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We are connecting India on a deeper level: Aprameya Radhakrishna

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In an exclusive conversation with NewsX as part of NewsX India A-List, Aprameya Radhakrishna, founder & CEO of Koo said that on learning over 90% of people were not comfortable with English they built a platform giving equal recognition to local languages for them to search information, connect and communicate easily.

As Koo expands its network across the length and breadth of the country, Aprameya Radhakrishna spoke about his journey, taking the big leap from the corporate world to establishing his own venture Koo. Sharing insights from his journey, Aprameya said, “After graduating from IIM Ahmedabad, I started working and understanding how a business works. With that understanding, I began to brainstorm what businesses I could run. The first problem that we solved was the cab-hailing problem. Before Vocal and Koo, I founded Taxi for Sure, which was the second-largest player in the cab-hailing market in 2015. We sold it to Ola for $200 million and that was my first entrepreneurial experience. Post that, we started thinking about what would be the next big wave. We saw that people were getting access to phones and the internet. The one thing that would stop them from using the internet was that every app was in English. More than 90% of people in India are not comfortable with English. That is when we started thinking about building something in local languages so that people can search information, connect and communicate with each other, express oneself and that is how our product got formed”. 

Speaking about the necessity of microblogging in India, he expressed, “Vocal is a question and answer app. Although some of our community, which were answering questions, needed to express themselves without answering questions. This made us curious as to why they needed a separate app even although there are other apps. When we deep-dived, we saw that all the major options were in English and if you have to give a comfortable environment for people to express themselves on what is on their mind, it has to be in their own language. If you enter any community, the app converts it into their language and you can find people from the same community who are speaking the language. You will be able to create content in that language very easily including the hashtags and you will talk about things that are important to that community. That did not exist before and so to bring the voices of India, irrespective of language was a new problem to solve. We are solving the problem of connecting India on a deeper level whereas the existing options only connected English-speaking India to the rest of the world. The core philosophy of KOO is the experience we have given to users in terms of local languages and allowed them to easily express themselves in those languages. Nobody has built an app around microblogging and expression of thoughts and opinions ever before in local languages and that is what we have focused on.”

Emphasising that technology-building has undergone different stages in India, Aprameya said, “We have had the resources to build them. Internet access and technology access define who we built the technology for. Companies like Infosys and Wipro built technologies for companies outside because that is where it was needed. Next came, the English-speaking Indian where most cases were about booking tickets, searching for jobs, booking movie tickets, cabs, and buying things online. Now, is when the majority of Indians are getting access to the Internet and technology. There is no better person than an Indian to build technology for them in their own language. Once we build this, we will know how to create apps for non-English audiences as well. We will take this technology to the world, which has a majority of the non-English population, and to those who face the same kind of issues that Indian users face.” 

When asked about the policy challenges, he replied that the guidelines introduced by the Indian Government are rather flexible. “Most of the social media users are behaving very well. Few people, a small percentage of them, are trouble-seekers or mischief-makers because of whom the community faces problems. The idea is to ensure that people behave as they would behave offline. As long as they feel a sense of responsibility while exercising freedom of speech, it is good enough. What you say should not harm other people’s lives. Abiding by the laws of the land is crucial and as an Indian company, we respect that.”

The immediate priority for Aprameya is to “build the team and get young talent to join us in this mission.” He elaborated, “Building and hiring, especially in engineering are important. Our user base has grown, we are close to five million downloads in India across various languages. Our primary objective is to further make it reach 100 million users in a year or so is.” On a concluding note, Aprameya advised the young entrepreneurs: “Make sure you solve a real problem so you do not have to worry about users coming.”

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PIL to SC: Convert religious, charitable places into Covid Care Centers

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A public interest litigation (PIL) has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking direction to convert the religious and charitable places that enjoy tax benefits, into Covid Care Centers as well as cease any further transactions with immediate effect and utilise their funds for Covid patients.

The plea also requested for a district-wise data collection of Covid-19 patients across the country containing the details of demand for oxygen, medicine, hospitalisation etc. It should be developed through a dashboard /web portal enabling the Covid-19 patients to register and search for their respective medical requirements, said the plea, adding that district-wise nodal officers should be appointed for this work.

The petition filed by Manu Gaur, President of Taxpayers Association of India, also urges to open the use of necessary drugs and medicines and to waive the GST on the same during the Covid period and/or to invite the other companies to come manufacture and distribute for saving lives of citizens of India.

Demanding to convert religious places into Covid centres, the plea said their funds should be used in Covid-19 relief “as this money has been given by the public for social and religious work and in today›s time there is no greater social work and religion than saving the lives of people from Coronavirus.”

