Due to Coronavirus outbreak, every aspect of business is suffering through many problems and challenges. Flight, hotel booking firms are the worst hit. There is stupendous drop in demand of gig economy. Whereas, at the same time, video conferencing providers and online education companies, messaging platforms and of course healthcare & pharmaceutical companies are witnessing a boom in demand but the situation has become for worse for the startups & small scale businesses as they have limited sources and capital.
Effect of COVID-19 on Startups
With reduced revenue and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, various tech startups not just in India but across the globe are temporarily letting go of workers to help keep their businesses survive during this collapsing economic period. In the past couple of weeks, the situation has become more extreme with a ‘State of Emergency’ being called in some countries, leaving other regions unsure of what’s to come next. Social distancing mandates are forcing businesses to shut down and heavily reduce staff during COVID-19 outbreak. The labour department is facing a rush of unemployment insurance claims which is likely to increase in the next few weeks.
Coronavirus crisis is also affecting many aspects related to startups. For instance, postponing the EU-Startups Summit to April 2021. The EU-Startups Summit gathers over 1,500 founders, startup enthusiasts, corporates, angel investors, VCs, and media from across Europe. The two-day event is a great opportunity for networking, and a meeting point for aspiring entrepreneurs and investors who are aiming to build international tech companies. This summit was planned to take place on May 28-29 this year but now it is postponed to April 2021.
Government's Aid to Startups
Today, the world is collectively dealing with the spread of Covid-19 and taking emergency measures to contain and eventually eliminate the virus. One such measure was taken by Indian government. Prime Minister Narendra Modi saw the power of the digital medium that can be utilised to serve the country and encouraged many of us to go all out to build a nationwide digital infrastructure. Modi’s ‘Digital India’ mission enabled India to build a robust mobile broadband infrastructure which accelerated the rise of technology startups in a short span of time. This is now coming to play a very vital role in supporting the PM’s call on social distancing while keeping the country moving during coronavirus pandemic.
According to reports, a mega exercise to increase Indian startups’ visibility globally is in the works. For this, the government planning to hire a consulting firm to evaluate the progress of the Startup India programme to chalk out an action plan to attract investment and identify bottlenecks which prevent businesses and high-net-worth individuals from investing in them. The consultant will identify challenges in\ regulatory approvals, taxation, ease of doing business, global expansion and facilitate startups in getting access to markets such as in private and public procurement, both in India and abroad.
COVID-19 Solution Challenge
The government of India has realised the need to open up the search for solutions to the startup ecosystem with the ‘Covid-19 Solution Challenge’. On March 16,2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the launch of the challenge on the Twitter and urged startups and entrepreneurs to come up with their technology-backed solution to curb the coronavirus outbreak. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has appealed to public to share any technology-driven solutions for strengthening the fight against COVID-19, saying such efforts can help the government and make public join the mission against the virus.
PM Modi said, “Harnessing innovation for a healthier planet. A lot of people have been sharing technology-driven solutions for Covid-19. I would urge them to share them on the government-citizen engagement platform MyGov.in.”
According to the MyGov platform, startups and individuals can send their ideas to help the government in fighting the coronavirus outbreak. Suggestions sent in will be evaluated by the government and some of the ideas will be adopted. The last date of submission of ideas for the Covid-19 Solution Challenge is on March 31. Participants can either send a document or a YouTube video of the idea using the MyGov Platform. The solutions that are deployed by the government will also receive rewards. INR 1 Lakh, INR 50K and INR 25K have been promised to the top three ideas respectively. This amount can be used as funding in startups. So it’s a good opportunity to earn funding just by pitching the idea.
The government said that it has already started to get inputs from individuals and startups that have developed technologies and innovative solutions in areas such as bioinformatics, datasets, applications for diagnostics and more. These technologies are expected to soon become part of the government’s efforts in the fight against the coronavirus.
With increasing cases of people getting infected by the novel coronavirus, a group of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi suggesting a lockdown starting as early as March 20 across the impacted cities for two to three weeks; to which PM Modi has taken action by implementing Section 144 on account of which only allowed shops can remain open till March 31. So, it has become almost ceased all the operations for startup till March 31.
According to experts, there are still ways to keep the operations going during lockdown too. According to top venture capitalists and entrepreneurs from India and China, overcommunication, keeping a cash runway and having a fixed routine despite working from home are some of the keys for startups to deal with the fallout from the novel coronavirus. While China is returning to normalcy and business as usual, the experiences of Chinese firms and entrepreneurs can serve as a reference point for Indian founders, where cases of the virus are still rising rapidly.