Which firms are funding Covid-19 recovery efforts in India?
As India’s death toll from COVID-19 surges past 200,000, exacerbated by shortages of hospital beds and medical oxygen and vaccinations lagging, countries and companies are waking up to the spiralling crisis and have been rushing to provide aid to India.
Governments have been rather slow to respond, with the the White House announcing on Thursday 28th April that it would be sending more than US$100m worth of supplies. The UK has already begun sending supplies, with 495 oxygen concentrators and 140 ventilators delivered on its first consignment, while the EU is sending an emergency shipment including oxygen concentrators, ventilators and medicine. India’s neighbour Pakistan has offered medical equipment and supplies, Taiwan is sending 150 oxygen concentrators, and Israel has pledged to send medical supplies. Even China has announced it would get medical supplies to its neighbour.
But what about private business? Who are the companies putting their money where so much of their business is? Which businesses are standing up to their CSR statements and pledging funds and aid? From Wall Street giants and American multinationals, to innovative tech startups and Chinese corporates, many with offices and employees in India, we take a look at who’s doing what and why.
Google and Microsoft kick off aid for India
It’s little surprise to discover that Google and Microsoft were first pretty much first off the aid-giving blocks. Not just because they’re massive corproations, with huge presence in India (Microsoft India employs 6,500+ people), but because both have CEOs of Indian birth.
Tech titan Google and parent company Alphabet, whose CEO Sundar Pichair was born and schooled in Chennai, has announced US$18m in funding. In a blog post, Sanjay Gupta, Google India’s Country Head and VP, said, “we’re announcing $18 million in new funding for India. This includes two grants from Google.org, Google’s philanthropic arm, totalling $2.6m. The first is to GiveIndia to provide cash assistance to families hit hardest by the crisis to help with their everyday expenses. The second will go to UNICEF to help get urgent medical supplies, including oxygen and testing equipment, to where it’s needed most in India.”
He also announced that on YouTube, Google would be supporting the government in their vaccine communication strategy, “as well as working to raise up authoritative information and reduce misinformation”.
Meanwhile, Microsoft boss Satya Nadella, who was born and raised in Hyderabad, and studied electrical engineering at Mangalore University, announced on Twitter he would be helping India with its shortage of oxygen supplies.
More tech giants start delivering on aid
Committed philanthropist Marc Benioff, whose company Salesforce is heavily invested in India with 4,000 employees across the country, has also committed to providing aid. As well as announcing a donation of $1million towards local partners focused on medical equipment sourcing, community isolation centres, and creating vaccine awareness in India, Benioff took to Twitter on Thursday 29, to says that the cloud software company “is loading a Boeing 787 plane with medical supplies and will land it in India next week”.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg also took to Twitter to announce that Facebook was “working with UNICEF to help people understand then they should to to the hospital and giving US$10m to emergency response efforts”. And Apple CEO Tim Cook also pledged via tweet support towards relief efforts, though didn’t elaborate on what form that would take.
Amazon, which has six offices across India, including the world’s largest in Hyderabad, announced that it has joined forces with the philanthropic arm of Singapore-based investment firm Temasek, ACT Grants, Pune Platform and other partners to urgently airlift more than 8,000 oxygen concentrators and 500 BiPAP machines from Singapore.
Wall Street gets in on the action: Goldman Sachs and Blackstone
Goldman Sachs, which has three offices in India, also took to Twitter the same day announcing an additional US$10m pledge to support relief and recovery efforts in India, following the firm’s previous commitment of $42m deployed to more than 300 non-profits across 31 countries, including a $1m commitment to India in 2020. This additional funding will support frontline health facilities across the main cities of Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai and New Delhi.
The employees of Goldman Sachs India and their dependents are further being offered vaccinations free of cost on a voluntary basis, paid time off for vaccination appointments, enhanced insurance coverage, and 10 days of Family Leaves.
While private equity firm Blackstone is committing US$5m to support India’s Covid relief and vaccination services, in particular focused on India’s “marginalised communities”, chairman Stephen Schwarzman said in a tweet.
Startups offering more innovative aid
But it’s not just the huge American multinationals and tech giants delivering, international brands including Indian and Chinese companies, as well as startups are sending funds and aid.
FMCG giant P&G, which has six manufacturing sites across India and 2500 employees in the country, has announced it will contribute towards the vaccination of more than 500,000 Indian citizens following via a commitment of US$500m in partnership with the government and local authorities in India and will continue its donation of products locally, from in-house manufactured masks and sanitisers, as well as leveraging its advertising voice to increase awareness on health, safety and hygiene.
Chinese tech companies have been quick to response. Smartphone firm Oppo is donating 1000 oxygenators and 500 breathing machines to the Indian Red Cross Society and the Uttar Pradesh government, while mobile brand Xiaomi has pledged US$30m for relief efforts, and smartphone brand Vivo is donating US$20m to help organisation acquire oxygen concentrators.