Along with this, it was also requested in the petition that all the Ayurvedic, Homoeopathic, Unani and Naturopathy hospitals of the country should also be converted to Covid-19 Care Centers.

The petition also emphasised that 100 percent vaccination of home delivery staff, public transport etc. should be done.

“Also, the business institutions/industries, etc. who get all their workers fully vaccinated, should be given the freedom to run their Organisation. The vaccination certificate of those who have been fully vaccinated should be recognised as a pass in the Lockdown period. Similarly, there should be an incentive for vaccination and will also slow down the infection spread. A Covid-19 control room should be made in every district like a usual police control room, which can make necessary arrangements for the citizens,” the plea said.

The petition also called for making MPs and MLAs accountable with the local administration for the Covid-19 arrangements in their constituencies as salaries, allowances and pensions to them are paid from taxpayers› money so somehow they should be responsible. ANI

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PIL SEEKS TO VACCINATE STUDENTS APPEARING FOR BOARD EXAMS, DELHI HC ISSUES NOTICE

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NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court on Friday issued notice to the Union of India and Government of NCT of Delhi on a PIL seeking direction to provide and administer COVID-19 Vaccination free of cost to the students of class ‘XII’ in Delhi, who will be appearing for their board exams in an off-line mode.

The Bench of Justice DN Patel and Justice Jasmeet Singh on Friday sought responses from the Union Ministry of Health Family and Welfare, Union Ministry of Education and the Government of NCT of Delhi and slated the matter for 4th June. The Petitioner, Jyoti Aggarwal practising lawyer in Delhi HC submit that, all the students of Class XII’ appearing for the off-line written and practical board exams for the session 2020-2021 from the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD), be given the Covid-19 vaccination on urgent basis.

According to the petition, 2.5 Lakh students for class ‘XII’, have enrolled for appearing in the Board exams for the Session 2020-2021 in Delhi. It is also highlighted that students will be appearing for their off-line written and practical exams.

The plea states that there are reports that the new strain of Covid is affecting the youngsters the most. The studies also suggest that the new strain of novel coronavirus has led to an increase in concerns due to its ability to high transmission.

The Class XII Board exams were expected to be held in May. However, due to a surge in Covid-19 cases, the Central government decided to postpone these exams until further orders. 

—Correspondent WITH ANI INPUTS

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RBI’s Rs 50,000 crore liquidity facility can increase hospital bed capacity by 20%: Report

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The Rs 50,000 crore liquidity window offered by Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to banks under priority sector lending to augment Covid-19 healthcare infrastructure will help raise treatment capacity, availability of medicines, and medical equipment, said Crisil Ratings on Friday. 

Hospitals can be among the biggest beneficiaries as incremental funding can potentially increase bed capacity in the country by 15 to 20 percent, it said.

Loans under the scheme for tenures up to three years are available to banks at a repo rate till 31 March 2022. Such loans will also be classified under the priority sector.

Consequently, banks are expected to extend these loans below current interest rates for companies engaged in healthcare activities. These include makers and suppliers of vaccines and drugs; hospitals; pathology labs; suppliers of oxygen; makers of emergency medical equipment; logistics firms; and Covid-19 patients.

As many as 354 Crisil-rated companies with aggregate bank exposure of Rs 40,000 crore will be eligible for such loans. Though pharmaceutical firms account for 68 percent of rated bank exposure, hospitals (24 percent of rated exposure) are likely to avail the majority of the funding available.

The borrowing cost of hospitals rated by Crisil is 10.5 to 11 percent and new loans taken for expansion under this RBI scheme could be 300 to 350 basis points cheaper, leading to substantial interest savings.

Subodh Rai, Chief Ratings Officer at Crisil Ratings, said increased availability of funds at low cost will incentivise hospitals to augment beds, oxygen storage, ICUs and critical medical equipment. “Even if half of the funding available is used to add hospital beds through brownfield expansion, it will mean five lakh incremental beds or 15 to 20 percent of India›s current capacity.”

In comparison, for entities in other healthcare-related sectors such as pharmaceuticals, the capital requirements for enhancing the production capacity of critical Covid-19 related drugs is not very high.

Further pharmaceutical companies, owing to their strong credit profiles and availability of export credit facilities, have a relatively lower average cost of borrowing (8 to 8.5 percent). Thus a majority of pharmaceutical companies may not be keen to take on substantial debt under the RBI window to fund expansion.

