As India faces one of its worst public health crises, a top Indian-American CEO has said it is time for other countries to step up their efforts and help the country deal with the COVID-19 situation.
Deloitte CEO Punit Renjen said the company is encouraging its 3,00,000 professionals across the globe to support three charities -- GiveIndia, United Way India, and the PM cares Fund.
"This is India's hour of need. India helped us out when we were going through it in the Western world. And it is up to us to step up, not only for the people that call India home but for all of us,” Renjen told PTI.
"This is a global crisis. If the virus is in one environment, and then mutates, it will impact everybody. No one is safe unless all of us are safe. So, we have to step up. This is the right thing to do. It is also the right thing to do for each of us as business leaders,” he said.
Renjen’s mother who lives in Rohtak in Haryana has tested positive for COVID-19.
"We are focused on two things. One taking care of our people. 15 per cent of Deloitte is in India. So, taking care of our people is very important, and then giving back to India,” he said.
Responding to a question, he said Deloitte’s strategy is to protect its people and support those impacted.
Protecting its people ranges from providing wellness support and vaccines to getting them tested, Renjen said, adding that “six per cent of Deloitte is impacted by COVID-19”.
Deloitte has created a network of support for its workforce and their families in India, including covering the costs of vaccination and testing, instituting a 24/7 helpline for medical and wellness support, and offering flexible work schedules and mental health services, he said.
"In terms of giving back to India, I think we really need to do three things. One, we need to address the current situation. That is really around oxygen and supplies. Second, we need to prepare for the next wave because like we saw in the United States, like we've seen elsewhere in the world, there will be multiple waves, that is the way COVID happens,” he said.
"And then the third thing that we need to do is to address the mid-to-long term,” he said.
The CEO said it's time for companies to invest in the healthcare infrastructure.
"For many, many decades, we have under-invested, and I think it's time for us to invest. That's the way to approach it,” he added.
Deloitte as part of the global business task force is focused on getting immediate aid to India. The first set of 1,000 oxygen concentrators was delivered to India recently.
"We have now commitments from a number of corporates, for 25,000, oxygen concentrators,” he said, adding that all consignments are consigned to the Red Cross in partnership with the Ministry of Health and they are allocating it in a transparent way.
"We are also focused on cryogenic containers for oxygen,” he said.
Renjen said Deloitte is working with other companies to get essential medical supplies to India. “What we also need to do is, we have to stop the crunch at hospitals. We are close to announcing an innovative approach to expand the medical ward,” he said.
"As the head of AIIMS said a large portion of the population will have COVID and can be taken care of at home with appropriate medical supervision, like my mother,” Renjen said.
Other multinationals, he observed, are stepping up efforts and are doing the same things that Deloitte is doing.
Deloitte, he said, is directly supporting the US India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF) in its work with the Government of India. It is providing pro-bono services to help USISPF manage the tasks to orchestrate this endeavor.
Responding to a question, Renjen said he is extremely impressed with the Biden administration's efforts to help India.
"The one thing that the Biden administration needs to recognize is that this will take time. I think we have to stay with India and with the rest of the countries which are going through this and provide them assistance," he said.