Indian corporation The Tata Group announced it is importing 24 cryogenic containers to transport liquid oxygen, with its subsidiaries like Tata Steel supplying 200-300 tons of Liquid Medical Oxygen daily to hospitals; while Reliance Industries is donating 100 tonnes of oxygen.
And Indian SaaS startup LogiNext “is in the process of launching a service in collaboration with over 50 delivery platforms in the country to help delivery oxygen cylinders”, announced the company's India-born CEO Dhruvil Sanghvi.
Startups meanwhile are being innovative in their contributions to the Covid crisis. Digital payments startup Paytm is airlifting 21,000 Oxygen concentrators by early May, for use by governments, private hospitals and Covid care facilities. Indian foodtech platform Zomato has rolled out a priority delivery feature for Covid emergencies, including oxygen, while fintech CRED is sourcing 1 billion litres of oxygen for India, with every 10,000 CRED Coin going towards 1,000 litres of oxygen, according to founder Kunal Shah.
Asia-Pacific seeing surge in cleantech-focused VC funds
Cleantech became one of the hottest investment sectors among VCs a decade ago with cleantech VC deal volumes doubling between 2005-2007, according to Brookings Cleantech Venture Capital report. And while the global recession in 2007-2008 halted many investments in cleantech, the sector has gained traction over the last few years.
Asia Cleantech Capital is an early-stage investment firm focused on clean tech projects and companies in the APAC region; DreamLabs Innovation is a US$50m fund established to invest in disruptive, scalable, people-focused companies in areas including cleantech and energy; and ENGIE New Ventures runs a US$61.2m fund dedicated to making minority investment in tech startups in sustainable energy including across Asia.
More recently, in 2021, in light of the pandemic and increasing focus on sustainability, there’s been a surge of cleantech-focused VC funds being set up both globally and across Asia-Pacific with the aim of supporting startups that are developing advanced technologies to tackle global problems, whether renewable energy or food waste.
Climate Solutions Partnership unveiled
Just last week, HSBC, World Resources Institute (WRI) and WWF unveiled their Climate Solutions Partnership (CSP), which aims to unlock barriers to finance for innovators developing climate solutions with a focus on startups in Asia developing carbon-cutting technologies, projects that protect and restore biodiversity, and initiatives to help the transition to renewable energy.
Backed by US$100m of philanthropic funding over five years from HSBC, and part of the banking giant’s climate strategy, this partnership will help identify future business opportunities for sustainable innovations, and mobilise finance, including helping startups and next-generation new sustainable approaches.
Spotlight on Japan and China
Set to launch this month is a new cleantech-focused fund targeting investments in Japan, Europe and the US. Sony Group, Suzuki Motor, Mizuho Bank and 15 other Japanese companies have joined forces on a startup investment fund focused on companies that are developing technologies related to digital transformation and decarbonisation.
The fund, set up by California-based VC firm World Innovation Lab (WiL) with a maximum fund size of US$911m and a lifespan of 10 years, will invest in 50-60 startups in the first 3-5 years. Focused on the environmental sector, the fund is set to invest heavily in companies with digital technology, such as software and data analysis tools that can help streamline the operations of large companies, and those developing advanced technologies to tackle global problems, from water shortages to development of plastics-free products.
And the recently launched TDK Ventures, the corporate venture capital arm of Japanese multinational TDK Corporation, is scouting for more industrial tech investments in Asia and especially China, following the recent close of its US$150m TDK Ventures Fund II. This fund is targeting early-stage, global investments in ‘hard tech’ spanning the advanced materials, industrial, robotics, energy, autonomous vehicles, electric vehicles, clean-tech and health-tech verticals.
“This new fund renews our commitment to supporting hard-tech entrepreneurs creating innovations for the greater good,” says Nicolas Sauvage, managing director, TDK Ventures. The materials science field has always been part of the technology sector’s foundation, and as such, it can help the sector address some of the world’s biggest challenges, including sustainability.”
ADB Ventures brings a more sustainable future to Asia
Back in March, ADB Ventures, the Asian Development Bank’s venture capital arm, announced its first two investments since its founding in 2020. ADB Ventures, which aims to pursue environmental, social and governance (ESG) investments in verticals such as FoodTech, AgriTech, HealthTech, FinTech and CleanTech, revealed two green investments, funding Indian electric vehicle manufacturer Euler Motors and Indian CleanTech startup Smart Joules.
The firm is currently partnered with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, the Climate Investment Fund, Nordic Development Fund, Korea Venture Investment Corp., and Korea’s Ministry of Economy and Finance to help bring a more sustainable future to Asia.
Nordic Development Fund managing director Karin Isaksson says: “ADB Ventures represents a timely complement to traditional development approaches through the involvement of the private sector in addressing critical climate change challenges. We are pleased to be working with the ADB on this important initiative that has particular relevance in the post-COVID recovery.”
And finally, while not exclusively tech-focused, last month Singapore-headquartered global gaming firm Razer announced the launch of its new (and first) sustainable US$50m fund. The Razer Green Fund aims to invest in environmental and sustainability startups with up to US$1m funding for startups in the seed and series A stages.