Volunteers from Pune have Assembled to combat Medical equipment shortages faced by the country needed to fight COVID-19. A team of volunteers has launched a non-profit online platform to connect Medical equipment seekers with validated suppliers from all across the country and world. A Pune based social start-up “AssembleNow” is offering a free service to facilitate the procurement of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and other protective gear for healthcare service providers. As our struggle to meet the shortage of critical equipment to fight COVID 19 continues, a new set of the challenge has emerged because of poor procurement and supply chain to procure PPE kits practices.
Recently, around 63,000 PPEs imported from China failed the quality test thereby pushing the government on backfoot and posing a threat for our frontline healthcare workers.
“This news came at the beginning of April and we started to think about the ways to address this challenge. I really felt that there should be a way to help our frontline healthcare workers who are at the most risk while they are diagnosing and treating the infected patients”– said Abhishekh Purohit founder of the e-platform AssembleNow.org.
The platform serves as a goto place for sourcing medical equipment like PPE kits, testing kits, and other gears for medical workers. The team of volunteers with relevant expertise are rigorously validating the application of suppliers to ensure a fast, efficient, and transparent supply chain.
Abhishekh says, “The world is facing a shortage of critical medical equipment and India is no exception. To combat the crisis we must ensure the availability of equipment like PPE kits, thermometers, testing kits, disinfectants at all the facilities providing patient care services for COVID-19.”. He believes that lack of production is not the only challenge but the procurement process and supply chain inefficiency are also causing delay and unavailability of essential supplies.
“Some of the observed causes of delay are finding new suppliers who have required quality of goods, un-acceptance of 100% advance payments terms of suppliers due to trust deficit, logistics challenges during the lockdown, and filtering of a long chain of middlemen to avoid price gouging,” Abhishekh said. “The platform is built with an aim to solve these challenges. We are reaching out to medical equipment buyers and suppliers to place their request by filling out a simple form on our website. We will validate and connect them to ensure availability of equipment at all times” Abhishekh said adding that “We will work on the platform till enough suppliers are vetted and connected to buyers to fill these gaps.”
There are three kinds of suppliers:
“A lot of our time is spent in screening and validation of suppliers. What we have noticed is there are three kinds of suppliers. First ones are those who are into medical equipment manufacturing and distribution for years which are to be prioritized,”
The second ones are those suppliers who were into some other businesses but have started producing this equipment during the last three months to fulfill the unmet demand of the market. “They are being vetted for quality, cost, and supply capacities” And last ones are middlemen who have joined the trade only in the last 3-4 months considering this as an opportunity to make money. “However, knowingly or unknowingly they are becoming a reason for price gouging and profiteering leading to challenges in supply chain thereby putting lives at risk,” he added.
“We are inviting support from Supply Chain Finance companies and individuals who can pay validated and trusted suppliers in advance by funding their invoices. This will help the supplier to produce and supply more goods in this emergency and provide some return to the investors.
Such steps will help expedite the supply chain as a supplier can get an advance payment to manufacture the required goods and it will allow buyers to pay after successful delivery of goods. Investors can act as a link to bridge this gap by funding,” he added.
Furthermore, Abhishekh said, “We are inviting makers to submit their innovative solutions which can be implemented to solve challenges caused by COVID-19. We will connect them to the relevant stakeholders in the government and also would help them in all possible ways to implement their solutions.”
Besides, the team from Assemble Now is also approaching NGOs to seek their support to spread awareness in their regions, volunteer, and help in fundraising.