States speak for startups: Kerala

kerala startups

Hope. Resilience. Preserverance. These are the three key ingredients of the mental medicine the world needs currently to get through this pandemic. In times like these, it is absolutely heartening to see government institutions stepping up and providing this along with so much more to the people. The spotlight of this piece is on one such government institution which is proving to be a beacon of hope for startups in its state due to its swift and effective response to the fast-developing COVID-19 situation.

The Kerala Startup Mission (KSUM) is the nodal agency for startups in the state of Kerala and hosts more than 140 startups in its various facilities across the state. Kerala has one of the most robust ecosystems for startups in the country and this has been made possible largely due to the holistic support given by KSUM to all startups in the state. In the time of crisis as well, KSUM has responded with some execptional measures to help the startup community. 

Below are three highlights from what KSUM has been up to recently:

1.    Active listening
KSUM has been promoting and circulating a comprehensive online survey to better understand the challenges being faced by startups in this time. This is an impact analysis exercise which also opens a direct channel for startups to reach out to the state government with their issues. The survey covers questions related to the startup’s financials, debt situation, business continuity and nature of support required from the government. It also includes questions on recovery plans for business normalization post-lockdown, thus, nudging startups to plan ahead.

The response to this survey has been quite positive and KSUM has already begun outreach to startups in need of assistance. As a follow-up to this survey, KSUM is organizing a series of webinars in the month of April, the inaugural session of which, is to feature Mr. Ajit Mohan, MD, Facebook India. Topics covered in webinars would revolve around effective management of business during epidemics including remote functioning of teams and financial austerity. 

2.    Structured procurement
In order to streamline procurement of essential medical supplies, KSUM has launched a campaign called ‘Break Corona’. This initiative is open to startups, innovators, NGOs, students, communities and individuals. The call is for ideas and solutions with a proof of concept and potential usage in the fight against COVID-19. This is on behalf of the Government of Kerala to give stakeholders with innovative ideas, a structured pathway to get their ideas to the government. Within two days of the campaign’s launch, KSUM had already received 1,300 ideas with around 180 product solutions. Engagement with and evaluation of these entries has commenced.

3.    Community involvement
Apart from hosting the ‘Break Corona’ campaign, KSUM has started working with some exceptional startups to address COVID-19. This is a great example of direct involvement of the startup community on the front lines. Below are some of the KSUM incubated startups helping in the relief effort:

-    Qkopy: GoK Direct
This startup has developed an app called ‘GoK Direct’ for the Government of Kerala. It provides real-time information and alerts on COVID-19 as released by the Department of Information & Public Relations.

-    QuikDr: A complete telemedicine solution
QuikDr Healthcare Private Limited is providing a comprehensive telemedicine solution for free to the state government. Through this app, patients will be able to have virtual consultations with top doctors in Kerala. Currently, this app is being used by the Directorate of Health Services, Government of Kerala.

-    Thought ripples: GoK QR 
A third KSUM incubated startup has provided an app for managing state-wide data of patients with primary and secondary contact with passengers and people under surveillance. Currently, this app is being used internally by the Kerala State Disaster Management Authority, Directorate of Health Services, and Kerala State IT Mission, Government of Kerala.

-    iBoson: GoK QR
iBoson, a KSUM incubated startup has developed a software to manage essential services of the state government. With this app, authorities can manage the designated staff’s access to the workplace. This will ensure ease of continuity of essential services and is currently being used by Kerala State IT Mission.

-    Asimov Robotics
Asimov Robotics has built cost effective robots for autonomous delivery of food, medicine, and other consumables inside isolation wards for the Department of Health, Government of Kerala. The robots also disinfect the used items and allow patients to communicate with physicians and relatives outside. Through this the number of visits of healthcare staff inside the quarantine zone are minimized.

These are excellent initiatives exhibiting community support even in times of unprecedented adversity. More importantly, they show how community engagement can be leveraged to address a big crisis. After all, even essential remedial ingredients of hope, resilience, and perseverance need a medium to reach the people, and KSUM seems to have figured out just the right recipe of doing so. 

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