As countries across the world continue to deal with the impact of Coronavirus, business communities in India and the U.K. are showing solidarity and collaborating in the effort to tackle the effects of the global pandemic.
From Bengaluru to London, there are many examples of companies from India and the U.K. that are adapting and innovating their business offering to support local communities across both regions in the fight against COVID-19.
While India and the U.K. have longstanding business and trade links, in the face of a global pandemic organisations big and small from both countries have shown resilience and come together to help each other.
With increasing pressure on both countries’ healthcare systems and its workers, Indian hotel chain OYO Rooms has moved quickly to open its doors to key workers in both the U.K. and India. In London and across other locations in the U.K., OYO is offering around 2,000 rooms for NHS staff and other key workers at a discounted rate. Similar offers have been applied by OYO in its home market, with over 1,000 rooms offered for people looking to self-quarantine or isolate in the Delhi region.
Bengaluru-based ride-hailing unicorn Ola Cabs also announced further support for key workers across cities in the U.K. and India, with the news that it will offer workers across NHS, St John’s Ambulance, police and the U.K. government 50% off their rides to and from work as they care for patients impacted by Covid-19. This follows the company’s recent launch in London in February this year. In India, Ola is offering mobility support for healthcare professionals and senior citizens and the company has also pledged to donate ₹20 crore in relief funds.
Simon Smith, Head of International, Ola UK, says the company is committed to helping the local communities it serves during these difficult times. “The NHS and key workers in the U.K. and India are an inspiration to us all and we are doing everything we can to make things easier for them. There is a great opportunity for global businesses to adapt their services to help their local communities and we will continue to do everything we can to support them.”
Further evidence of the close working relationship between the U.K. and India’s business communities in response to Coronavirus was seen recently when The High Commission of India in the U.K., in partnership with Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), organised a virtual roundtable on Covid-19. The roundtable was aimed at giving a comprehensive overview of various support measures announced by the U.K. government and was attended by over 40 Indian business representatives across sectors like financial services, hospitality, healthcare, IT and IT services, trading, and business services.
At a national level, the U.K. and Indian governments last week announced a deal for India to export almost 3 million packets of paracetamol to Britain. The medicine will be distributed to leading U.K. supermarkets and retailers to support supply shortages.
Home to clusters of companies in areas such as artificial Intelligence, medtech, edtech, and fintech, the U.K. and India’s business communities have been quick to rise to the challenge. Other examples of companies pivoting across the regions include:
- Cradlewise: The Bengaluru-based tech start-up which produces intelligent baby cribs has adapted its technology to produce a splitter device that can help two patients use one ventilator. With increased demand for ventilators across India, Cradlewise’s technology will allow doctors to set different volume levels of air, thus serving two patients with different requirements.
- Saral Designs: The Mumbai-based menstrual products start-up has modified its sanitary pad-making machines to produce surgical masks to fight Covid-19. The company plans to ramp up production to 10,000 masks per day.
- CRED: The Bengaluru-based fintech start-up recently announced plans to launch a new product allowing users to pay rent using credit cards.
- Maker’s Asylum: This Indian makerspace/hackerspace has committed to give out 100,000 face shields to hospitals and doctors who are in need and they have designed something simple that can be cut and assembled in three minutes. There are over 500 makerspaces across the country, and they believe that their open-source design can help achieve fast, distributed, and localised manufacturing via these labs.
- MyLab: The Pune-based molecular diagnostics company, which specialises in molecular diagnostic kits, has developed the first made-in-India test kits for Covid-19 in a record time of six weeks.
- CreditEnable: The London- and Mumbai-based fintech firm recently announced it will be ramping up its efforts to help Indian SMEs and lenders during the crisis. By using its AI-driven digital marketplace which allows borrowers and lenders to reduce transaction costs and better deploy capital, SMEs will be able to gain quicker access to credit and the finance needed to keep their business running during the crisis. As part of the scale-up plan, it launched a new programme in India called We Move Forward at the beginning of April. The programme is available to SMEs across India and offers a free business health check and help to secure working capital loans at no cost. “We are committed to supporting SMEs everywhere in India to keep going so that they can continue the important role they were playing prior to Covid in India’s growth story,” founder and CEO Nadia Sood says.
- Babylon Health: The London-based healthtech unicorn has added a new service to its healthcare app called COVID-19 Care Assistant. The service provides customers with updated information about Coronavirus, a symptom checker and a live chat feature to assess the appropriate assistance required. The app offers an alternative way to help large groups of low-risk patients, freeing up doctors to focus on those most in need.
- Starling Bank: One of London’s leading fintech startups has introduced the ‘Connected card’, a spare debit card that customers can link to their existing account and give to trusted neighbours or friends to pay for essential items on their behalf. The card reduces the need for bank transfers, IOUs or handling of cash and is only usable for in-store purchases.
- Brompton Bicycles: The London-based bicycle manufacturer has launched a ‘Wheels for Heroes’ campaign with the view to supply coronavirus-focused NHS staff with its iconic folding bikes. The company has launched a crowdfunding platform so it can build an extra 1,000 machines, all to be painted in NHS colours.
- DeliverAid: A London-based A&E doctor has founded the company to feed frontline NHS staff whilst simultaneously supporting local food outlets. DeliverAid has teamed up with cafes, restaurants and caterers who have been forced to close their doors and mobilised them to feed NHS frontline staff. The public can donate via the online platform, sending direct support to NHS staff whilst also supporting their local food businesses.
London & Partners, London’s international trade, investment and promotion agency, says business links between India and the U.K have always been strong, and is providing extra support at the time of the crisis.
“While the Coronavirus outbreak is challenging businesses all over the world, it’s been refreshing to see numerous examples of UK and Indian companies that are adapting and innovating to help communities across both regions. At London & Partners we are working closely with London’s businesses, and those in our networks across the world, to provide support and help where we can as we come together to respond to the current crisis,” the chief representative of London & Partners India, Hemin Bharucha, says.
Views are personal.
The author is Managing Director, International Markets, London & Partners.