We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. As we hear the piercing sirens of ambulances every few minutes rushing along with purpose, the scale of the human tragedy as it is unfolding around us can never be too far from the thoughts. Every time a phone rings at home, there is a sense of impalpable trepidation. Could there be bad news after we say hello, that another relative or friend is battling the virus that is the Coronavirus, or COVID-19? Reports of oxygen and medical supply shortages continue to stream in as India struggles with the latest COVID-19 wave, perhaps cruelly summarized by the social media posts of hospitals pleading with authorities for oxygen supplies, helpless friends and family desperately searching for oxygen cans for their loved ones, medicines or treatment at hospitals for their family members. WhatsApp groups often bearing bad news that someone has lost the battle and is no longer amongst us. This is how days pass by, with unflinching regularity. The silver lining to this really dark cloud is that you can help, without having to leave the safety of your home. Tech companies in India are pitching in with a sense of purpose to help the already stressed healthcare system by sourcing supplies that patients need, at a time when cases continue to spike. It is not just Sundar Pichai’s Google, or Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, or Qualcomm, or Facebook (who have also confirmed the vaccine finder tool for India) who are helping generously.
CRED, India’s leading financial technology startup and a popular credit card payment app, had initially partnered with Milaap, India’s leading healthcare fundraising platform for a cause campaign that allows CRED users to swap CRED coins (you may also think of these as points, for simplicity) for donating oxygen. In the details shared with News18 at the time, CRED had confirmed that for every donation made by users, Milaap will channel the funds raised to their partners, and will buy as well as deploy oxygen concentrators for hospitals and healthcare non-profits across India. And if you are worried that this will be just another fund which has no transparency, that will not be the case—starting May 3, there will be daily updates published in the CRED app giving you the status of exactly how the oxygen concentrator deployment is happening across India. Kunal Shah, founder of Cred has since shared an update on social media and says that the rollout is beginning, and they have channeled donations of as much as Rs 10 crore for Milaap and Hemkunt Foundation as well as GiveIndia have also joined the now expanded initiative. “Encouraged by your support, we are speaking to more partners who can drive impact at scale,” he says.
India’s top digital payments platform Paytm now has #OxygenForIndia initiative live, and they want to raise Rs 14 crore to donate oxygen concentrators across India. Paytm users and pretty much everyone else with access to digital payment methods you can donate any amount to the Paytm Foundation, and they will match that and further add the same amount to the fund, essentially doubling your donation. “Paytm Foundation and its partners are raising Rs 20 crore to source approximately 3000 oxygen concentrators,” they say. Paytm will match all contributions received through this initiative. All payment methods that are accepted for payments on Paytm, can be used for donating to this cause. Paytm Foundation does say that the oxygen concentrators will be donated to government hospitals. They have partnered with the American India Foundation (AIF) and Elevation Capital to collectively match the user contributions. They do specify that of the Rs 20 crore they expect to raise, Rs 15 crore will be used to source the devices while Rs 5 crore will be used for setting up oxygen plants in collaboration with state governments. At the time of writing this, more than Rs 19.88 lakhs have been raised.
Crowdfunding platform Ketto is also accepting donations to be able to provide oxygen concentrators to hospitals and healthcare facilities across India, and this is run by the NGO Democracy People Foundation. You can donate any amount you wish to, as part of the Mission Oxygen fundraiser. They say that as much as Rs 15 crore have been raised as of April 29 and orders for as many as 3,900 oxygen concentrators have already been placed, with most coming in from different parts of China. Mission Oxygen has also donated Rs 32 lakhs for an oxygen generation plant at Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital in New Delhi. As many as 250 entrepreneurs are already working with the initiative, including Mansha Kaur Anand of Heart on My Sleeve, Rahul and Varun Aggarwal of Designhill, Rahul Hari Saxena who is the founder of Satvacart and Gautam Ghai of SourceFuse Technologies.
Zomato, the very popular food delivery and restaurant aggregator app has the Zomato Feeding India not-for-profit which now has the “India Needs Oxygen” initiative accepting donations. This is Live in the Zomato app now and you can donate Rs 100, Rs 1000 or Rs 2000 whereas the website allows you to choose any amount you wish to donate. Zomato is working with Delhivery to source oxygen concentrators for hospitals and families in need. Feeding India by Zomato have a target for raising Rs 50 crore to help out with oxygen. At the time of writing this, the initiative has already raised Rs 43,57 crore and counting. Last year, the Feed the Daily Wager initiative had seen Feeding India by Zomato distribute as many as 78 million meals to the poor.
Smartphone maker OnePlus is working with GiveIndia to raise as much as Rs 1,00,00,000 and help hospitals with oxygen supply and critical protective equipment at a time when India is struggling with the latest COVID-19 wave. “At the moment, the need of the hour continues to be support in terms of oxygen concentration devices and relief funds. Recognizing this, we will procure and donate 400 oxygenators to help alleviate the immediate need for oxygen in the country,” said OnePlus CEO Pete Lau, in an official statement. There are two parts to this initiative—providing oxygen to hospitals with concentrators and oxygen cylinders as well as providing lifesaving equipment such as ventilators and Bipaps.
Xiaomi India is also working with GiveIndia to raise as much as Rs 1,00,00,000 to help with oxygen cylinders, healthcare supplies, help with vaccination costs, collect funds to start and maintain vaccination centres and supply equipment that is in short supply to hospitals across India. “There is an immediate need for oxygen at COVID-19 centres among other requirements that our NGOs have been registering with us. Responding to these requirements, we are launching a mission to protect our healthcare heroes and critical patients by providing oxygen supply, N-95 masks, PPE kits, hand sanitisers, vaccinations and essential care at covid centres, charitable hospitals and healthcare workers in Mumbai, Delhi, and Bangalore,” says the initiative mission.
The advantage of using oxygen concentrators as compared with oxygen cylinders is that these concentrators recycle oxygen directly from the air by taking in ambient air, running it through molecular sieve beds and releasing the nitrogen content back into the air while retaining the separated oxygen. Cylinders, which are already in a severe shortage across India, need to be refilled every time. In many COVID patients, the need for external oxygen support becomes critical because the blood oxygen level often drops, and drastically. While concentrators may not do the job for patients who are in ICU care because of the speed at which oxygen is delivered, these can be lifesavers for those with mild or moderate virus infection, with blood oxygen level of more than 80% or above. All these initiatives come at a time when it has been weeks of incessant struggle for hospitals and citizens to get regular supply of oxygen, which is critical for a lot of patients hospitalized with COVID. The efforts by tech giants in India does give India that much more leverage to help the already stressed healthcare system and provide the necessary help that could save countless lives.