More than 150 investors and entrepreneurs in India are funding dozens of projects to help millions of people better fight the COVID 19 epidemic and help the country’s booming startup ecosystem stand up to the economic devastation it has caused.
Investors said they contributed 1 billion Indian rupees – or $ 13 million – of their own money to the ACT Grants initiative launched late last month.
The group, which includes several prominent figures in the industry, including Nandan Nilekani, Vijay Shekhar Sharma from Paytm, Kalyan Krishnamurthy from Flipkart, Ritesh Agarwal from Oyo, Sujeet Kumar from Udaan, Girish Mathrubootham from Freshworks, Kunal Shah from CRED and Miten Sampat from Times Internet, has 32 projects funded date.
These projects span six topics, including solutions that could help curb the spread of Covid-19 disease, develop test and detection kits, build medical devices such as ventilators, and maintain mental health.
The group came together last month when India was just beginning to see cases of coronavirus disease.
“When governments around the world started taking action to combat this pandemic, our discussions with other investors, start-up founders, and startup staff made it urgent not to sit and watch what the government was doing, but to help and participate as an industry, ”said Dev Khare, a partner of Lightspeed Venture Partners, in an interview with TechCrunch.
According to the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs, 29,435 cases of coronavirus are known in India. At least 886 people had died by Tuesday evening.
Investors from dozens of venture capital and private equity firms, including Accel, Lightspeed Venture partners, Bessemer venture partners, Matrix Partners India, Kalaari Capital, Eight Roads Ventures, 3One4Capital, Sequoia Capital India and Tiger Global personally participated in the initiative.
VCs in India responded quickly last month to warn startups in the country that they might be aware of the potential impact of the pandemic on their businesses – despite the record $ 14.5 billion that Indian startups made last year have collected.
In a joint letter earlier this month, several well-known tech investment funds informed startups that it may be particularly difficult for them to raise capital over the next few months if they enter the “worst phase”. (They also asked the government to provide an aid package.)
Several retail organizations, including Nasscom and TIE Global, which include American technology giants like Facebook, Google and Amazon, also support ACT Grants. Amazon AWS also supports these projects with infrastructure services.
One of the projects to receive the grant was developed by MyLab from Pune, a startup that has become one of the largest test kit manufacturers in India.
“You made between 20,000 and 25,000 test kits last year. The number has increased to 300,000 in the past few weeks, ”said Abhiraj Singh Bhal, co-founder and CEO of the Urban Company, which operates an online marketplace for the self-employed.
“We offered them the scholarship, but also our expertise in scaling up their operations,” said Bhal. ACT grants also went to another six test projects, he said.
Grants are not only used to test projects. Another award-winning project, StepOne, has built a cloud infrastructure for more than 30,000 calls a day and has offered telemedicine services to complement the state government hotline numbers that are struggling to keep up with the high traffic to keep.
Some of the projects that have received grants develop masks and other items to provide health workers with adequate protective equipment. (For a full list of funded projects and grant amounts received, click here.)
There are no conditions attached to these grants. Funding a project gives investors no equity for the developer’s startup, Prashanth Prakash, partner at Accel, said in an interview. And there is a large team that reviews and selects scholarship delivery projects, he said. So far you have received more than 1,500 applications.
An investor who is not part of ACT Grants said that although the initiative was commendable, he believed that this group could have had a bigger impact if they chose to do so, hundreds of millions of Indians who don’t know where they are bringing food The next meal would come from. “There are better ways to be resourceful,” he said, asking for anonymity because he didn’t want to upset the community.
“The fact that all of these people, many of whom are aggressively competing for deals, have even come together and contributed their own money – not their LPs – is unprecedented and they deserve all the praise and support,” he said.
The influence and connection of the group in the industry also means that these projects have better chances of seeing their use on a large scale. The group is already working with various state governments and the federal government to explore ways of working together – and has started to make progress, said Accels Prakash.
However, as the projects scale, the group looks for more individuals from around the world to contribute. “Anyone who wants to help India, one sixth of the world’s population, fight Covid-19 is invited to contribute,” said Khare of Lightspeed.
There is even an international component to which people outside of India can contribute. ACT Grants has partnered with United Way, a Virginia-based nonprofit organization that enables people outside of India to make charitable, tax-deductible donations.