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How India Inc. went beyond its calling with philanthropic drive amid the second wave

India Inc. has mounted an enormous effort towards providing COVID-19 relief and support for Indians. Their endeavours have gone beyond simple philanthropic fundraising to supplying medical oxygen, cryogenic vessels to store vaccines, addressing the logistical challenges in the supply of vaccines and oxygen and partnering with government and NGOs to protect high risk communities.

Adgully organised a GullyChat to understand the contribution of some of the largest corporates, start-ups and NGOs in India, the need for collective action, and the complexity behind the philanthropic efforts undertaken by the private sector enterprises.

The discussion was joined by:

Aparna Seethepalli, Spokesperson, OxygenForIndia

Bhaskar Majumdar, Head - Corporate Affairs, Communication, CSR & Digital, Egis India

Dibyojyoti Mainak, Senior Vice President and Legal, Mobile Premier League

Manas Agrawal, CEO and Co-founder, Affine

Minari Shah, Director - Public Relations, Amazon India

Narendra Yadav, Vice President, Paytm

Priti Srivastava, Senior Vice President – Corporate Affairs, Reliance Industries

Simran Sagar, Operations Director, Genesis Foundation

Yuvaraj Srivastava, Group Chief Human Resource Officer, MakeMyTrip

Among corporates, Reliance Industries and Amazon India were key examples for resource mobilisation that went beyond raising funds for PM’s Citizen Assistance and Relief Fund.

Reliance Industries’ Priti Srivastava said, “Our organisation has a foundation (Reliance Foundation) dedicated to sustainable projects. When COVID-19 hit, it was a natural response to create a response plan. There was no time to think. Only act. Last one year has seen us working full time on relief work. We started with PPE kit manufacturing, face masks distribution, food relief by providing 2.4 crore meals, creating health infrastructure and supply of PPE kit manufacturing. The list kept growing as per need.”

Continuing further, Srivastava said, “As we moved ahead to 2021, a process was in place to disseminate relief work. But the speed of the pandemic which hit in April was high. Our efforts had to multiply and resources increased. We put more efforts on creating more beds, hospitals partnership, and isolation beds. We facilitated in a big way in vaccination, and also supply of oxygen to the state governments. Reliance now produces over 1000 MT of medical grade liquid oxygen per day and is supplying it free to states. We helped the state governments by supplying free petrol to all the vehicles involved in COVID-19 work.”

She emphasized, “The oxygen that we are supplying is not a CSR project. It is need of the hour and we, as a responsible corporate, are responding to it.”

Speaking about the philanthropic efforts of Amazon India, Minari Shah said, “We focused on capacity and resource mobilisation by leveraging our global network and logistics for community and employees, fast and at scale. We have spent about $12 million already, excluding employee relief. What’s been critical is to ensure we work across multiple internal and external teams – NGOs, global partners, government agencies, employees and more; take quick decisions and implement quick turnaround projects.”

Adding further, she said, “Helping our employees has been among the key efforts. From COVID-19 warriors, helpline, financial and leave assistance to ensuring hotel rooms, tele-consulting, and oxygen concentrator bank for employees – it’s been a huge priority. We didn’t just fund, but also engaged end to end with audit mechanisms: sourcing medical equipment suitable for India; working with the Government and NGOs. With Mission Vayu, Amazon has enabled movement of 14,000+ medical units like O2 concentrators, BiPAP machines, etc., to India; delivering to two hospitals.”

“From sourcing equipment directly from EU, US, China, flying in concentrators from Singapore, delivering to hospitals – it’s been a gigantic effort with Amazon’s famed mechanisms backed by valiant, relentless efforts from so many teams across India and elsewhere. For example, we flew in 100 ventilators, we had line of sight to 900 more, and we immediately shared with this with USIBC, who set up a Global Pandemic Taskforce with multiple large US companies urgently joining hands to bring these in, immediately making the 100 to 1000,” Shah added.

Startup India, too, showed its commitment to COVID-19 relief in a big way.

Paytm India’s Narendra Yadav said, “We decided to work for welfare of our employees, their family members and the society at large. Our incredible teammates set up a 24/7 helpline to provide our employees all possible assistance – tests, medicines, consultation with doctors, ambulances and hospital beds, etc.”

On the other hand, Paytm Foundation took the responsibility of arranging tens of thousands of oxygen concentrators for government hospitals, setting up oxygen plants in around 20 hospitals and providing ambulances.

MakeMyTrip’s Yuvaraj Srivastava remarked, “COVID-19 has impacted one and all and we believe we can only emerge victorious if we all step up in support. From providing oxygen concentrators, medical equipment and on-ground support besides supporting employees and partners we rolled out relief measures.”

Mobile Premier League’s Dibyojyoti Mainak added here, “At Mobile Premier League’s Sports Foundation, we are doing whatever we can to help. Our donations to #InThisTogetherand Give India through Mobile Premier League’s e-sports fundraiser are just very small measures from our side to stand in solidarity with our country.”

Analytics and data engineering company, Affine leveraged its technology expertise to make a difference. Manas Agrawal said, “Affine is a ‘people first’ company. We’ve actively taken efforts to improve lives since COVID-19. Beyond financial help, we leveraged our technical expertise for volunteer groups with easy-to-access information platforms for bed and medicine locations. Affine played a small role in ensuring the less fortunate have simple, but nutritious food, with a small kitchen set up at our office. Other wellness initiatives include extended health insurance and free vaccination for employees. We also aided funding for free vaccines and relief material for frontline workers.”

Speaking about how his industry has supported the awareness drive for COVID-19 relief efforts, PR leader Bhaskar Majumdar said, “We created a COVID-19 response team and a helpline which supports those vulnerable on a real time basis. We also conducted regular sessions with employees assuring all possible support. We also conducted special sessions of yoga, on basic protocols during the pandemic.”

NGO OxygenForIndia has been created to fight the current crisis, said Aparna Seethepalli, adding, “We want to empower the country to ensure it never faces a crisis like this ever again. As a legacy, we hope to leave behind a network of oxygen cylinders and concentrators to augment the country’s oxygen resources. Through our triage process, in conjunction with doctors, we ensure medical oxygen is provided to those who are truly in need and not those hoarding for an eventuality. We received generous donations from over 8,000 concerned donors across the world.”

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