Partnering to Support the COVID Frontline Warriors
Things had started to look bad from the start of March 2020 for many countries globally with the outbreak of a new disease called covid-19. There seemed to be no reason why or how India would be able to avoid getting affected – we are a dense country, with large urban populations living in small houses. There is no known medication or vaccination and nothing reliable in sight. Thankfully, the government reacted in time, but lockdown always seemed about delaying the inevitable and not burdening the healthcare system.
In this pandemic-of-a-lifetime, I wanted to contribute with more than just money. The virus was winning the battle. It seemed the best service I could help with was to protect our frontline warriors who were implementing the lockdowns, doing the testing, helping people stay comfortably indoors, and the healthcare professionals.
That’s when I came across a tweet about Saral Designs partnering with Mahindra Group, to re-engineer their sanitary-pad making machine to make 3-ply surgical masks. I have known Suhani Mohan (Co-founder of Saral Designs) for a few years through our entrepreneurship journey and have always been impressed by the tough problem she is already tackling. I reached out to her and offered any help.
I was mighty impressed with the team on their hustle to pivot to something relevant, timely, and also just smart business. They overcame the issues in procuring parts, moving the company to work-from-home (more difficult in a manufacturing set-up). They have collaborated with new partners, applied for safety certifications, applied for multiple grants/soft-loans all the while trying to bring the new version of the machine to it’s full automated capacity with whatever capital resources they had.
To bring the masks to the front liners quickly, we decided to launch a crowd-funding campaign to fund 1.5 lakh masks. We wanted to focus on frontliners that may not be very well supported by other groups and NGOs, and who are dealing with a huge risk on a daily basis.
Saral Design brings their expertise in machine building, logistics and relationships with various organizations. Through their sanitary napkins accessibility efforts, they are well connected with organizations like Maharashtra State Innovation Society which helps us spread the message far and wide and also provide support in donating to the beneficiaries. I am supporting fund-raising and beneficiary identification efforts.
To date we have donated 27,000 masks, across a variety of beneficiaries. To bring the impact to perspective, 27000 masks will protect ~2000 personnel for one-week on the field. We started locally, by donating to the local police stations in Navi Mumbai. We also donated to the Doctor’s association in Navi Mumbai. While doing so, we got requests from Kerala for PPE requirements for Police Departments in two districts, however during this time requests kept pouring in from Mumbai as it continued to be the biggest hotspot in the whole country, and our local healthcare workers in the community and hospitals were needing more protection, that was getting allotted to them via various government programs. With support that we received for our fundraising campaign, we have donated to Sion Hospital, Cooper Hospital and Health Department of L-Ward (Kurla). Many more beneficiaries have been identified and are awaiting the donation.
This is our small contribution to a gigantic problem, but hopefully by protecting those who protect us, we can win the war against COVID-19.
Roli has spent half her career in renewable energy, leading ideas that allow us modern comforts, but without destroying the planet. She founded a solar energy startup (Oorjan), and has had professional stints in technology and ed-tech space as well. She has won numerous national and international awards while leading her startup. She is a mother of two kids, and an alumnus of IITB and UC Berkeley.