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How India Inc can craft an effective response to the pandemic

Date : Jun 25 , 2020 | Featured,Opinion

Dr. Nachiket Mor, Priya Naik and Shivina Jagtiani analyse the opportunities that Indian corporates can explore to play a creative role in rebuilding our economy and society as we emerge from one of the worst crises in history.

The ongoing pandemic has shaken everyone – economies are clutching at straws and societies are suffering from a plethora of problems. While government and international agencies are at work trying to craft strategies that can help control the spread of the novel coronavirus and extend aid to those affected, a bigger challenge lies ahead: restarting the economy even as we focus our energies on ensuring a safe and healthy society with access to robust healthcare mechanisms.

Considering the magnitude of the problem, the fruition of this vision is important for the sustenance of all stakeholders of the society. However, this cannot be achieved only through the sole efforts of the government—strong collaborative efforts will be required to realise this vision. One stakeholder who has the potential to contribute immensely, including by way of strategising and anchoring some interventions, is India Inc. With supporting regulations such as the inclusion of Covid-19 relief efforts under Section 135 of the Companies Act 2013, corporates can mobilise huge resources to support existing efforts or implement new interventions that can help combat the pandemic.

The events unfolding in the wake of the outbreak and spread of Covid-19 have opened up several opportunities for Indian companies to explore and rise as responsible corporate citizens. Some of our recent dialogues with stalwarts and experts –including the ‘Leaders with Purpose’ webinar series—have given us powerful insights into how companies across sectors are crafting effective Covid responses.

Harnessing the collective strength of Samaj, Sarkar and Bazaar

In such times, the most effective way for companies to mobilise their resources is to undertake programmes and interventions that are either in association with other stakeholders or that leverage the work of other stakeholders to deliver impact.

The unprecedented crisis has resulted in crunched resources for companies across sectors in India. This, in turn, can pose a challenge for companies who want to support vulnerable communities at scale. In such times, the most effective way for companies to mobilise their resources is to undertake programs and interventions that are either in association with other stakeholders or that leverage the work of other stakeholders to deliver impact.

The realised advantages of such an approach would present a win-win-win for companies, government and the society, with corporates benefitting from the expertise and catalytic impact and the other two stakeholder groups gaining access to more capital and strategic viewpoints. There are several ways in which this can manifest:

Helping the public healthcare system recuperate

More than anything else, the pandemic reminds us about the need to invest in a strong and robust healthcare system.  It has struck a huge blow to India’s existing healthcare systems and infrastructure, our preparedness to help Covid-19 patients and support non-Covid patients.

To revive and sustain the financial health of the economy, it is imperative that all stakeholders – not just the government – come together and contribute in strengthening the public healthcare system.

A healthy society is a must to sustain long-term economic activity for every country. To revive and sustain the financial health of the economy, it is imperative that all stakeholders – not just the government – come together and contribute in strengthening the public healthcare system.

In the last few weeks, India has seen companies come forward and contribute resources to strengthen existing systems or pivot business operations to provide necessary products and services. Our conversations with sector experts and leaders such as Prof. Shamika Ravi, Dr. Krishna Reddy, Dr. Dilip Jose, and Siddharth Shah, among others, have yielded incredible insights on how private sector can play an important role in plugging gaps and strengthening the system to cater to a large population.

Safeguarding our most important asset – human capital

Amongst all stakeholders, Corporate India is best placed to create innovative solutions that can extend immediate aid to workers and micro-entrepreneurs across their supply chains.

While the pandemic and the resulting lockdown have greatly impacted everyone in the country, it has been particularly distressing for daily wage earners, migrant workers, gig economy workers and micro-entrepreneurs. These segments of our population are crucial for the functioning of any industry in India and therefore protecting and supporting them is vital for the revival of our business and economy. While the Government of India is implementing measures to support them, the resources available are still limited and the implementation mechanisms are not strong enough. Amongst all stakeholders, Corporate India is best placed to create innovative solutions that can extend immediate aid to workers and micro-entrepreneurs across their supply chains.

Over the last few months, we have witnessed companies step up to the challenge and implement effective solutions. Our conversations with corporate stalwarts and key decision-makers have given us a glimpse into the approaches that companies can adopt to protect and support human capital, their most important asset, in such uncertain times:

The pandemic is claiming victims at an increasing rate in India. Quick, effective, and scalable action is warranted now more than ever before. In times of limited resources, all stakeholders, including companies, must step up and explore collaborative and innovative ways of responding to the situation, actively connecting, sharing and learning from each other to craft the most effective responses.

To access the ‘Leaders with Purpose’ webinar series, you can visit Samhita’s YouTube channel. Additionally, to explore social responsibility opportunities, you can connect with Samhita Social Ventures at priya@samhita.org

Dr. Nachiket Mor’s current work is principally focused on the design of national and regional health systems. He is a visiting scientist at the Chennai-based Banyan Academy of Leadership, where he offers a seminar on Health Systems Design. He is an IIM-A alumnus and holds a PhD in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania.

Priya Naik is the Founder and CEO of Samhita Social Ventures, a social sector consulting firm that forges strategic multi-stakeholder collaborations to co-create and implement effective social impact initiatives. An alumna of Yale, MIT, and the University of Michigan, she has worked with the International Finance Corporation, the Poverty Action Lab at MIT and at Arthur Andersen.

Shivina Jagtiani works with Samhita as a part of their strategy team and curates knowledge pieces on current trends in the social sector. A Chartered Accountant by profession, she has interned with Deloitte India for 3 years and worked with EY for 3 years before pivoting to the social sector.

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