Also, only a few companies are manufacturing Covid-19 vaccines and these have availed of government advances/ grants for funding their requirement of Rs 5,000 crore.

While incentives under the liquidity window are attractive, hospital firms will carefully evaluate decisions considering the sustainability of demand and availability of critical resources like manpower and equipment. WITH ANI INPUTS

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EARLY SUMMER VACATIONS IN UTTARAKHAND COLLEGES

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DEHRADUN: In view of the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic, Uttarakhand’s Department of Education, on Friday, announced summer vacation in all higher education institutes from 7 May to 12 June.

Earlier, the state education department announced that all colleges and universities will remain closed from 3 May until further orders. In wake of the surge in Covid-19 cases, the Uttarakhand government extended the ‘Corona curfew’ in Dehradun, Haridwar, Udham Singh Nagar, and Nainital districts till 10 May.

“Corona curfew’ has been extended till 10 May in the districts of Dehradun, Haridwar, and Udham Singh Nagar in Uttarakhand,” said state government spokesperson Subodh Uniyal.

Uttarakhand reported 9,642 fresh cases, 4,643 discharges and 137 deaths in the last 24 hours, as per the State health department today.On 5 May, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called Uttarakhand Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat to enquire about the pandemic situation and assured further help from the Centre. In a tweet, Rawat had informed that PM Modi enquired about the steps taken by the state government to control the spread of the virus. 

-Correspondent ANI 

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41 NAVAL PERSONNEL DEPLOYED AT PM COVID CARE HOSPITAL IN AHMEDABAD

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The Ministry of Defence has deployed 41 naval personnel from Western Naval Command to PM Cares Covid Hospital, Dhanvantari in Ahmedabad to enhance the health care system amid the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.

In an official press release, the ministry informed that the team has been deployed for two months and will assist the hospital administration in handling COVID-19 patients. These Naval personnel comprises medical officers, nursing officers, paramedics, and support staff.

According to the ministry, a 57 member naval medical team was already positioned at the hospital on April 29. This team consisted of four doctors, seven nurses, 26 paramedics, and 20 supporting staff. It was said earlier that the deployment of this team was for two months and would be extended based on the requirement. ‘PM Cares COVID Hospital’ at Dhanvantari is a special hospital set up to manage the COVID crisis in Gujarat. The state currently has 1,47,525 active Covid-19 cases, as per the Union Health Ministry. 

WITH ANI INPUTS 

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AMBULANCE OWNER ARRESTED FOR CHARGING RS 1.2 LAKH FROM COVID PATIENT’S DAUGHTER

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The Delhi Police arrested an owner of an ambulance service company for allegedly charging Rs 1.20 lakh to shift a patient to a hospital, the police said on Friday.

The patient travelled from DLF Gurugram to Ludhiana on Wednesday. According to a statement from the Delhi Police, acting on the specific information, the Inder Puri police station team nabbed the accused Mimoh Kumar Bundwal, who was running an ambulance service company in the name of Cardiacare ambulance Pvt Ltd and was looting needy people by charging 2/3 times above the actual rent for transportation of Covid-19 patients in its ambulances.

During the investigation, it was revealed that he was in this profiteering business for the last one month and has cheated numerous people.

“The accused himself is an MBBS doctor who is involved in the ambulance business for the last two years,” the police said.

During the investigation, the bank account of the ambulance service company was also obtained and is being analysed. The accused has returned the cheated money to the victim after being nabbed by the police.

The police have also seized one ambulance given by him to numerous patients over the last month in the case. “My mother is Covid-19 positive and was in very critical condition. We were not getting a bed in Delhi-NCR, Gurugram and Faridabad. So we came to know about one hospital in Ludhiana where there was one empty bed. We contacted them and gave all the details about my mother’s condition and they agreed to take her. So we looked for the ambulance but no one has the oxygen and I needed an ambulance with an oxygen supply,” said Amandeep Kaur, the patient’s daughter.

“In the end, I contacted the Cardiacare ambulance service and they agreed to go but they asked Rs 1.40 lakh. Later when I told them that I have my own oxygen cylinder then they said that they will take Rs 1.20 lakh,” Kaur said.

She said that the ambulance driver took 20,000 initial amount in cash from her and later her husband transferred 95 thousand to their bank account. “Later, when I reached here one of my friends circulated the bill on social media and at the end reached to Human Rights department in Ludhiana and investigation started. I have also lodged a complaint in Delhi’s Inder Puri police station,” she added. A case has been registered under section 420 Indian Penal Code (IPC) in Inder Puri police station. Further investigation is in progress.

WITH ANI INPUTS

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