Crisis in India: What can business do to help?

Lord Karan Bilimoria, CBI President Tuesday 01st June 2021 07:11 EDT

Just three months ago, the sad deaths in India were less than 100 per day in a country of 1.4 billion people. Two months later, the situation had deteriorated significantly. It has been awful to watch this tragedy unfold. 

The UK and India share a close bond based on our enduring ties and ongoing close cooperation. I was proud to chair the B7, hosted by the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) earlier in May, where we unanimously agreed to tackle the global challenge of the pandemic on a united front. If we are not able collectively to control the spread of the virus it will remain a huge risk for lives and economies around the world. No one’s safe unless we’re all safe.

Since April 26, I have been working with my team at the CBI on an urgent basis, reaching out to our members, including our members who are leading trade associations, to stand in solidarity with India. The CBI is working very closely with the Indian High Commissioner in London and the British High Commissioner in Delhi, as well as the UK Department for International Trade. The CBI office in Delhi has been involved throughout.

It is inspiring how the business community in the UK and CBI members have stepped up to support this cause; the generosity and willingness to help has been immediate and substantial. The CBI’s goal is to help others do the same and ensure the overall response is amplified, relevant and focused in a way which helps India. Actions which businesses can take now include supporting a charity active in the India Covid response, offering goods and services needed on the ground in India, or supporting employees in India and beyond.

CBI members, businesses and their employees across the UK have been donating to charities supporting communities across India. We want to work together to set an ambitious target to create even greater impact.  The CBI is working with the British Asian Trust (BAT), which has launched the India Recovery Fund (IRF) to provide support where it is most needed. The IRF is the next phase of BAT’s hugely successful Oxygen Appeal, which many CBI members supported. 

“Moto Hospitality colleagues were so moved by the horrific scenes, they wanted to help. By holding raffles, bucket collections, hair-shaving, bicycle rides and setting up a Just Giving page, they have raised an incredible £25,000 which will save more than 15,000 lives,” said Ken McMeikan, Moto Chief Executive. 

The India Recovery Fund’s target is to raise £3m over the next three weeks to go towards funding the three most important challenges facing the people of India right now: accelerating vaccinations and urgent medical care, rebuilding livelihoods, and protecting mental health of children.

CBI member Accenture, which helped set up the India Recovery Fund, has made the first donation.  Should you wish to donate or learn more please contact The British Asian Trust or the CBI. 

At this crucial moment we are urging UK firms to donate critical resources and supplies needed in India. Items needed include: Oxygen generators, ventilators and breathing apparatus, lateral flow tests, empty refillable oxygen cylinders, cryogenic tanks of 30/40/50 metric tonnes, ISO containers, in situ oxygen manufacturing plants for hospitals, oxygen generator plants, bilevel positive airway pressure (BPAP) machines, PPE, warehousing, transport & logistics. There is also an urgent need for medicines such as Remidisvir, Regeneron, Tocilizumab and Favipiravir to treat those with the virus. 

The CBI is additionally working with Rotary International to support effective distribution. 

“Rotary International’s extensive footprint across India enables us to support implementation and get equipment to the right place at the right time” said Nayan Patel, UK Special Advisor, Rotary India Covid Taskforce. 

Over the past few weeks, CBI members have come forward to support with critical resources. My thanks for to all of them. Just a few examples include: 

“Working closely with the CBI, Peak Scientific has been able to provide oxygen to India,” said Jonathan Golby, CEO. 

“PG Paper Company Ltd, pivoted its business, to procure and deliver over 1,000 oxygen concentrators to India,” said Puneet and Poonam Gupta OBE, Joint Chief Executives. 

“Pfizer has mobilised the largest humanitarian relief effort in our company’s history, pledging $70m in medicine donations, rushing shipments of Pfizer medicines from our distribution centers in the US, Europe and Asia,” said Ben Osborn, Managing Director and Country Manager UK. 

“As part of a global response by Linde plc, BOC, has donated 5,000 medical oxygen cylinders,” said Steve Thompson, Executive Director Sales & Marketing. 

“Following the call to UK business to support India from the CBI, Rentokil Initial plc has begun to ship 288 pallets of PPE (inc. coveralls, masks, gloves) and Hand Soaps & Sanitisers - worth around £2.5m. These will be used in 500+ hospitals across India,” said Andy Ransom, CEO.

“Amazon is using its global logistics network to purchase, airlift and deliver critical medical equipment,” said a spokesperson for Amazon Europe.

For businesses, the support and wellbeing of their employees is paramount. Many UK companies have colleagues living and working in India who will have been impacted directly by the pandemic. The Chief Human Resource Office India Action Group has been formed by a number of global businesses to share ideas and practical information among chief HR officers trying to help their people in India. For employees, such as those of Indian origin in the UK, organisations like GiveUsAShout offer free, confidential, and anonymous text support services to those who need mental health support. Text SHOUT to 85258. 

If you can help in any way, make your voice heard. Please contact: [email protected] 

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