Guest AuthorPavan Soni

Inflexion Point, April 2020

By | Dr Pavan Soni | IIM-B Innovation Evangelist

Welcome back to Inflexion Point.
In these difficult times, the intent of Inflexion Point is to spread a ray of hope that this too shall pass, provided we innovate, show compassion and resilience. In just about a few weeks, we have truly become a Global Village and have learned to respect our fragility.
This edition of Inflexion Point is dedicated to the acts of creativity and valor taking place around the 
world, with a hope that this too shall pass. 
You take care and remain blessed. 

–Dr. Pavan Soni

As of April 6, 2020, Pakistan has over 3200 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 50 related deaths. For India, it’s 4300/ 118. A lot has been written and spoken about India’s approach to fighting the pandemic, but let’s look at our beloved neighbor. According to Imran Khan, over 25% of Pakistanis are so poor that they can’t afford a square meal, and they would be the first ones to die out of a nationwide lockdown. But Islam has a very interesting concept of Zakat, a charity tax, which is about 2.5% of a person’s annual excess wealth, and according to some estimates over 98% of Pakistanis pay charity or volunteer their time towards charity. The country contributes a good 1% of its GDP to charity, much in lines with developed countries, and almost twice of what India does relative to its GDP. That’s how a religious principle, if practiced well, can shape a nation’s destiny in these difficult times. I wish my neighbor to get ready soon. (Source: BBC) 
Kerala has emerged as one of the role model states in India’s fight against coronavirus. It was one of the first states to report the outbreak and, since then, has had several policy level, community, and technological interventions to keep the state safe. Kochi launched India’s first walk-in kiosk for blood and swab sample collection while crashing the collection time to two minutes and with safety for health worker. The state has deployed drones to catch hold of lawbreakers and assist in spraying disinfectants and enforcing social distancing. The tech volunteer developed website, covid19kerala.inforeleases accurate stats on the outbreak, better than any other state. The CM tracks the cases in real time basis using a deeply entrenched Corona Safe Network, and the state has been blending Ayurveda and modern medicine to fend off the threat. (Sources: HT Mint, Indian Express, Asian Age)
In the fight against coronavirus, ventilators play a crucial role. India, with a population of 1.3 billion, has just about 50,000 ventilators, and many busy supporting patients across ICUs. With the virus outbreak, an access to ventilators can make a huge difference, and there are several Indian companies, including startups and even Indian railways on the task. The Kapurthala Rail Coach Factory of Indian Railways has developed a low-cost ventilator, Jeevan, which would cost INR 10,000 and can be produced at the rate of 100 a day. Another one by AgVa is portable and can be produced at the rate of 20,000 a month. Pune based Nocca Robotics is working on low-cost ventilators, which would otherwise cost anywhere around INR 150,000 to INR 200,000 per unit. This is a call for exhibiting ingenuity across the spectrum of public and private institutions. Soon, India would be in a position to export such devices to other needy countries. (Sources: Economic Times, BBC, Aljazeera)
Indian Railways got closed for the first time in 167 years. That shows the magnitude of what we are going through. The lifeline of India, in an absolute act of ingenuity, has converted non-AC coaches into recovery wards and quarantine facilities for coronavirus patients. The Railways are also manufacturing hospital beds, stretchers, medical trolleys, masks, sanitizers, aprons, and medical apparatus for hospitals across its 16 zones. With 0.5 hospital beds available for every 1,000 people, this move could be crucial in the short to mid term.  Out of the targeted 5000 coaches, around 2500 have already been converted into isolation wards, providing some 40,000 beds. India’s biggest employer has already spent INR 920 crores on fighting coronavirus and is embraced for a long battle ahead. DRDO is another government institution involved in design and production of protection suits and masks. (Sources: The Print,  The Hindu, CNN, Deccan Herald)
As of April 6, India has a facility of conducting 20,000 daily tests, and this number must go to over 100,000 per day for us to get a realistic estimate of the threat. Almost all the kits are imported, and the need of the hour is to develop reliable, affordable, and scalable solutions. We are resorting to serological antibody blood tests, which deliver results in 15 min, which is especially suited for high-density population hotspots. Bangalore based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms has identified five startups which are in advanced stages of developing solutions for diagnosis and treatment. CoSara and AmpliGene are into developing diagnostic kits. Pune based Mylab was one of the first companies to develop a test kit that produces results in 2.5 hrs, as against 6-7 hrs taken by imported kits. Goa based Molbio Diagnostics has further brought the testing time to an hour. It’s a fertile avenue for startups to solve some urgent problems effectively. (Sources: Business Today, Economic Times, Bloomberg Quint)
March 17, 2020, is when India experienced its first coronavirus related death, and on March 23, the Prime Minister declared a 21 day nationwide strict lock-down, with several states imposing curfew. These unprecedented measures have ensured that, today, after over two weeks of the freeze, the cases have gone up to 4000. Imagine the counterfactual if the lockdown was delayed or was dealt with softly. There are several reasons why India can make a remarkable and instructive recovery from the pandemic. The three I highlight are: 1) India’s PM chose lives over economy, 2) Improvisation by citizens, local administration, and startups, and 3) Reverence for authority, law and order. (Source: Medium)
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