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Start-ups, VC firms put together ₹100-crore grant to support entities fighting Covid-19

Sangeetha Chengappa Bengaluru | Updated on July 02, 2020 Published on July 02, 2020

Nandan Nilekani   -  PTI

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw   -  V Sreenivasa Murthy

ACT Grants is focussing, among others, on getting people to wear masks in the correct manner   -  SOMASHEKAR GRN

Non-profit coalition ACT Grants has already allotted ₹52.8 crore to over 60 start-ups

ACT (Action Covid Team) Grants, a ₹100-crore grant created by India’s start-up community to back ideas to combat the pandemic, has already given out ₹52.8 crore in seed grants of ₹1 lakh to ₹10 crore each to over 60 companies.

Applications continue to flow in, with 1,609 start-ups having approached ACT Grants since its inception on April 1. StepOne, Swasth, Cloudphysician, 1MG, CritICU, Max Ventilators, Housejoy, Clovia, Haqdarshak and Portea are some of the start-ups that have received grants from the initiative.

What started off as a conversation on the Telegram app culminated very quickly in ACT Grants, a not-for-profit coalition set up by top VC firms such as Sequoia India, Accel Partners, Lightspeed Ventures, SAIF Partners, Matrix Partners and Kalaari Capital, along with several start-up founders and entrepreneurs including Mukesh Bansal, co-founder of Cure.fit, and Abhiraj Bhal, co-founder of Urban Company (formerly UrbanClap). The aim is to support the fight against Covid-19 by leveraging technology for speedy, scalable impact. The grant is also supported by partner NGOs and industry veterans such as Nandan Nilekani and Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw.

“We managed to raise ₹100 crore very quickly, contributed by start-up entrepreneurs and VCs in their personal capacities, and put together a team of 100 rapid action taskforce volunteers from start-ups and VC firms,” said Shekhar Kirani, spokesperson for ACT Grants. “These volunteers put in 5-7 hours a week after work and during weekends to identify high-quality teams/start-up founders with innovative solutions that harness technology to create large-scale impact in the detection, prevention and eradication of Covid-19, that we can give grants to.

“We have also partnered with the government and other non-profit foundations including Omidyar Network, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Michael and Susan Dell Foundation and Wadhwani Foundation, who are all giving grants to companies to match our grants.”

The impact so far

So far, ACT Grants has enabled the delivery of 22 lakh testing kits and 2.6 lakh PPE kits, identifying and tracking of 16 million high-risk individuals, creating Covid awareness among 100 million individuals, supply of 250 ventilators/month capacity, and facilitation of 74,000 mental wellness consultation calls.

“We looked at addressing eight tracks till now — the prevention of Covid-19 spread, scaling testing, disease management at home, enhanced support for healthcare workers/hospitals, management of critically ill patients, support for mental health, sustenance, vaccination and treatment. Now our focus is trained on getting people to wear masks because, if 80 per cent of the people wear masks, the disease spread can be brought down drastically,” said Kirani.

“Currently, as per my observation, only 40 per cent of the people wear masks covering their noses and mouths — some wear masks with their noses exposed, others wear them with noses and mouths exposed. We are aiming for 100 per cent compliance,” he added.

The team is also giving grants to firms that come up with protocols for home quarantine so as to allow hospitals to take on critical cases, and backing firms that provide oxygen capacity building devices and remote ICU solutions.

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Published on July 02, 2020
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