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Leading the charge

  • Published at 10:15 am April 14th, 2020
Start up
Photo: Bigstock

How Bangladeshi start-ups are fighting for the country during the Covid-19 pandemic

In recent times, while the entire world started to see the wave of Covid-19 outbreak, at HandyMama, we have been deeply concerned about how we can best prepare ourselves to fight this pandemic. 

As a leading cleaning and handyman services start-up, we aggregate over 10,000 cleaning jobs every month at hundreds of households and workplaces, and each of them is done by a freelancer or an individual handyman.

However, we had to prepare for the crisis a lot sooner than we expected.

Getting ready for the long haul

We urgently took initiatives, called all of our cleaning, pest control, and other maintenance service partners. We collected all the latest information shared by WHO and other government authorities to share with our service partners and customers. We provided them with quick training, protective equipment, useful content, and other safety information so that they can best prepare themselves to prevent and fight the coronavirus at the places they work.

From the day Bangladesh identified its first Covid-19 case, we have prepared teams with hundreds of professional and trained cleaners and pest control experts with the right chemicals and tools.

Currently, at least 15 of our service partners for professional cleaning and disinfectant services are in the frontline to provide anti-viral cleaning. These teams are already working with some companies that deliver food, medicines, and emergency services during this shutdown. Therefore, although we are not front-fighting, we are indeed keeping the soldiers armoured and geared up for the war.

Start-ups pivoted first and fast

Like HandyMama, our fellow start-up founders have deployed all their resources to fight Covid-19. Our e-commerce start-ups like Chaldal are doing a tremendous job at delivering groceries. Our logistics and delivery companies like Pathao are sweating, while food delivery start-ups are betting whatever they have to serve food to the doorsteps. Besides, our health-tech start-ups like BanglaMeds are trying to do their bit by delivering emergency medicines and other medical products.

Besides their core operations, Pathao is providing logistics support for Obhizatrik Foundation, Bidyanondo Foundation’s One Taka Meal Program, and Mission Save Bangladesh, to deliver food to underprivileged people.

Our tech start-up Gaze Technologies is developing facial recognition software to track people who are staying under mandatory home quarantine and also identify emergency service workers. On top of that, our local map start-up BariKoi is developing a map that can track the coronavirus spread and show the lockdown areas for better decision making.

In addition to these start-ups, I am sure that there are a lot of other initiatives that our local start-ups are up to, to join hands with our government in this unprecedented time.

How start-ups of other countries are joining the force

We saw Chinese tech giants deploying UV disinfectant technology, robot nurses, AI chatbots, and many other high-tech tools to win against COVID-19.

In India, ride-sharing companies like Ola and Uber are providing their fleet as commute options to hospitals and for other emergency needs. India’s largest hospitality company OYO has tied-up with Apollo Hospitals to create isolation centres, while the fin-tech start-up PhonePe has come up with a medical insurance policy called Corona Care.

Besides many other cross-initiatives with the government, an Indonesian start-up and a VC firm are jointly working in a crowdfunding campaign for the domestic production of coronavirus test kits.

Moreover, we see the governments in China, Singapore, and the UK have taken many initiatives for cleanliness and anti-viral cleaning to prevent community spread. For example, on March 5, Singapore launched an initiative called SG Clean Taskforce, headed by the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli and comprising representatives from various ministries to raise hygiene standards at a whole-of-nation level.

We are in it together

By learning from the other countries that are efficiently dealing and controlling the CoronaVirus contamination, we can support the government taking the following initiatives to lower the contamination and fight against the virus:

  • We can leverage the logistics and technological capacity of ride sharing and delivery start-ups. Their fleets can be used as temporary ambulances, to commute health and emergency service workers

  • We can directly involve e-commerce companies to distribute emergency relief all across the country as they have the existing infrastructure to deliver products and services

  • We can utilize trained manpower of service-based start-ups in preparing and maintaining temporary hospitals for corona patients

  • We can closely work with the deep tech start-ups to develop solutions to track, monitor, and mobilize isolated patients, identifying affected areas through local mapping technology for better decision making

  • We can use field force management softwares that our start-ups have built or use for their own field operations to support the work of NGOs, city corporations, and other private and local organizations

Together we grow

Start-ups are the newest forms of economy-drivers of our country. These start-ups are creating hundreds of thousands of jobs within the shortest period of time using less resources. These companies are serving millions of people, making our everyday lives easier than ever.

With the Covid-19 hit, except a few ones, almost all other start-ups are greatly affected.  Most of their revenues went down to zero due to the shutdown. The Venture Capital and Private Equity Association of Bangladesh (VCPEAB) reported that over 300 local start-ups would lose over Tk450 crore in revenues due to the shutdown during the outbreak. The scariest part is that thousands of people might lose jobs who are directly and indirectly working with these start-ups, while hundreds of thousands of service providers will have no business.

This is a national crisis and we have to take quick action. Time is of the essence.

Let us partner up with the government and non-government organizations to keep the supply chain, national logistic, payment, information, and service infrastructures together. We are at the services of the nation and we look forward to winning this battle together.

Shah Paran is the Founder and CEO of HandyMama.

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