The 900-member strong body is pooling technology and resources to lend a hand to state governments in these trying times.
With coronavirus cases rising steadily across the country, Indian startups are banding together to lend a hand to state governments in what is increasingly looking like a tough fight.
Entrepreneurs, investors and tech professionals have come together on social media platforms as Startup Vs Covid-19, a collective to support the states and each other, pooling technology as well as resources.
“We started with our telemedicine helpline which is operational, it is supplementing the 104 government helplines for all queries around COVID-19,” said Mekin Maheshwari, a prominent angel investor and the founder of Udhyam.org.
COVID-19 is the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus. India has, so far, reported 1,637 infections and 38 deaths.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
What started as a small Telegram group to discuss challenges arising out of the outbreak, has now evolved into a 900-member strong community. Equipped with technology, it is collaborating with state governments to raise awareness and track trends among other things.
There are around 1,000 volunteer doctors who can be consulted on the helpline after an automated call, or an interactive voice response, takes the caller through the symptoms. It helps reduce pressure on government hospitals.
The platform is working in tandem with governments of Delhi, Punjab, Goa, Maharashtra, Assam and Karnataka.
“We are aggregating all offers for help from fellow startups and techies, we have targeted four major sectors where all the efforts are currently being concentrated,” said Udhay Shankar, who is an adviser to multiple startups and previously headed the accelerator programme at Axilor Ventures.
The four sectors are advocacy to reduce transmission, scale-up testing, planning for Stage 3 or community transmission and to ensure a steady supply to frontline workers in the health sector.
In terms of advocacy, Maheshwari said they had translated the safety guidelines of health ministry website into more than 10 regional languages and were sharing them through various content platforms.
Another project is to support government dashboards that give information about the outbreak. Several Startup Vs Covid-19 members are interacting with the Karnataka government to extend tech support for its tracking apps or digital platforms.
Some of the members are also working on statistical models on testing patients who could be infected. They have formed a sub-group of technology enthusiasts who are good with modelling and statistics to look at supporting the government by churning data and figuring out trends of how the disease is spreading.
“We are doing a call every day at 7 pm and we get around 30 people daily on such calls, where folks seek help and those who can solve it, offer help,” said Maheshwari. This has helped streamline efforts.
They are also building a website to connect all the players and pool in resources.
In its initial stage, the collective, then with 50 entrepreneurs, made a presentation to various state governments, suggesting a lockdown till April 12.
Moneycontrol also wrote about VCs and angel investors creating a Rs 100-crore fund, mainly to give grants and if needed, investment support to startups trying to help fight coronavirus.Several startups are doing their bit in an individual capacity as well. The ones in 3D printing are producing hospital equipment while healthcare startups are using AI to detect patients with Covid19 symptoms. A Delhi-based company is trying to use charged water droplets to sanitize large areas using robots.