#Chennairains: Online companies helping disaster-stricken Chennai?

Chennai Flood

Companies and people lending a hand to the stranded people in Chennai. In the picture: On the extreme left is a picture showing the extent of water logging; Picture at the center: People walking through 4+ feet water & on the right, it shows a rescue boat (by Ola) used to ferry people!

The worst for Southern India might be coming to an end (though there are occasional warnings  by the Met department about a possibility of re-occurrence of rains in the region) even as the flood waters are starting to recede. Some form of normalcy can be seen being restored after week-long rains (starting on December 1)  which ended up crippling parts of South India—Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Puducherry.

The worst affected city of Chennai faced many hardships during a week’s time: displacement, damage of property and loss of human lives (with over 500+ people reported dead & 1.8 million people stranded— source: Wikipedia). What really strikes me as amazing is the will of people and  a few Indian-startups who came together to assist people in this hour of need.  They  extended themselves by helping citizens with different services: food meals, rescue boats, free mobile recharge, transport, mapping etc.

The car-rental company Ola deployed rescue boats in water-logged regions of Chennai to ferry people, provide food and drinking water  in water-logged areas that faced shortage of food. Both the ferrying services and supplies were free of cost. Indian firms like Paytm, Practo, Ola, Zomato and OyoRooms etc. are helping people by offering services like medical help, mobile connectivity (companies like Paytm offering free mobile recharges to help people stay connected), lodging and providing transport arrangements.

Zomato started ‘Meal for Flood relief’ delivery service on Wednesday for people stranded in flooded parts of Chennai that worked when a person bought a meal along with another for a person in Chennai by using Zomato. Zomato added  one more meal to it and sent  it for two people,  reaching out to localities that were stranded due to rains. The service had to be hauled due to the overwhelming response it received, but it was cool to see people work hand-in-hand. A Delhi based data analytics company called SocialCop  partnered with an NGO to initiate a crowd-sourcing idea to map the submerged roads in Chennai. This service helped people to zoom-in on  digital maps and check the status of roads etc. Mobile technology was also used to optimise disaster relief efforts in the region.

It seems to me that where Government services and planning has failed, the innovation by entrepreneurs and individuals  is circumventing this shortcoming, and maybe the time has come for the Government  which is focused on start-ups, to  build a disaster recovery cell for providing rapid relief and  fund it. These companies would do a better job  than what we have seen so far!

 Share your thoughts and ideas with me.

Sanjay Puri has been working on Indian-American issues and facilitating stronger US-India relations through USINPAC (US India Political Action Committee and AUSIB (Alliance for US India Business), two bipartisan organizations that he chairs.

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