By Sweta Daga
“Actually, one of the biggest problems is that many people are not even aware that they are eligible for government support,” says Sumedh Ranade, who helps to lead the central operations team at Haqdarshak, an online technology platform that helps citizens access government schemes.
When the national lockdown hit India in March, some of the most affected people were blue-collar and daily wage workers. Many of these workers were also separated from their families at this time, and had little to no savings. They were not sure how to access government support. Relief packages that were allowed by the national government piggy-backed on existing schemes, and many times, even though people had the proper documents, they found it difficult to understand the application process.
“We started in 2016, and we had two models,” continues Ranade. “One model is more business to business, where non-profits and other organizations would use our technology in the communities where they were working. Our other model is where we train village level entrepreneurs to go door-to-door and help citizens use our app by asking them a series of questions to help understand what schemes they are eligible for. These entrepreneurs also earn a service fee for their work making the work self-sustainable. Many times people will go to local agents who overcharge them for helping them, but we try to keep our fees nominal because we don’t want costs to prohibit citizens from using our app.”
However, when COVID hit, village workers were unable to go door-to-door and Haqdarshak had to adapt their model.
“During the COVID lockdown, our work was even more important, but we faced the social distancing challenge. This is when we began our engagement with ACT Grants, and they supported us financially, creatively and technically through an advisory role in terms of scaling. They helped us build up the technology to do more outreach and better connect with people without going to their homes. For example, they helped us tweak the UI (user-experience) of the app and then marketing in rural areas. We are developing an inbound support helpline. So far we have reached over 20,000 citizens.”
One particular group that Haqdarshak was targeting were construction workers to make sure they were utilizing specific schemes that state governments had allocated toward construction labour.
As per the monthly Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy data, the unemployment rate of the country rose to 8.35 per cent in August from 7.40 per cent in the previous month. Urban unemployment rate inched higher to 9.83 per cent in August from 9.37 percent seen in the previous month, while rural unemployment rate increased to 7.65 percent in August from 6.51 per cent in the month-ago period, the data showed.
Arpan Biswas, who is in charge of marketing at Housejoy, an online app that helps connect consumers with service providers like plumbers or carpenters, also supports construction workers.
“We have tried our best to support livelihoods, so as a start we created Housejoy Mart where idle service-providers could do home deliveries and earn a small amount everyday. (700–1000 RS per day),” he explains. “In addition, we have a platform where we connect construction workers to contractors, and we have a good relationship with many of these workers. These workers have done so much for us and are not always well paid, so during COVID we made sure they had ration kits and safety equipment. Since some of them continued working during the lockdown, or started soon after the lockdown was lifted, we wanted to help them feel safe.”
Housejoy applied for ACT funding to support citizens in Bangalore. “When we applied for ACT funding, we implemented an idea called Housejoy Care and worked with the local government of Bangalore to design and implement 4 KSRTC buses that we transformed into mobile COVID healthcare clinics. These clinics were providing subsidized blood and sugar testing, BP testing, and COVID tests. We were able to reach about 18,000 citizens across red zone areas and more than 5,000 policemen. Ultimately, we are just trying to do our best,” concludes Biswas, “one person at a time.”
ImpactGuru.com, another grantee, a donation based crowdfunding platform that offers global crowdfunding solutions for NGOs, social enterprises, startups and individuals, though primarily a healthcare crowdfunding platform, emerged as a digital warrior for COVID-19 related causes as well. ImpactGuru.com has so far raised 15cr+ from over 800 COVID-19 related fundraisers to support daily wagers, elderly, healthcare workers, animals, all impacted due to the crisis.
Citing an example, Piyush Jain, Co-Founder and CEO, ImpactGuru.com, mentioned about a crowdfunding campaign initiated by a group of IIT Bombay alumni on ImpactGuru.com to raise funds to provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits to healthcare workers at Nanavati Hospital, MAX Hospital and Cygnus Hospital. The fundraiser received contributions from 976 donors, raised Rs. 4.50 lakh. ImpactGuru added up to 20% in matching donations via the ACT Grant on every single donation for this campaign.
All three organizations were able to reach out to thousands of vulnerable blue-collar workers and support them through these hard times and ACT Grants intends to support more organizations in this space to restore livelihoods that have been disrupted due to the ongoing pandemic situation.
Editing Sneha Banerjee