Helping India fight COVID-19: A summary
As the as the health crisis in India reached alarming proportions, we recognized early on the role our global logistics, network & technology could play for scaled up efforts to support COVID relief work and save lives across the country.
Today, our global and domestic logistics networks are enabling movement of urgent medical equipment and supplies from different parts of the world to India, supporting our employees, partners, sellers, customers and communities in enabling easy and convenient access to medical supplies, aid and essential products of daily needs.
We are also providing our logistics infrastructure to other organizations worldwide and in India as well as our NGO partners such as Give India, ACT Grant, local Government bodies and industry bodies like USIBC to help in international and local transportation of critical medical supplies. So far, the Amazon Global Mile – our global logistics network -has airlifted more than 14000 life-saving medical equipment like oxygen concentrators, BiPAP machines etc. into India.
But beyond the logistics support, we are directly engaged end to end in several efforts to address the shortage of medical equipment - often procuring medical equipment, airlifting it into India, managing local transportation and ensuring it reaches the designated India hospitals, with the support of credible NGOs. Additionally, AWS is also funding four oxygen plants in government hospitals in India.
Supporting our employee base of over 1 lakh as they navigate this crisis remains a key priority for us. We have scaled up our relief efforts for them and their families too, including access to OCs, medical infrastructure and other supplies, quarantine facilities in partnership with hotels, medical shelters for moderately impacted COVID patients in partnership with hospitals, vaccination support, financial support, revision of the leave policy, EAP support and more.
What is remarkable is that this past month has revealed the true soul of Amazon as teams across Amazon India and worldwide have worked with intense passion to make a difference. The mechanisms we lean on so much are this time saving lives. So many individuals continue working with high intensity to make a difference, making the relief work our topmost priority right now.
We have invested over USD 16.5 MM (INR 121Cr.) in these COVID relief efforts for communities across the country including the USD 7MM worth of life-saving medical equipment and supplies donated by Amazon US and Amazon EU. This excluded our investments in relief efforts for our employees and their family members.
As navigate through this crisis, we remain committed to support and help in the COVID relief work for India in its time of need.
Project Vayu was envisioned in response to several NGOs, industry bodies, and corporates reaching out to us seeking help to provide logistics support in airlifting emergency medical supplies and equipment into India. ACT Grants reached out to us requesting support to airlift 8000 oxygen concentrators and 500 BiPAP machines from Singapore and bring them to India.
Given the urgency, we just jumped into it even without first even putting together a funding plan. We immediately activated our Global Mile team - our global logistics network - to partner with ACT Grants, Temasek Foundation, Pune Platform for COVID-19 Response, and started the process of airlifting these from Singapore through Air India and other international carriers. The first of these consignments reached India late evening of April 25th while the remaining reached over the following few days.
Additionally, Amazon India procured over 1500 oxygen concentrators and other critical medical equipment that were donated to hospitals and medical facilities in partnership with multiple non-profits including Swasth, Concern India and impact organizations like ACT Grants and Sattva Consulting. These medical equipments were donated to hospitals and public institutions to augment their capacity to help COVID-19 infected patients across multiple cities. From then on, it has been relentless.
So far, the Amazon Global Mile has airlifted more than 14000 life-saving medical equipment like oxygen concentrators, BiPAP machines etc. into India and we have been able to deliver most of these to the end-beneficiaries, 150+ hospitals and COVID care centers across India. We have now expanded the scope of Project Vayu to provide our logistics infrastructure to other organizations worldwide and in India to help them in their COVID relief efforts.
Financial and medical aid from Amazon EU and NA
It has been heartening to see how other Amazon geographies, specifically our businesses across Europe and North America, have stepped up and committed $7 million to support people in India impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.
Amazon Europe has committed over $2.5 million to purchase and transport medical supplies including oxygen concentrators from Italy, ventilators from the UK, and nebulizers and inhalation devices from Germany. The products will be provided to Amazon frontline workers and local charities to help those infected with COVID-19 across multiple cities in India, thereby supporting the capacity of hospitals, medical facilities and public institutions.
