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healthcare | IST

Aim to support innovators who can develop solutions to COVID-19 related challenges, says Marico's Harsh Mariwala

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At Akshaya Patra Foundation, we have a capacity of about 25 lakh meals per day through our 52 locations and 13 states, said Shridhar Venkat, CEO of the Akshaya Patra Foundation..

The Marico Innovation Foundation has launched a nationwide hunt for innovative solutions to challenges we stand to face with COVID-19 crisis. It is calling upon medtech entrepreneurs, corporates and innovators who can solve the challenges.
The Akshaya Patra Foundation has also teamed up with various states to provide relief materials including cooked food and vegetable packages to the needy.
CNBC-TV18 spoke to Harsh Mariwala, Chairman of Marico and Shridhar Venkat, CEO of the Akshaya Patra Foundation.
Mariwala said, "The next one week is going to be very crucial. If the number remains static and if we flatten the curve then there is lot of hope in terms of normalcy being restored, if not then there is a fear that the lockdown may continue for another 15 days or a month. So, next one week is very important to the curve, whether it is flattening or whether it is accelerating."
He further added, "Even with the 21-day lockdown, it will have a major impact on all businesses. Some businesses have had complete closure, some like in our case which is essential, we operate at about 25 percent of our total revenue. However, many businesses with very high overheads, very high wage costs will suffer a lot in my opinion. I don't know how they are going to survive. We are waiting for some bailout from the government, which is expected hopefully."
Speaking about Marico Innovation Foundation's nationwide hunt for innovative solutions to challenges during COVID-19 crisis Mariwala said, "Our endeavour is to be in the area of active giving and not just giving a donation but get involved in that activity of donating. So considering the fact that we want to be active givers, we have launched a scheme of giving grants to innovators who can innovate and come up with some solutions for mitigating some of the challenges in developing ventilators for which there is a massive shortage, protective gear again for which there is a shortage."
"Therefore,  anybody who can innovate we have allocated a fund of Rs 2.5 crore and that can go up depending on what kind of response we get. However it is very important that innovators come up with some new ideas at a very fast speed because we need all this within next one month. So it has to get operationalised and to be supplied and the cost also has to be affordable because in India you cannot have a ventilator which goes into lakhs of rupees," he added.
"We are looking at a figure of say upto Rs 10000 cost for ventilator. So, affordable, agility and innovative is very important to win this grant. We have an independent jury who is going to assess this. This is one of our first initiatives, we have 2-3 things in the pipeline. We are also looking at migrant labour and how we can support them," said Mariwala.
Venkat  said, "At Akshaya Patra Foundation, we have a capacity of about 25 lakh meals per day through our 52 locations and 13 states. Currently,  Akshaya Patra Foundation has geared up to join with the government and the state governments and various organisations who want us to get involved and support this initiative. So far we have operationalised our kitchen in 4 states and one in National Capital Region as well. So far we have served cumulatively 3,50,000 meals mainly to migrant workers."
"Another initiative which we are doing is, we have started packing rations, which we call as essential grocery box which can feed 42 adult meals or meals for a person for 21 days - lunch and dinner, this will cover the needs of a person," said Dasa.
"As far as challenges go Akshaya Patra Foundation has got over 7300 employees across various locations and getting our team workers who work in the kitchen to come to the kitchen facility is one of the big challenges, which we are facing. Second challenge is, once they come into the kitchen, we also need to ensure highest level of hygiene and quality for which Akshaya Patra Foundation is known because we are dealing with lives of people," added Venkat.