An aerial view of Aluva town following a flash flood after heavy rains, in Kochi. (Source: Navy Photo via PTI) 

Startup Street: How Startups Helped Save Lives In Flood-Hit Kerala

This week on Startup Street, two of the several startups used their technology to speed up rescue missions in the flood-hit Kerala. A fitness and well-being startup laid out an aggressive expansion plan. And Masayoshi Son’s Softbank invested in yet another car-sharing company. Here’s what went on.

Crypto-Saviours!

When a devastating flood ravaged Kerala, a Mumbai startup allowed cryptocurrency owners provide financial aid to the affected people.

Over the last one week PocketBits, a cryptocurrency exchange platform, collected donations in the form various digital tokens, including the likes of Bitcoin and Ethereum, converted them into Indian rupees and wired them to the state. It also set up a dedicated portal for fundraising on its website, which as of Friday was closed.

“All coins sent will be converted into INR (Indian rupee) at spot prices every few hours. Half of the amount will be sent to the chief minister’s fund and the rest will be used to buy goods to donate towards Goonj,” the website said. “We will also work with regional NGOs (Goonj on Amazon and Anbodu Kochi) to have goods (sanitary napkins, medicines, etc.) delivered to pick-up centres in Bengaluru.”

The purpose of this initiative is to enable local and international donors to donate to the cause without having the hassle of converting to fiat locally.
Sohail Merchant, Chief Executive Officer and Founder, PocketBits

PocketBits is leading the initiative in partnership with cryptocommunity IndiaBits, Joel John of Outlier Ventures, and crypto venture capitalist Pankaj Jain.

This comes at a time the Reserve Bank of India has placed a virtual ban on cryptocurrencies in the country.

“Next time someone tells you only criminals use tokens, remind them that the technology can be used for good too,” Joel John, one of the partners in the initiative, wrote on Twitter.

PocketBits is acting as the sole custodian of the digital tokens being transferred to it and is paying the Indian currency out of its own kitty. The startup has also been actively sharing invoices of how the contributed funds have been used to date. Besides, all of the transactions have been recorded and are verifiable on the blockchain.

This Startups Location-Intelligence Tech Helped Rescue Teams In Kerala

A view of the flood affected areas in Kochi. (Photo: PTI)
A view of the flood affected areas in Kochi. (Photo: PTI)

As the country got together to help those affected by floods in Kerala, this three-year old technology firm moved into the control room of the State Disaster Management to do its bit.

Strava Technologies’ drone-mapping and location-intelligence technology was widely used by the rescue teams—the Indian Army, Navy, Airforce, NDRF and Coast Gaurd Forces—according to a company statement.

Strava Technologies, Geo Spatial Division were tremendous in not just coming up with a technological solution, but also in working as the emergency control centre consolidating distress calls, social media, WhatsApp, SOS, etc., from all parts of the state and providing final intelligence data to the forces.
Kerala State Disaster Management Authorities

The startup collaborated all SOS calls from various sources to get a better picture of the areas of distress and the number of people that needed to be rescued. Once this was done, employees were divided into three teams—centralised emergency compiler, IT missions and state secretariat’s IT Cell—it said.

Cure.fits Aggressive Expansion Plan

People run on treadmills to exercise during a work out session. (Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg)
People run on treadmills to exercise during a work out session. (Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg)

Health and wellness startup Cure.fit plans to open 500 fitness centers across the country by 2021.

The startup has raised $120 billion raised in July, Co-Founder Mukesh Bansal, flanked by Hrithik Roshan—Bollywood actor and brand ambassador of the startup—said. “In India, (we) will reach 200 by the end of next year and hopefully, if all goes well, 500 by 2021,” Bansal said, according to a PTI report.

Cure.fit, founded in Bengaluru two years ago, operates three verticals—Cult.fit, Eat.fit and Mind.fit. It has further expanded to Gurgaon, delhi and Hyderabad. While Cult.fit provides training modules, the other two verticals provide food and meditation sessions.

“Got great response in Bengaluru, followed by Gurgaon and Delhi. Hyderabad is the third city we are launching,” Bansal said.

The startup has crossed 1 lakh customers in its current markets.

SoftBank Invests In Car-Sharing Startup, Yet Again

Masayoshi Son’s SoftBank is diving deeper into the car-sharing industry with its investment in Getaround.

The San Francisco-based startup received $300 million in a round led by SoftBank Group Corp, Bloomberg reported. This adds to the list of other ride-sharing startups— India’s Ola, Singapore’s Grab and China’s Didi Chuxing, as well as Uber Technologies Inc.—that the company has invested in.

Getaround’s founder and chief Sam Zaid said the funds will be used for faster expansions. “That was one of the reasons we were excited to work with SoftBank,” he said, speaking about the firm’s reach in Asia and beyond.

Before this, the startup has raised $100 million from investors, including Menlo Ventures and Toyota Motor Corp.