Lending A Helping Hand
Forbes India|January 15, 2021
Billionaires, CEOs, philanthropists and celebs went out of their way to help citizens deal with the pandemic

Feeding the Needy

Amit Chandra of Bain Capital impacted around 2.2 lakh people with 73 lakh meals through his ATE Chandra Foundation

In early April, when the central government had imposed its first national lockdown to combat Covid-19, Amit Chandra, managing director, Bain Capital Private Equity, India, realised that if marginalised people did not get food on time, the situation could snowball into a humanitarian crisis. The local public distribution systems in Mumbai were not equipped to deliver food and essential supplies to the residents of the city’s densely populated slums, which were turning into coronavirus hotspots. And so, he wanted to feed 70,000 people in three days.

But food relief distribution was uncharted territory for his team at ATE Chandra Foundation, which usually works on capacity building of non-profits and rural development programmes. They contacted other local non-profit organisations, such as the Praja Foundation, which was experienced in building supply chains to deliver food to the poor. His volunteers and partners managed to reach the 70,000 mark in a week.

Soon, other funders joined in the efforts, including donors such as Swati and Ajay Piramal, Hemendra Kothari, Noshir Soonawala, Lalita Gupte, Azmin and Noshir Kaka. A total of ₹11.47 crore was leveraged with the help of co-donors, and the combined effort reached over 10 lakh people in Mumbai, and provided close to two crore meals within a span of two months. The ATE Chandra Foundation itself impacted around 2.2 lakh people with 73 lakh meals. Each kit consisted of rice, flour, vegetables, fruits, oil, sugar, salt, pulses and spices that would suffice a family for at least two weeks, along with hygiene products like soaps, sanitisers and masks.

Chandra, a banker-turned-private equity investor, led other Covid-related health programmes as well, working with multiple stakeholders. These included building a 219bed ICU facility operated by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation in Goregaon; donating close to one lakh personal protective equipment (PPE) kits, 29,350 N95 masks, eight ventilators and five oxygenator machines across Maharashtra and Rajasthan; partnering with Harsh Mariwala’s Marico Innovation Foundation to support five scalable Covid response solutions; helping in execution and data analysis of the sero-survey conducted among 15,000odd people in Mumbai, and organising hygiene awareness campaigns in the city’s slums. He directly contributed close to ₹5 crore for these health initiatives, and leveraged approximately ₹8 crore from his network.

JASODHARA BANERJEE

Batting for Innovations

Accel India’s Prashanth Prakash helped form the ACT Grants to provide financial support to startups working on products and services to combat the pandemic

Prashanth Prakash is one of the senior professionals who teamed up with other venture capitalists, private equity investors and startup executives to form the ACT Grants, a ₹100 crore Covid-19 relief fund centred around new-age technological innovations. It provided financial support to fledgling startups working on products and services to combat the pandemic, and gave grants ranging from ₹20 lakh to ₹1 crore. The investors did not pick up a stake in the selected ventures. “Many people in the VC ecosystem were doing philanthropic work individually, so we thought that if we could pool in all our resources and expertise under one umbrella, it will help us be much more impactful,” says Prakash, founding partner, Accel India. The focus of the grants was on sustenance and saving lives, he explains, adding that adapting to new challenges helped them fund scalable solutions that tackled changing situations on the ground. “We could go to the market fast because we were leveraging technology,” he says, explaining that at one point about 70 to 100 volunteers from these VC firms were actively looking at various proposals probono to carry out diligence and present it to the investment committee that met almost every day. A few small grants were made to portfolio companies for retooling their existing offerings to cater to urgent health care requirements of the pandemic. For example, with a grant of ₹30 lakh, home health care provider Portea Medical came up with a tech-enabled remote patient health and monitoring system in coordination with state governments.

ACT Grants provided funds of ₹86 crore to 54 companies working in 24 states between April and September, and was looking to disburse another ₹14 crore by December. In 16 priority states, ACT members are working directly with individual state and district-level governments.

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