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Startups, VCs take measures to fight COVID-19 pandemic

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From supporting their partners and staff to set up funds to support multiple stakeholders in the ecosystem, startups and venture capital or VC firms in India have been taking a series of immediate measures to fight off the ongoing crisis due to COVID-19 pandemic.

Companies including ride-hailing firm Uber, hospitality hotel chain OYO, Paytm, student co-living platform Stanza Living, fresh produce startup Ninjakart and food delivery major Zomato have announced immediate measures including setting up of funds and providing financial assistance.

And the list is only growing with every passing day.

Joining such a league of startups and unicorns, ride-hailing major Ola on Friday announced the launch of ‘Drive the Driver Fund’ under the aegis of its social welfare arm, Ola Foundation.

The ride-hailing firm plans to support auto-rickshaw, cab, kaali-peeli and taxi drivers, through contributions from the Ola group, investors and via a crowdfunding platform for citizens and other institutions. The proceeds of the fund will help towards the welfare and upliftment of drivers and their families who have been affected by the restrictions due to the Covid- 19 pandemic.

“Millions of drivers and their families have been affected, and even a humble contribution can have a lasting impact on their wellbeing. We invite all the stakeholders of the mobility industry to join us in every way you can, and support the people who move us in this difficult phase,” said Anand Subramanian, Spokesperson and Head of Communications, Ola.

Besides, the Ola group and its employees said to contribute 20 crores to the fund.

Whereas its rival Uber India is providing financial assistance to partner drivers, who are diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed in individual quarantine by a public health authority.

Last week, home services marketplace Urban Company (earlier known as UrbanClap) in a partnership with charitable trust Srinidhi Foundation launched a relief fund to support gig workers and independent contractors on its platform. Till date, the company claimed to committed Rs 1.5 Crore towards this fund.

The company has also announced an interest-free business advance of Rs 11 crore for nearly 22,000 service partners.

Food delivery giant Zomato on Friday set up a fund called ‘Feed the Daily Wager’ to help daily wage workers. So far, Gurugram-based firm has collected over Rs 10 crore. The company also announced measures to support its partner restaurants and delivery boys.

Meanwhile, payment platform Paytm has committed Rs 5 core for Indian innovators developing medical solutions related to coronavirus.

Venture capital firms are also doing their bits to add to efforts against coronavirus.

On March 25, the Indian arm of Silicon-Valley-based impact investor Omidyar Network had announced $1 million investment for a rapid response. Through the investment, it seeks to serve most vulnerable sections such as – the vendors, daily wage earners, the gig-economy workers, and small businesses, to be impacted by coronavirus pandemic.

VC funds including Sequoia Capital, Accel, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Matrix Partners India are also reportedly planning to launch initiatives to fight off COVID-19 pandemic. They may soon launch initiatives to deal with COVID-19.

Early in March, Sequoia had termed the coronavirus outbreak as ‘The Black Swan of 2020’ and warned its portfolio firms to be ready for the tough time in businesses for upcoming quarters.

The uncertainty disruptions caused by this pandemic is globally being felt now. With 136 new cases, the total number of known coronavirus cases in India has gone over the 800-mark on Friday.

No doubt, this is a tough time for startups and their stakeholders. And the only thing that can help them sail through this hard time is their resolve to stand together and continue their fight against the ongoing crisis.

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