Image Credit: The New Indian Express / Ashwin Prasath
Today, undeniably, we face our toughest test in living memory. The second wave of the pandemic is unimaginably severe. As the case and mortality counts rise, throughout the country, there is a desperate search for oxygen, hospital beds, vaccines and other medical resources. The health and economic impact has been disproportionately greater on the most vulnerable segments of our population – urban and rural poor, women and the ‘Next Half Billion’. Our public health machinery, frontline personnel and citizens face challenging weeks and months ahead.
At Omidyar Network India, over the last decade, we have been fortunate to partner with many inspiring organisations and entrepreneurs who are driving social change in India. As the crisis continues, we remain committed to supporting them and our compatriots.
First Wave: Rapid Response Funding Initiative
When the first wave of Covid struck, we recognised the importance of responding quickly, decisively and strategically. We launched the Rapid Response Funding Initiative in March 2020 to provide immediate funding of Rs. 10.75 crore to 67 organisations at the forefront of the response, particularly in the area of direct relief. We also provided ‘Solidarity Grants’ to 11 of our grantees amounting to ~Rs. 13.6 crore. Many of these organisations have been at the frontlines throughout the past year. Their efforts have been wide-ranging – from relief efforts and augmenting welfare delivery to community mobilisation, communication campaigns for awareness and research to provide feedback loops to the government.
Medium Term Response: The ReSolve Initiative
As a medium-term response, we launched the ‘ReSolve’ Initiative to tackle two long-standing issues of supporting migrant workers and empowering MSMEs. Our partnership with the Government of Punjab and the Global Alliance for Mass Entrepreneurship has already set in motion a slew of reforms to transform the ease of doing business for MSMEs in the state, with the guiding principles of “rationalise, digitise and decriminalise”.We also supported the Migrant Resilience Collaborative, anchored by Jan Sahas. This platform, involving the government, private sector, philanthropy and civil society partners aims to improve socio-economic outcomes, safety, security and mobility for over 10 million migrant families. The ReSolve initiative is ongoing and we expect to announce more new investments under this in the coming weeks.
Support To Portfolio And Continued New Investments
Amidst this, our team continued to support our portfolio – handholding our investees and grantees in navigating the crisis and providing flexibility to them where needed, such as by repurposing grants for Covid relief efforts. Our regular investment activity continued in parallel – we announced several new grants and investments in pathbreaking organisations driving impact among the Next Half Billion, across sectors like financial inclusion, agri-tech, SME digital solutions, ed-tech property rights, and data protection and privacy. It has been inspiring to see the spirit of entrepreneurs in a difficult environment and their passionate quest to build solutions that improve lives – from early childhood education to embedded finance solutions for the NHB, from tech platforms improving market access for farmers to institutions promoting the development of the non-profit sector.
Second Wave: Immediate Relief Support
As the second wave of Covid is upon us, we continue to support immediate relief and resilience efforts. As a first step, we recently announced funding aggregating ~Rs 26 crore ($3.50 million) to Give Foundation, India’s most trusted online donation platform, and United Way Bengaluru, a leading collaborative non-profit platform, in partnership with ACT Grants, a movement by India’s startup community to combat Covid-19
Our decision to support these two platforms reflects our belief in the power of collaboration and collective action to create widespread impact, in a situation where time is of the essence. United Way Bengaluru, in partnership with ACT Grants, and Give Foundation together represent a powerful combination of conventional, on-ground relief efforts and more cutting-edge unconventional solutions. Both platforms have shown great agility in galvanising financial resources and high-quality talent, as well as strong execution capabilities to deploy funds effectively at scale, working with a network of frontline organisations. Besides purchase and distribution of oxygen concentrators and financing the setup of oxygen plants, the funding will be used to focus on rural areas and strengthening the capacity of healthcare staff and caregivers.
It is heartening to see many platforms and grassroot organisations being able to raise significant funds in a short span of time over the last few weeks. Yet, there is a need to crowd in even more capital towards ongoing relief efforts, and we hope that more institutional and retail contributions will be mobilised in the coming weeks. I encourage people to consider donating to platforms like Give Foundation, United Way Bengaluru or ACT, or others that are doing equally commendable and critical work.
The crisis is far from over, and it is clear that the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic will reverberate in our lives for many years to come. There will be much more work to be done to help those most affected get back on their feet, strengthen organisations and make our public systems more resilient.
Over the coming months, we will continue to look to support additional medium-term initiatives in these areas.
We remain more steadfast than ever before in our commitment to helping create a meaningful life for every Indian and look forward to be walking alongside you on the long journey ahead. We will emerge stronger together.