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Indian-American Big Tech Leaders Join India Inc’s Fight Against Covid-19

India Inc raises funds to fight the worsening Covid crisis. Sundar Pichai and Satya Nadella pitch in. 

CHENNAI, India — With Covid-19 infecting over 300,000 Indians every day, start-ups and entrepreneurs have been raising funds and resources needed to deal with the pandemic. Now, Indian-American Big Tech leaders have added their might to the fight.

U.S. search engine giant Google announced INR 135 crore ($18 million) on April 26 to help India combat the second wave of Covid-19. Google joined many Indian start-ups like fintech players Razorpay, Paytm, and food-tech firm Zomato who are pitching in to fight the Covid-19 crisis.

India is witnessing a shortage of oxygen, beds, vaccines, and essential medicines, and social media is inundated with pleas for help. India currently has 2.88 million active cases, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

“Devastated to see the worsening Covid crisis in India,” Sundar Pichai, the Indian-American chief executive of Google and Alphabet, tweeted. “Google and Googlers are providing INR 135 crore in funding to @GiveIndia, @UNICEF for medical supplies, organizations supporting high-risk communities, and grants to help spread critical information.”

“Devastated to see the worsening Covid crisis in India,” Sundar Pichai, chief executive of Google and Alphabet, tweeted. (Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

The funding, which includes two grants from Google’s philanthropic arm for $2.6 million, will provide cash assistance for daily expenses to “families hit hardest by the crisis”, the country head and vice-president of Google India said in a blog post. UNICEF will receive the other part of the funding to get critical medical supplies, like oxygen and testing equipment.

Microsoft Corp’s Chief Executive Satya Nadella said the company would aid relief efforts and support the purchase of oxygen concentration devices.

“I am heartbroken by the current situation in India,” the Indian-American tweeted. “I’m grateful the U.S. government is mobilizing to help. Microsoft will continue to use its voice, resources, and technology to aid relief efforts and support the purchase of critical oxygen concentration devices.”

Indian-American venture capitalist Vinod Khosla tweeted that he is willing to fund hospitals in India that need to import “bulk planeloads of oxygen or supplies into India to increase supply”. The co-founder of Sun Microsystems asked public hospitals and non-government organizations to reach him.

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook also said the tech giant will be donating to support and relief efforts on the ground in India.

Indian payment gateway app Razorpay is helping non-government organizations collect donations for Covid-19 patients by setting up a free payment page.

“We understand the urgency involved, and so all non-government organizations accounts will be activated within 24 hours, and the firm will charge no transaction fee on all donations received on the payment page up to INR 10 lakh ($13,388),” Razorpay said in a statement to Zenger News.

“The amount received will be settled to their accounts on the same day, without any additional charge.” The company is in the process of setting up a donations marketplace on the app for non-profit firms.

India’s corporate affairs ministry recently said that setting up makeshift hospitals and temporary Covid care facilities by companies will be considered as eligible Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activity. This is an extension of the ministry’s clarifications last year, where the body said eligibility would extend to funds spent to fight Covid-19 and research and development for vaccines.

Under India’s CSR rules, firms with a net worth of INR 500 crores ($76 million) or more, a turnover of INR 1,000 crores ($134 million) or more, and net profits of INR 5 crore ($669,941) or more are required to spend at least 2 percent of their average profits from the last 3 years on CSR activities each year.

U.S. President Joeseph R. Biden said the country would supply India with raw materials for vaccine production and oxygen-related equipment and medicines. Other countries like Germany and the United Kingdom have supplied oxygen generators and ventilators to India in the past few days.

Indian start-ups initially faced some criticism on social media for staying on the sidelines of the crisis. Indian start-ups raised $10.14 billion in funding over 1,200 deals in 2020 despite the pandemic-induced lockdown.

Fintech start-ups like Tiger Global-backed CRED now allow users to donate their CRED coins to buy oxygen concentrators. Users are given CRED coins after the payment of their credit card bills, and the start-up will distribute 1,000 liters of oxygen to hospitals for every 10,000 CRED coins donated.

U.S. President Joeseph R. Biden said the country would supply India with raw materials for vaccine production and oxygen-related equipment and medicines.  (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Paytm is raising INR 10 crores ($1.3 million) to buy oxygen concentrators and will match user contributions made through the app. Ethereum scaling start-up Polygon’s co-founder Sandeep Nailwal started a fundraising campaign where people can donate cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin.

The Action Covid-19 Team (ACT) Grants was formed in March last year to fight the Covid crisis, with 34 start-up founders and 44 mainstream investment funds like Sequoia Capital and Matrix Partners. It raised INR 100 crore ($13.4 million) to give grants to companies finding innovative solutions to tackle the spread of the virus.

During the second wave, ACT Grants has raised INR 50 crores ($6.7 million) of a stated INR 75 crores ($10 million) towards oxygen solutions, vaccinations, and home health management.

On April 25, Amazon India announced partnerships with ACT Grants and others to bring 10,000 oxygen concentrators to India. The company is also buying medical equipment that will be donated to hospitals and medical facilities through non-government organizations.

“We stand firmly with the country, deploying our global logistics network to urgently airlift the needed oxygen concentrators to support the nation’s immediate need,” Amit Agarwal, global senior vice-president and country head, Amazon India, said in a statement.

Foodtech firm Zomato has teamed up with freight start-up Delhivery to raise INR 50 crores ($6.7 million) for oxygen and other supplies. Zomato’s Feeding India website says it has already raised INR 12.8 crores ($1.7 million).

“We are procuring 15,000 oxygen concentrators in collaboration with our logistics partner Delhivery,” Chaitanya Mathur, head of Feeding India by Zomato, told Zenger News.

“Our hospitals are operating in dire situations, and patients are struggling to get hold of required oxygen. Every concentrator can be used to save five lives on average every day.”

(Edited by Amrita Das and Gaurab Dasgupta)