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Seattle-area tech leaders join forces to try to raise $10M to aid India’s COVID-19 battle

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Leaders with Seattle for India gathered for a video conference call Thursday to promote the cause. The call included Madrona Venture Group’s Steve Singh, Apptio CEO Sunny Gupta, and Amperity CEO Kabir Shahani. Joining them was Ramanan Laxminarayan, director of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy and an affiliate professor at the University of Washington.

Tech leaders have formed a group called Seattle for India that’s trying to raise $10 million to support efforts that are delivering crucial healthcare supplies to India, which is in the midst of a COVID-19 crisis. The effort publicly launched Wednesday night and the organization has raised more than $2 million so far.

For one of the organizers, Apptio CEO Sunny Gupta, the emergency has impacted him personally.

Last week he learned that his father-in-law, who lives in India, had the virus and was taken to the hospital where he died three days later at the age of 76. His mother-in-law also was infected and was not able to be with her husband in his last moments of life. Then Gupta received a call that his parents were also infected, and his mother has underlying health challenges.

“We are praying for their health,” said an emotional Gupta on a videoconferencing call Thursday to promote the fundraising campaign.

Seattle for India is using its donations to support OxygenForIndia, which is a volunteer-run initiative focused on delivering medical oxygen to sick people, particularly those who are poor and unlikely to be admitted at a hospital, as well as working to expand the availability of critical-care beds.

Other Seattle for India participants include Accolade CEO Rajeev “Raj” Singh, former Concur CEO and Madrona Venture Group managing partner Steve Singh, and Amperity CEO Kabir Shahani. Akila Somasegar, a philanthropist involved with the United Nations Foundation whose husband S. Somasegar is a managing director with Madrona, is also playing a key role.

“You all can make a massive difference. We need financial resources right away. Time is of the essence,” Gupta said.

COVID is spreading like wildfire in India, with more than 21 million confirmed cases according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, as reported by the New York Times. More than 230,168 people have died according to official numbers, though experts say the actual death count is much higher.

The increase in the number of cases has soared 46% over two weeks, according to the Times, while deaths are up 120%.

OxygenForIndia has established partnerships with United Airlines to carry supplies on every flight going to India and is also setting up special charters directed at four hubs across the country to carry oxygen cylinders.

While the pandemic is calming in the U.S. as vaccination rates climb, supporters for Seattle for India urged people here to remember that COVID remains a worldwide crisis that will continue to impact Americans and that people elsewhere are in desperate need of care.

“Everything we do is connected on a global basis and so just as the All In Seattle group of people came together to help our local neighbors, it is our strong desire that we come together to help our brothers and sisters that happen to be a little bit further away,” said Steve Singh on the call.

All In Seattle was an effort that raised millions of dollars to help people who were financially hard hit by the virus and the resulting economic shutdowns.

Whether in the U.S. or abroad, “COVID is a pandemic that highlights inequity,” said Shahani. And in India, where cities are packed with people, there is no opportunity to lockdown and give space to others. Social distancing, oxygen and personal protective equipment are privileges that not everyone can access, he added.

OxygenForIndia is a program managed by the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy, a research group with offices in Washington, D.C. and New Delhi.

Many additional Pacific Northwest-led efforts are also working to help address the crisis in India. That includes contributions from Microsoft Philanthropies and Amazon to aid a program being spearheaded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Microsoft employees, whose donations are matched by the company, have given more than $3 million for organizations working on the ground in India.

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