Amazon US is sending critical medical equipment worth over $5 million to support hospitals and other COVID care facilities across India. These critical life-saving equipment including 82 anesthesia ventilators, 1238 BiPAP machines and 60 ventilators have already reached India and more will come in the next few weeks.
Amazon is also providing transportation services to the American non-profit organization, India Association of Western Washington and working to support U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and other U.S. nonprofit organizations to help get medical supplies to India.
Joining the USIBC Global Taskforce
Recently, we procured 100 Medtronic ventilators through our global resources to immediately import these into India for urgent use. We worked with MoHFW (Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India) to ensure the ventilators are of acceptable technical specification and carried out its own compatibility checks to immediately fund 100 units of Medtronic’s PB980 model and bring them into India for urgent use. We are working with the Indian Red Cross, under the guidance from NITI Aayog and MoHFW, to identify the hospitals with the most urgent needs so that Amazon can partner with MT for end-to-end delivery, installation, maintenance and training of personnel who will use these machines. When we were doing this, we got a line of sight on the urgent need for an additional 900 ventilators.
We approached USIBC to build sponsorship for a much larger scale. We were delighted when USIBC could immediately bring the titans of US industry together to support and create the Global Task Force on Pandemic Response. Through its Steering Committee, the Task Force will work to concentrate efforts where corporate support will be most beneficial. Andy Jassy, AWS CEO and incoming CEO, Amazon is on the steering committee along with senior executives of other US businesses. Under USIBC’s leadership, their various members have now committed to bring in the remaining 900 Medtronic ventilators urgently to India.
We have partnered with Milaap to crowdfund aid to support Swasth Digital Health Foundation and ACT Grants in the mission to procure and deploy oxygen concentrators for those in need across India. So far, we have raised over INR 2.5 crore and it will impact/benefit close to 5 lakh people. Over 1200 Amazon employees in India and WW have so far donated INR 1.4 crore to support India’s fight against the pandemic.
Customers and Amazon employees in India and WW have donated over INR 4 Cr. for COVID relief work and donations continue to pour in. These funds are being channeled to social organizations that are supporting urgent community needs during these difficult times, including American India Foundation, Give Foundation, Goonj, Helpage India, Akshaypatra Foundation amongst others
Serving customers + Supporting employees and partners
- For Customers: Amidst these challenging times, we remain committed to enable safe deliveries of products to customers in the safety of their homes while continuing to follow guidelines as prescribed by different state governments. Ecommerce is one of the safest and most reliable way for home delivery of products while helping maintain social distancing norms.
- Partnered with Sellers: To address the growing customer demand and shortage of critical medical equipment, we are working with sellers on our marketplace to help them bring in about 9,000 oxygen concentrators for customers in India. Amazon’s global supply chain network is helping urgently airlift these oxygen concentrators to India for these sellers. Sellers have already made available the first batch of 1,000 oxygen concentrators for customers and rest will be made available soon.
- Supporting Sellers: We have introduced a host of measures to support our sellers during these difficult times including a variety of fee waivers (Referral Fees, Storage Fees, Reimbursement on cancellation fees) as well as policy relaxations on claims and reimbursements and account performance metrics. In addition, like last year, we will provide a COVID-19 health insurance completely free of cost for our sellers in India. This will help cover the expenses related to COVID-19 hospitalization and treatment as well as ambulance assistance and ICU charges of up to INR 50,000, and it will be valid for one year after activation. Amazon will fully fund the premium for this health insurance.
- Vaccination Support for employees, sellers and partners: We have committed to provide vaccination support for 1MM employees, sellers, partners and their dependents. Every employee is our priority and we are enabling vaccination for our employees through various channels including re-imbursements, priority access to hospitals and on-site vaccination events :
- The on-site events have been started with those on the frontline, serving customers and will soon expand to all employees when vaccines become more available. We believe this to be an important initiative not only for the health and safety of Amazon employees, but for the communities where our teams live and work.
