When NJTechWeekly.com spoke with Jaswinder Chadha, president and CEO of Axtria (Berkeley Heights), a couple of weeks ago, COVID was raging in India (and continues to as of this writing).
New Jersey tech companies like Axtria, a provider of cloud software and data analytics for the life sciences industry, were desperate to get PPE, oxygen, ventilators and even vaccines to their associates living in the country.
They were also figuring out ways to deal with the economic and emotional impacts of COVID, which were devastating to the families there.
Axtria recognized early on that the pandemic was running amok in India, and Chadha told NJTechWeekly.com that Axtria has about 1,500 employees based there. “A lot of them are in North India, an area that has been significantly impacted. We have a lot of people who have lost family members, and they are very young, between 28 and 35. We wanted to do whatever we could to help them.”
For employees in India whom the current COVID-19 wave has impacted, the company established a 24/7 helpline to provide verified information on medical supplies. Chadha noted that the company’s medical insurance covers hospitalization expenses, and “we have extended additional paid leaves to our employees who need time to recover or need to be with their loved ones.”
Since the conditions the employees are dealing with are emotionally impactful, the company has established a “Blue Skies” program to support employees in the country dealing with the psychological impact of the crisis. “Our priority is to ensure they have the necessary resources to remain physically and emotionally well,” Chadha said in a statement.
“Given the shortage of medical equipment and supplies in India, we have procured and are in the process of procuring additional medical equipment and supplies to be housed centrally and available for employees if needed. We are also in the process of arranging vaccination camps for our employees in India.”
Chadha noted that there was a lot of interest from the company’s associates outside of India in helping out with the Indian crisis; and they pitched in and raised $100,000, which the company matched. He added that it wasn’t just his employees and their families who donated, but strangers as well, “because it is not easy to find the right organization to send money to India.”
As others have noted and Chadha emphasized, India has always had a last mile problem, getting supplies and money to the people who need it. And like other companies seeking to donate, Axtria turned to charitable organizations on the ground. The company faced a similar issue as some of its colleagues: how to find an NGO that it can trust with the raised funds?
As a software company, Axtria trusted the crowd. “We actually solicited feedback from our employees to tell us which organizations they’ve seen in the neighborhood that were providing support. We basically identified an organization, and worked backwards to send them the money,” he said.
Through its employees, Axtria identified two organizations, one in North India and one in East India, that are working with hospitals and patients there.
“We have partnered with GiveIndia to provide funds to NGOs, [including] the Hemkunt Foundation and OneMoreBreath, that are working tirelessly on the ground, as the first line of support for those who need urgent access to medical facilities and treatment,” he said. “These funds are being utilized to install COVID beds in hospitals, procure oxygen concentrators, and address the countless SOS calls. We will continue to reach out to those in urgent need of assistance in these testing times with the help of the Axtria family, until we have defeated this pandemic.”
However, as Chadha noted, “donating money from the U.S. to India is not easy.” For instance, he recalled that making sure those organizations could take foreign currencies was an issue. “India has major restrictions on foreign money coming into India and, basically, it took us a week to figure this out,” he said.
If you are interested in donating to Axtria’s fundraiser, please visit this GiveIndia website.
At the time we spoke, Chadha was skeptical of people buying oxygen concentrators and sending them to India. “A lot of those concentrators are sitting in customs and at the airport,” he said.
Axtria matched one-for-one every employee contribution to its fundraising campaign, and has already disbursed $175,000 to the two foundations that GiveIndia is working with, Chadha noted.
[NJ Tech Weekly published a recent article on how other NJ Tech Companies were reacting to the COVID crisis here.]