Published: 08th June 2021
How these ISB alums' initiative crowdfunded 42 oxygen concentrators for Bengaluru amid COVID
Oxygen4Blr supplies oxygen concentrators to COVID patients in need. When they recover, the concentrator is given to some other patient
Over the last couple of months, as the healthcare system got overwhelmed, one thing that became increasingly dear was oxygen. Countless COVID patients lost their lives due to a lack of oxygen. The importance of air had probably not been felt like this before. But at the same time, it was the citizens who did their best to help those in need. Among them are a few Indian School of Business (ISB) alumni from Bengaluru — Gurpreet Walia and Pawan Kumar Dasaraju — who decided to help Bengalureans get access to oxygen concentrators. They initiated Oxygen4Blr on April 28, where they hand out concentrators to individuals who need them.
Oxygen4Blr works under an Uber-like model where people needing oxygen concentrators can call and ask for one. Within the next hour, they can pick up the concentrator from a nearby location and use it till the patient recovers. Once they have used it and the COVID patient has recovered, they can pass it on to someone else who needs it. "We have concentrators spread across the city so that people can easily access one from a location close to their homes. All they need is to pay a fully refundable security deposit. We don't charge any rent on the oxygen concentrators," says Walia.
Walia and Dasaraju sourced these oxygen cylinders when there was a massive crisis in the city. "We asked our friends and family living abroad to donate one concentrator each. We initially thought this was a better way to go about asking for donations instead of money," says Walia. But that soon changed. "We realised that not everyone is willing to donate a concentrator and we nearly didn't have the numbers we wanted. This is when we decided to start crowdfunding on Milaap," adds Walia. The duo managed to raise around Rs 23 lakh on the platform and purchased 42 oxygen concentrators with the money.
However, not all the concentrators were used. "Unfortunately, even though we wanted 100 concentrators to be circulated to bridge the gap in Bengaluru, most of them were shipped to us when the demand started decreasing," rues Walia. At any given point in time, Oxygen4Blr had around 25 to 30 oxygen concentrators during the peak of the second COVID wave. Currently, only 18 concentrators are in circulation. But what about the rest? "While we are retaining the ones that are already in use, the unboxed ones are being given to NGOs in rural Karnataka as the COVID cases are on the rise there," explains Walia.
While Walia and Dasaraju managed the operations initially with the help of several volunteers spread across Bengaluru, they have now collaborated with a call centre. "It is owned by one of the volunteers who decided to take the oxygen request calls for Oxygen4Blr. All calls are monitored there and then an oxygen concentrator is deployed wherever needed. They also verify the documents like prescription, Aadhar Card and sanitisation procedures and so on," says Walia.
You can head to oxygen4blr.in to book an oxygen concentrator.