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IIT Bombay alumni provide free ambulance for the needy

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Ambulance services by HelpNow initiative can be a game-changer in the future transportation of patients to hospitals

With a sheer determination to help COVID-19 patients, the medical fraternity and the police in Mumbai, three alumni of IIT Bombay, have recently come up with the HelpNow initiative. Apart from catering to critical patients looking for hospitalisation, HelpNow also provides free ambulance service to the Mumbai Police and the needy 24 hours a day.

Aditya Makkar, Shikar Agarwal and Venkatesh Amrutwar were the brains behind this initiative. All in their 20s, the three students from IIT Bombay toiled hard day in and out, to help those during the pandemic where there is news of severe shortages of ambulances in the city of Mumbai during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Says Makkar, one of the founders, “We have four operated ambulances and we plan to add 24 new HelpNow ambulance services by June 30, 2020.”

He added, “In addition to our fleet, we have audited and aggregated 347-plus privately owned ambulances. All these are owned by SMBs across MMR.”

HelpNow has tied up with over a dozen public and private hospitals across Mumbai to help patients who are in need.

Though HelpNow provides free service to the needy, there is a daily quota of providing these trips. A nominal fee is charged from common citizens to pay the salary of the driver, fuel and operational cost.

Says Makkar, “This is to keep the running and alive 24×7. The trips start from Rs 400 and move up to to 5000 or more as per the distance and patient needs.”

He also mentions that the ambulance charge is 30-50 per cent less than what other private operators offer.

On the technology front, HelpNow uses the in-house software to ensure that the ambulance is dispatched on time and dispatched and patients are notified via Text/WhatsApp messages.

Makkar elaborates, “We use data science to position our vehicles and predict an upcoming medical case. Using four different parameters, our algorithm suggests the relevant hospital for the patient.”

On whether the ambulance has reached its destination and the tracking mechanism, Makkar says, “A mix of software and telephonic follow-ups helps us to deliver a smooth experience for patients and their family.”

An expert Board of Advisors with Directors, HODs, Alumni from IIT Bombay, AIIMS Delhi and other top organisations, helped the team with technical and humane guidance. The team, a part of AGNII programme by the Govt. of India, received a grant of Rs 2 lakhs from IIT Bombay’s Desai Sethi School of Entrepreneurship (DSSE) to start this initiative along with mentorship.

While talking about the challenges, Makkar says, “Being a 20-year-old student from IIT Bombay, my experience was limited to technology, academics and campus activities. The complexities of the real world, dealing with people, addressing economic instability and healthcare shortage during the pandemic, procuring vehicles, training drivers, managing sudden outburst inpatient calls, were some of the challenges which we have overcome and successfully launched the initiative.

According to him, every step has been a new learning experience. .Bend the COVID curve, never your learning curve!’, he says.

The service will soon be launched in Pune and Delhi this month. Soon, HelpNow is going to be operated as a ‘Foundation’, with a mission to save 300,000+ lives a day through the quickest and safest medical response.

Says Makkar, “We aim to make this service entirely free across India by 2024.”

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