When the latest wave of COVID-19 hit India to a devastating effect in recent weeks, New Jersey-based tech companies sprang into action to help not only their own associates, but also others in the country.
In New Jersey, many members of the tech and tech services community come from India or have employees or independent development offices there. It’s easy to say that helping is just good business, but the executives NJTechWeekly.com spoke to were genuinely concerned for their associates and their families.
Cognizant, whose headquarters are in Teaneck, has more than 200,000 associates in India. recently, the company announced its commitment to help the country and its people overcome the humanitarian crisis created by the pandemic.
Named “Operation C3: Cognizant Combats COVID-19,” the effort includes donations of $1.5 million through the Cognizant Foundation to operationalize response efforts with partners across India. The company is also providing an additional $2 million in emergency funds to UNICEF in India to help address the acute shortages of oxygen, and to deploy medical and testing supplies.
Also, Cognizant announced it would cover the cost of vaccinating more than 600,000 people in India, including its more than 200,000 full-time employees and their dependents in the country, as well as approximately 50,000 people comprising contingent staff, such as contractors, support and security personnel, and their families.
In a recent interview, Subhash Makhija, co-founder and CEO of GEP, a Clark-based provider of supply-chain software globally, said his company is doing quite a bit to address the problem.
GEP teamed up with other organizations/foundations and raised $1 million to help relieve the COVID-19 situation in India. FedEx flew a dedicated plane to India on May 8 with thousands of oxygen concentrators and millions of N95 masks.
The company and its accompanying GEP Social Initiatives organization are continuing this campaign and contributing $2 for every dollar donated by GEP employees. Makhija pointed out that FedEx and Air India will continue to transport these products for free. He also posted his appeal on his LinkedIn account.
GEP has a long-tenured relationship with an India-based nongovernmental organization called Akshaya Patra to support women’s development and the well-being of poor children, and all of these efforts are now focused on COVID, he told us.
Makhija noted that, when COVID first hit the U.S., GEP proactively connected personal protective equipment suppliers globally to U.S. hospitals in need, initially in the tri-state area, and then nationwide. Beyond the immediate COVID crisis, each year, GEP spends 5-10% of its annual profits on corporate social responsibility activities through direct contributions and the matching of employee donations.
“At GEP, we have calls three times a week on COVID issues. In addition, we are constantly in touch with employees who have been impacted. It’s a very difficult environment for them in terms of mental health, and you know every family knows someone who has been impacted, even if they haven’t been impacted themselves.”
Raj Patil, who is CEO and president of Orion Innovation, a digital-transformation and product-development services firm in Edison, said the company has 1,400 associates in India, but, so far, there had not been any significant impact from COVID-19 crisis on his company’s business.
“We are monitoring this on a daily basis to see which way this will go. So far, the cities where we have the largest population of our associates are not the most severely impacted.”
The company is making a large effort to extend care to its employees should they be impacted. It has developed a “COVID Care” website (covidcare.orioninc.com) where employees can log in and register any problems affecting them and their families, or others can do so on their behalf. That kicked off a whole set of actions and alerts, Patil said. With this website, “Somebody is already informed about the problem, and we have local organizations we are tied up with who can get into action. We can give (the employees) help right in their hometowns.”
Patil said Orion is also trying to secure vaccines, but has found this really difficult. In addition, the company is trying to secure oxygen tanks and other equipment and testing supplies that may be needed. And it is looking to raise money to donate to reliable NGOs on the ground in India.
“We are also just literally picking up the phone and calling people to make sure they are being attended to. We can spot check them, and make sure they understand what we are offering,” he told us.
Orion also set up an Orion Employee Crisis Relief Fund to support employees and their families impacted by COVID-19. The fund will be used to provide in-home medical relief efforts like doctors, caretakers, medicines and oxygen, and provide financial support for those families directly impacted. Orion has made an initial commitment of $25,000 to the fund and has opened the fund for employees to also make voluntary contributions, providing an initial 100% match.