A Stitch in Time : How Startups Came Up with New New Products to Fight the Pandemic
Written by Md Shazib Siddique
It’s no hidden fact that COVID19 has impacted the functioning of many industries. From airlines to oil and gas, from tourism to automobile and equipment; industries have witnessed battles of survival like never before. Ever since the World Health Organization called on industries and governments across the world to ramp up manufacturing of the personal protective equipment (PPE), many companies in India started moving their efforts towards the abrupt demand and supply challenges of the same.
ACT Grants, a Rs 100 Cr grant created by India’s start-up community to support ideas that could combat COVID-19 with immediate impact, has supported companies that have overnight come up with promising ideas that could help India combat the pandemic.
Neha Kant, Co-founder of Clovia Fashions recalls, “Around 2nd March, our team had started to anticipate the effects of COVID, but of course not anticipated that it would get so worse so fast”. After being approached by a few semi-government agencies to build up the protective equipment capacity of the healthcare industry, Clovia, a full-stack lingerie brand, was quick enough to enter into the PPE manufacturing space. “The machinery that we had was sufficient to make the coveralls and hoods which was the main item for PPE’s. We modified some of our existing machinery to tape the seams of the coveralls which was like an Indian Jugaad,” says Neha.
They have currently supplied over 2,50,000 equipments and will cross 3,50,000 supplies by August end
Amid the shortage of PPE’s in the country, Anatomiz3D Medtech Pvt Ltd, the sister company of Sahas Softech LLP recognized the lack of availability of protective gears for the Mumbai police, who were fighting everyday at the forefront against the corona catastrophe. “We used 3D printing technology to design and manufacture face shields which were distributed to the police professionals after approaching the Police Commissioner of Mumbai,” shares Sagar Shah, Co-founder of Sahas Softech and Director of Anatomiz3D. Uptill April, they were able to supply more than 1 lakh face shield covers to hospitals and police officials in and around Mumbai. Currently, they have supplied close to 2.5 lakhs face shields to Indigo Airlines.
Similar altruistic efforts of assisting the needs of the healthcare industry was undertaken by Karkhana.io, an on demand manufacturing platform which took to manufacturing face shields and aerosol boxes. The time when these companies began helping the requirements of protective equipment supplies was also the period when the entire country was enforced under a strict lockdown. “We did not face many difficulties on the manufacturing side as we were already a custom manufacturing company but the main problem was how to make sure the right things reach the right place at the right time,” states Sonam Motwani, Founder & CEO of Karkhana.io.
Till now Karkhana.io has supplied more than 70,000 face shields to different hospitals and distributors across states as well as 300 aerosol boxes to multiple healthcare facilities
Though meeting supply requirements was the main objective of these companies, it wasn’t certainly their biggest hurdle. The main challenge for these manufacturers came in the form of figuring out the logistics and labour shortage that happened due to migration.
“Our entire team was based out of Delhi-NCR, while a lot of the production of PPEs was happening in Jaipur and parts of South India,” says Pawan Gupta, Co-founder of Fashinza, which provided a scalable demand-supply matching platform for all PPEs. He further adds, “the demand during lockdown was extremely high and all the buyers were pushing their suppliers to deliver everything overnight. These at times resulted in quality issues, as we have seen happening with chinese products”.
During the early phase of the pandemic, between March-April, when all businesses were standing at zero and the ratio of COVID patients was comparatively low, there were some entrepreneurs who got out, got their factories running and ultimately helped in improving the supply equation of protective gears in the country.
ACT Grants endeavors to support such entrepreneurial initiatives and has so far supported 55 startups that have aided India’s fight against Covid.