Indian startups take steps to tackle virus scare

A mask rests on a laptop. Photo: Dimitri Karastelev/unsplash

Startups and tech firms in India are taking precautionary measures such as sanitizing office spaces, imposing travel curbs and facilitating remote meetings for employees as they seek to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

Online food delivery and restaurant aggregator Zomato said it is using multiple channels of communication to sensitise its employees, users, restaurants and delivery partners and has advised its employees to make their own decisions on working from home. It has also created an internal emergency response team.

“We are utilizing the partner app as well as SMS services to broadcast WHO best practices among other important information such as Covid-19 testing laboratory locations as issued by the ministry of health,” a Zomato spokesperson said.

“We are regularly sharing health advisories with our restaurant partners, those who work out of Zomato kitchens as well as others. The goal is to help iterate all the necessary practices to maintain personal hygiene and ensure safe handling of food at all stages of preparation,” the spokesperson said.

Ride hailing firm Uber has formed a dedicated team of operations, security and safety executives to respond to any eventuality.

“We are supporting drivers and delivery people who are diagnosed with Covid-19 or placed in quarantine by a public health authority. Drivers and delivery people in these situations will receive compensation for a period of up to 14 days. This has already begun in some markets and we are working to implement mechanisms to do this worldwide,” said Andrew Macdonald, senior vice president of rides and Platform, Uber.

US and Chennai-based Zoho, a software as a services firm (SaaS) has cancelled Zoholics 2020, its annual customer event, slated for April in Austin, and has also cancelled all Zoho events, globally, in March.

From 4 March, Zoho has adopted work from home as the default policy for all its offices worldwide and will retain this policy until the threat of the virus has passed, or has reduced substantially, a spokesperson said. The firm is also using various tools and communication software to make virtual meetings and collaborative work even while working remotely.

Co-working firm WeWork India has temporarily suspended all events in the common areas across its locations, a spokesperson said.

“The company also has a mandatory 14-day “work from home” policy for any employee recently returning from high-risk regions, as well as those who exhibit flu-like symptoms, such as respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath or breathing difficulties. Documentation from a medical provider is required to return to work,” the spokesperson said.

Both Walmart-owned Flipkart and Myntra have issued a ban on all non-essential domestic and international business travel and are encouraging employees who have returned from international travel to work from home for 14 days. “We are promoting the use of video conferences for meetings, including job interviews, and are temporarily avoiding events and training programmes that require large gatherings as a precautionary measure,” a spokesperson said.

Edu-tech and online learning firms like Byju’s, Coursera and Vedantu said they will offer free online courses to students for a specific period.

Coursera on Thursday launched a global initiative to assist universities and colleges seeking to offer online courses. “Starting Thursday, we’ll provide every impacted university in the world, including India, with free access to our course catalogue through Coursera for Campus. These institutions will have access until July 31, 2020, after which we plan to provide month-to-month extensions depending on prevailing risk assessments,” said Jeff Maggioncalda, CEO, Coursera.

This article was first published on livemint.com. 

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.