This tech company accelerated its R&D-led innovations to mitigate the COVID-19 surge in India. Here's how

A laboratory technician works on production of Remdesivir, a drug used in the treatment of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at Eva Pharma facility in Cairo, Egypt June 1, 2021.  Picture taken June 1, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany - RC2MRN9FM8LQ

The pandemic has become a testbed for India to be an independent powerhouse of research and technology. Image: REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

Nikhil Malhotra
Chief Innovation Officer, Tech Mahindra
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  • Our response to the COVID crisis in India has tested our capacity for resilience, preparedness and agility in the face of disaster.
  • 3 initiatives offer a model for stakeholder capitalism in action and provide a testbed for dealing with future crises.
  • The red line across these initiatives is resourceful collaboration and pulling together diverse resources.

The rapid spread of COVID-19 has put most health systems, particularly in a country like India, under unprecedented pressure, often bringing them close to collapse. To face this kind of devastation, and for many of us whose business DNA is embedded in stakeholder capitalism, it became an immediate call of duty.

It was time to pull together resources across expertise, research and development, digital transformation, customers and partners to build resilience within our company and across the larger community.

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No crisis has tested the stakeholder capitalism model as resolutely. For most of us within the IT space, this pandemic has taught us that technology must be utilized to serve and to protect the greater good – and that goes beyond business. There’s still much work to be done to combat COVID-19 fully as we prepare for future waves and we wait for the global vaccination rollout.

The dedication and speed with which we have managed to respond to cries for help on the ground has offered a model for protecting our stakeholders, with the pandemic redefining the way we operate. It has provided a moment for reorienting in a way to not only ensure response to external incidents but also to embed agility and preparedness for future crises into our modus operandi.

Image: Statista

3 ways we are responding to the COVID crisis in India

1. Increasing predictability

Our work through Makers Lab, the R&D arm of Tech Mahindra, against Covid-19 had started last year when we managed to build assets. The first goal was to study and build susceptible-exposed-infectious-recovered (SEIR) compartmental mathematical models for prediction of COVID-19 across cities.

Today, these models are helping us to predict the severity of the second wave and the possibility of a third wave to ensure we are better prepared to serve our employees, customers, partners, and society across vulnerable regions.

2. Speeding up the response on ground

In tandem, we built an SOS Seva channel with the simple purpose of using WhatsApp to respond to urgent requests for medical support. In practice this means that any Tech Mahindra employee using the number can send an SOS to get an immediate response to their emergency. This has been particularly useful during the second wave.

We managed to switch this service on within eight hours of its inception, and since then, have helped over a thousand people with the emergency support they need.

Some of our strategic partners have worked towards mitigating the impact of the recent upsurge in India of COVID-19. Here is a great example of Stakeholder Capitalism serving people and the planet.

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3. Leveraging technology for building resilience

Our work continues as we discover more ways to mitigate the effects of this virus outbreak with solutions and research on molecular docking proteins. With the second wave increasing the severity of COVID-19, our lab adopted this molecular docking approach due to the virus’ high transmission rates.

This strategy uses artificial intelligence (AI) to search for therapeutically potent drugs and molecules in real time. We looked at 8000 FDA approved drugs, and distilled that list to one viable product that is being tested by our partners in Bangalore (Reagene Biosciences and Indras).

Our research will continue to identify FDA-approved drugs that can be redeployed as therapeutics for COVID-19.

Readapting global research to serve society better now and in the future

As the virus mutates, we need considerable efforts to study its genomic sequence and to examine variations. We also plan to extend this to cancer research that is currently missing from the Indian ecosystem due to lack of data and focus. It’s a gap we aim to fill.

There is potential for India to become an independent powerhouse of research and technology, but we can only enable this future through collaboration across key sectors, the government, our partners, our customers, and our people. The pandemic has been a testbed for this approach and we must now look to continue to support increased investments in technology, innovation and talent development to serve and protect our communities.

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COVID-19IndiaEmerging Technologies
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