MUMBAI: A group of students and alumni of IIT-Bombay have launched a round-the-clock ambulance service. In a month, they have attended to around 3,600 calls. Their aim is to reduce the long waiting period for an ambulance, a common problem amid the Covid-19 outbreak.
Another common complaint in the city is sky-high rates, which also the group wants to address. It has its own vehicles and these are available for Rs 5,000 for 5 km with the charge increasing with distance after the first 5 km. They are also trying to get more and more private ambulances under one aggregation platform, though they say they have no control over the prices charged by the private players.
They claim people will get an ambulance in an hour and 45 minutes after they dial 8899889952.
Called HelpNow, the initiative began with five ambulances. It now offers 45 ambulances, including private ones, 15 of which are dedicated for Covid patients.
Three students from the institute, Aditya Makkar, Shikar Agarwal and Venkatesh Amrutwar, were the brains behind the initiative. The IIT-Bombay administration has no role in it.
“In 2017, we had to struggle to get an ambulance for my father in Delhi after he suffered a heart attack. We had to rush him in a car. When we learnt that Mumbai is facing a shortage in this pandemic, we decided to start this service,” Makkar said.
They got an initial funding of Rs 2 lakh from the Desai Sethi Centre for Entrepreneurship at IIT-Bombay. Makkar said they chalked out a plan and looked around for volunteers. As many as 24 health workers and students came forward.
“Each one of them is well-trained in handling Covid patients, as well as dead bodies. The driver and the attendants are equipped with the best PPE kits, hand gloves, masks and sanitisers. After every call, we thoroughly sanitise the vehicle. We are also providing them with preventive medicines of Ayush,” Amrutwar said.
They have even carried bodies of unknown Covid victims free of cost.