Every Effort Counts: Startups Innovating to Fight the Pandemic
In their own playing field, entrepreneurs and innovators across India have responded quickly to the COVID-19 pandemic. Startups have exhibited remarkable enthusiasm to help the nation fight this terror. A myriad of new innovations, some put forth by start-ups that have been incubated by universities, have appeared in recent weeks.
This can be attributed to several reasons, including the urgency of the humanitarian situation and a proactive approach to crowdsourcing ideas from the government. India also has an abundant supply of trained engineering talent which helps achieve what’s called jugaad – a frugal innovation mindset to find hacks to problems with limited resources. Believe me that word, just got a definition in English language because of the rapid innovation we’ve been doing.
Robots, Apps, Ventilators and What Not
Across the globe, social distancing and contact tracing have been the remedy as a response to COVID-19. As the lockdowns has begun to ease, a new question has risen will the virus be stopped from spreading in public spaces such as airports or bus stations. Taking into due consideration the series of precautionary measures that airports have taken.
A Kerela based start-up, Asimov Robotics, has deployed robots at entrances to office buildings and other public places to dispense hand sanitizer and deliver public health messages about the virus.
Asimov Robotics has been supplying these robots to hospital isolation wards to carry food and medicines, which eases the pressure on medical staff. Interesting, when you consider the number of patients reported on a daily basis.
Without failing to mention; in early April, the Indian government launched a COVID-19 tracking app called Aarogya Setu, which leverages GPS and Bluetooth to notify people when they are at risk of exposure to COVID-19. The app was launched before a similar initiative from tech giants Google and Apple got off the ground.
Several more start-ups including KlinicApp and Practo, are providing COVID-19 tests at home and online consultation, with doctors through their platform.
Responding to the shortage of ventilators for critical care, another startup- Nocca Robotics (incubated at Indian Institute of Technology(IIT)-Kanpur), Aerobiosys Innovations (incubated at IIT Hyderabad) and AgVa Healthcare are developing low-cost, easy-to-use, and portable ventilators designed to be deployed in rural areas of India as well. Then of course, these ventilators await medical regulatory approval before they could be deployed.
By developing technology platforms to disseminate government notifications, start-ups are in full support to the government’s public information campaign on coronavirus. The Kerala state government has launched an app called GoK-Kerala Direct via a platform developed by QKopy. It propagates COVID-19 updates and travel information via phone notifications, and via SMS to older phones for the less than half of India’s population without smartphones. These messages are delivered both in English and in Malayalam, the local language.
India has to strive to sustain and enhance this entrepreneurial mindset to create the next wave of innovation to carry on the fight against COVID-19. Meanwhile, lets hope the healthcare professionals & research scientist do what they do best.