COVID-19 has made one thing abundantly clear- inequality affects everyone. Unless those most vulnerable to natural calamities, poverty, and unemployment are protected, everyone else will remain at risk. During a time when even developed nations struggled to provide basic facilities to their citizens, these vulnerable populations, most of whom reside in developing nations like Bangladesh, faced enormous obstacles. But social businesses have proven themselves to be capable of adapting to the worst of situations, some thriving in the face of adversity. Several stepped up as first responders, protecting lives and livelihoods when others could not. YY Ventures celebrates these resilient warriors, who never backed down even when things did not go according to plan.
The Covid-19 pandemic presented a unique opportunity to AmarLab, a startup that was already offering at-home healthcare and diagnostic services before the lockdown had begun. For the first time they launched online doctor consultation services, initially through Zoom and later through their own telemedicine platform “HelloDoc”, which garnered a lot of press as the Honourable Minister of State for Information and Communication Technology Division of Bangladesh presided over the inauguration. People from all over Dhaka began reaching out with sample collection requests for COVID-19 detection and other tests. They were getting anywhere from 10,000-20,000 calls every month from patients seeking counsel. Nearly all of these patients stayed on as loyal clients because of their excellent service. Throughout the lockdown period, they offered telemedicine services and online doctor consultation to 2784 patients in total.
Tourism was amongst the first industries to take a hit during the pandemic. For Avijatrik, an ecotourism service that offers an authentic cultural experience to tourists and empowers local communities across Bangladesh, all sales had dropped to zero by the end of March. But they pivoted to providing digital marketing services to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) within just 15 days. After identifying a demand for digital marketing services among small e-commerce merchants or SMEs, they formed Avijatrik Digital. With a bigger team equipped with web development and design skills, they began offering complete e-commerce solutions to their clients. As Avijatrik Digital took precedence over Avijatrik Tourism during the pandemic, all efforts went into promoting their digital marketing and management services to attract new clients. They have been catering to several SMEs and e-commerce merchants successfully after fine tuning their operations.
The fashion market changed drastically at the beginning of the lockdown. Broqué, Bangladesh’s first fully upcycled fashion label, initially had to close down one of their shops because of reduced sales. But after two months they were ready to hit the market again, this time selling reusable face masks. These were impeccably designed to offer the best protection and fit. For each mask sold, one was given away for free to people in need. Over 40,000 single-use face masks were replaced for their sales. Besides this, they were able to rescue and upcycle over a tonne of discarded clothes, a portion of which was donated to at-risk communities. As consumers were becoming more receptive to the concepts of slow fashion, Broqué initiated mindful dialogs for fostering an ecosystem of sustainable supply chains.
Max TapWater’s piped water grids offered safe water to 1,600 households in rural Bangladesh, while plans to build new grids were postponed to 2021. During the pandemic, Max TapWater staff and Max Foundation supported each other through joint awareness campaigns promoting hygiene safety among customers. Their services became indispensable for underserved communities, impacting the health and hygiene of 6,700 lives, including 3,200 children. Because of their “build small, work local” strategy, travel restrictions did not hamper their operations, rather they were able to retain everyone in their workforce.
The crisis popularised digital banking in rural communities, which is expected to make processing payments more transparent for customers and less time-consuming for Max TapWater. Being a part of YY Goshti Spring 2020 Cohort prepared them to scale up despite limitations and they were able to establish a partnership with FloWater Solutions, Bangladesh-based water, and wastewater solutions company.
The year 2020 was a testament to the boundless capacity of social businesses for addressing issues that matter. If more such revolutionary entrepreneurs do not come forward to create lasting change, then who will?
Give a shoutout to our team at email@example.com if you are willing to join forces to to fight the pandemic.