- We are also aggressively exploring mechanisms to roll out vaccination programs for other employees, associates, and their dependents.
- Other support measures for employees: To help employees who are impacted directly or indirectly through immediate family members, we have taken some special measures :
- Making rapid testing available to all employees and also have a dedicated focus on getting our employee base vaccinated as broad eligibility opened up on May 1
- Identifying temporary COVID care isolation sites (by tying up with hotels) for those who are not in need of hospitalization.
- A voluntary initiative has been set up that connects employees in need of blood plasma with willing donor employees following medical advisory at all times.
- Additionally, we have made changes to our leave policy providing for additional leaves and expanding the sick leave benefits so that impacted employees are able to care for themselves and their immediate family members.
- We have temporarily enhanced medical insurance to cover urgent COVID related medical expenses and we are extending financial support to employees and making adjustments to policies accordingly.
- We have temporarily extended financial support by enabling our employees to access a salary advance which can support them in dealing with immediate financial needs.
- We announced the India COVID-19 Relief Scheme for frontline teams and other eligible employees that give an additional layer of financial protection through a COVID-19 Allowance and Hospital Reimbursement. The COVID-19 allowance is a one-time grant per employee of INR 30,600 for in-house COVID care, medical equipment, or medication related expenses. If employees exceed their maximum insurance cover due to COVID-19 related hospitalization expenses, Amazon India will also additionally reimburse insurance-approved hospital expenses up to INR 1,90,000.
- Associates working in Amazon buildings directly or through staffing agencies receive 2 weeks of paid leave over and above their available leave balance if tested positive for COVID-19. Our partner teams and associates in the Delivery Service Partner program, Flex and I Have Space are also covered under insurance.
- The Amazon Relief Fund (ARF) introduced in April 2020 in India can be utilized by qualifying individuals who have been quarantined or diagnosed with COVID-19, including all eligible delivery associates who are part of the Delivery Service Partner Program, Amazon Flex program, and trucking partners providing transportation support.
- We continue to follow stringent safety protocols such as use of face covering, regular hand sanitization, social distancing with innovative technology in our buildings and contactless deliveries among 100 other process changes we have made in our operations since the beginning of the pandemic.
What began as a heartfelt individual offer of assistance, has now turned into a full-fledged cause: where these Warriors have gone above and beyond to help people in need and have contributed to save many lives. Today, Amazon employees can dial in to seek support from the COVID Warriors in 30 cities across India. 1000+ Amazon India employees have stepped up to form the COVID Warrior group to help colleagues and families in need.
Our COVID support helpline for employees receives nearly 500 calls each day which are handled by our CS team and COVID Warriors. Using a special tool called Parishudh, developed in-house by our tech team, our CS associates and COVID Warriors are able to respond to these requests faster and with efficiency.
Future Efforts and Outlook
Given the number one priority currently is to help people in the fight against the rapidly spreading pandemic and save lives, we are totally committed to this and are looking at more ways to help the country in need. The next immediate priority would be to get people vaccinated as it would be the biggest deterrent to the spread and impact of COVID-19. We are encouraging eligible individuals in our ecosystem including employees, associates, sellers, operations partners and others to get vaccinated. We are also aggressively exploring mechanisms to roll out vaccination programs for employees, associates, and their dependents. Preliminary insights from conversations with NGO partners indicate that key areas of need are:
- Ration/Food & Relief material to Vulnerable Population
- Vaccine Awareness & Enrollment
- O&M of Medical equipment deployment
Amazon in the Community Team (AITC) team would be focusing efforts in the next few months on prevention/awareness as well as rehabilitation of communities and responding to hunger, especially amongst children. In the longer term, we as a country and may be the entire world needs to look at how we ramp up the healthcare infrastructure and be better prepared for calamities and other challenges.