against coronavirus.

Similarly, other companies in India have come forward to contribute. Digital payments company Paytm said it aims to contribute Rs 500 crore to the fund. For every contribution or any other payment made on Paytm using the wallet, UPI and Paytm Bank debit card, the company will contribute an extra up to Rs 10, Paytm said in a statement. Also, Flipkart-owned PhonePe also launched a donation drive and said it aims to contribute up to Rs 100 crore to PM CARES Fund towards fighting coronavirus crisis. Infosys Foundation has also committed Rs 100 crore to fight COVID-19. Uday Kotak, managing director of Kotak Mahindra Bank announced a Rs 60 crore donation. On March 22, Anand Mahindra, CEO of Mahindra and Mahindra also offered the group's hospitality arm as a medical care facility and said the group will work on how its manufacturing facilities can manufacture ventilators. Engineering and construction giant Larsen & Toubro (L&T) on Monday announced Rs 150 crore donation to the PM-CARES Fund to fight the coronavirus outbreak and said it has set aside over Rs 500 crore per month to support about 1.60 lakh contract workers. JSW Group, an Indian business operating in metals and mining has announced contributing Rs 100 crores to the prime minister’s citizen assistance and relief in emergency situations (PM-CARES) fund in the light of the ongoing Coronavirus outbreak. Paint and decor company, Asian Paints on Monday has announced contributing Rs 35 crores towards Covid19 Relief Fund.

However, startups and small businesses were getting anxious about the support from the government considering the pressure they are facing to keep the operations running smoothly in the light of funds being scarce and market demand being low. This combined with the pressure to plan for remote teams due to the lockdown across India. Amid the country-wide lockdown, startups have been calling for a relief package for small businesses and the startups which are struggling as the coronavirus pandemic continues to hamper daily life. A Reuters report has now said that the India government may bring an INR 2.3 Tn ($20 Bn) relief fund by the end of the week for the poor sections of the population and businesses. For this, various entrepreneurs have showed willingness to help.

Mark Zuckerberg & Bill Gates

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the philanthropic arm of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, has announced plans to team up with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to donate USD 25 million to a research fund exploring possible COVID-19 treatments. Separately, a coalition backed by Bill Gates and Norway is considering a crowdfunding campaign as they seek to attract about $2 billion to speed up development of vaccines. Mastercard and charity foundation Wellcome are also partnering with Bill & Melinda Gates as part of the initiative, which started with $125 million in seed funding at its launch. The goal of the project is to develop affordable treatments to COVID-19 that can be distributed at scale.

In the same way, Facebook wants to help small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) survive the coronavirus pandemic. Now it is offering $100 million in grants to 30,000 companies in over 30 countries. Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, said on her page on Tuesday (March 17) that the social media giant(Facebook) wants to “do our part” to help with the “enormous challenge in front of us.” To that end, the company is extending a total of $100 million in cash, as well as credits for advertising, to a maximum of 30,000 eligible small businesses.

Similarly, Facebook’s Head of Health Kang-Xing Jin said in a blog post that Facebook is also supporting COVID-19 fact-checkers with a $1 million grant, in partnership with the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN). The funds will be used to launch a program to increase capacity during the coronavirus pandemic. Facebook has also opened a special hub to help SMBs during the pandemic, and is planning virtual training through Blueprint, its free e-learning training program. The company’s goal is to assist companies “in this new and unsettling environment.”

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About Varad Kitey

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