Wadhwani Foundation (WF), set up by U.S.-based serial entrepreneur Dr. Romesh Wadhwani, has announced a three-pronged ‘Sahayata Initiative’ to help 10,000 Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) from India to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic situation, retain and create jobs among others.
Under its Sahayata Business Stability programme, WF will provide business consulting and financial support to 10,000 SMEs, equipping them how to survive, stabilise, and grow in the face of unprecedented challenges.
“Our primary focus is job creation. The SMEs are massively hit as they have not dealt with such crisis before. They need business consulting support as the government has already addressed the financial needs. Though we had helped SMEs before, the focus now has shifted to help bank partners to give out the government funds and we will provide business consulting so that SMEs can utilize the funds better to strive and thrive,” Dr. Ajay Kela, president & CEO, Wadhwani Foundation said in an interview.
“We are going to set aside additional capital as growth credit and will work with the banks to participate with us in a 10X ratio,” he said.
“The idea is to save jobs and then grow jobs. The Foundation is not limited by cash as there is $1.5 billion fund in the trust,” he said.
He said although large companies are laying off jobs they will survive since they have deeper balanced sheet but SMEs are not that lucky.
“We have decided help them grow. The small companies are losing the jobs. On an average each company is losing 10 to 25 jobs. Our aim is to first stop this problem and help them grow,” Dr. Kela added.
The Sahayata programme’s objective is to help SME’s navigate through this crisis towards survival and success and ultimately help save or create 100,000 jobs. WF has earmarked Rs 200 crore for this initiative.
It has signed partnerships with half a dozen financial institutions to jointly select the SMEs that will be part of this program.
This programme will start from August 2020, benefiting with an initial rate of 50 SMEs per month and increasing progressively to 500 SMEs per month.
WF has mobilised a large team of consultants and has built an ecosystem of partners, including government ministries, agencies, banks, and consulting firms, to help operationalise this large and complex initiative.
Since the government had recently announced financial lifeline for SMEs, WF has decided to focus on building strategies and operational best practices of the SMEs to address challenges with customers, broken supply chains, and disrupted internal processes, including cash management and employee retention.
Under the Sahayata COVID-19 skilling programme, WF has plans to build skill of 5 lakh to 10 lakh existing and new healthcare workers through a variety of digital channels. Starting next month it will begin with an initial goal of skilling 5,000 existing and new public health workers per month and increasing to 50,000 per month.
It has also unveiled the Sahayata Public Health Innovation programme to provide innovation grants or investments to up to 50-100 start-ups and early-stage companies to help accelerate innovation in the areas of telemedicine, real-time diagnostics and testing, and patient monitoring and care. Each award will be in the range of ₹25 lakh to ₹1 crore.