The British Asian Trust ‘India Recovery Fund’ was launched at the India Global Forum on Wednesday (30 June). During an inspiring session on the role of the private sector in India’s post-COVID recovery, speakers including the Indian High Commissioner to the UK, Her Excellency Gaitri Kumar, Lord Karan Bilimoria, President of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), and senior representatives from leading businesses from the UK and India, including BT, Accenture, HSBC, Diageo, Reliance and JSW Group, spoke of the importance of collaboration across sectors to “build forward better."
In response to the catastrophic rise in COVID-19 cases in India, the British Asian Trust ‘Oxygen for India’ appeal raised over £5m for oxygen concentrators and other vital medical support. The ‘India Recovery Fund’ is building on the unprecedented success of this appeal and aims to take forward the call for collaboration in the private sector. The Fund, which is supported by the CBI and leading corporate partners, including BT and Accenture, aims to respond to key challenges for India’s post-COVID recovery.
- Increasing access to vaccinations and medical support
- Protecting children’s wellbeing and safety
- Rebuilding livelihoods
The global pandemic has mobilised the business community to respond to the escalating crisis in India, giving back to the community at large. With companies finding more and more innovative ways to use their resources and expertise to respond to this emergency, the discussion at the India Global Forum focused on the ways businesses can support the recovery in India, working with government and other stakeholders to build back better.
The India Global Forum event, co-chaired by Lord Bilimoria and Andy Wales, Chief Digital and Sustainability Officer at BT, provided a platform for the leading companies present to share the incredible work that has been going on across their organisations to respond to the COVID crisis and the key challenges for future recovery. The key themes highlighted by all present were: the scale of the challenge ahead, the central role the private sector can play, and the need for collaboration to meet this challenge. Other issues discussed included vaccine hesitancy, mental health, the needs of hard-to-reach and marginalised communities, and the enormous loss of livelihoods.
In summing up, Lord Bilimoria highlighted the clear desire among those present to keep doing more:
“The COVID crisis has had an impact on each and every organisation and person here today. It has been incredible to hear the examples of businesses being a force for good and responding collaboratively at speed, along with the British and Indian governments, in a moment of great need. One of the key takeaways from this discussion for me, is the desire to keep the momentum going. To keep doing more. We can and we must and that is why the CBI is supporting the British Asian Trust India Recovery Fund and why I call on you all to do the same.”
He was joined in his praise by HE Gaitri Kumar, the High Commissioner to the UK. Her Excellency said:
“At the High Commission of India, even as our Economic and Commercial Wing analysed data and liaised between Empowered Groups of Line Ministries on our side and UK industry to procure equipment at the best possible terms and conditions, the response of British industry was incredibly substantial and swift. Unexpectedly, a vast quantity of donations also poured in. Our efforts, round the clock, in managing logistics and transport were guided by Members of CBI, the British Asian Trust, UKIBC and the FICCI, who donated their invaluable time and resources. We received during that period a continuous flow of information, offers and responses from the industry. Our work and success in that operation was truly instructive on the way that natural partners can work together effectively. At the heart of this response has been a spirit of trust and transparency.”
The British Asian Trust, the CBI, BT and other Recovery Fund members aim to work together to create even greater impact to support India’s post-COVID recovery. Collaboration has been key throughout the crisis, bringing unlikely coalitions together from across the private, government and civil society sectors to distribute food, medical and oxygen supplies to those most in need. Going forward, this momentum and spirit of collaboration must be harnessed to ensure no one is left behind.
After the event, Saleem Khan, India Director of the British Asian Trust said:
“We have been overwhelmed by the support for the India Emergency Appeal from individuals, organisations and companies. The response of the business community, in particular, has enabled us to respond like never before, by providing equipment and logistical support, as well as raising funds and awareness. We want to keep building on this momentum and engagement to implement a three-stage response, recover, rebuild strategy that will support the long-term recovery for the hardest hit families and communities in India.”
Across its three key areas of intervention, the India Recovery Fund’s goals for the first £3 million raised are:
- 3 million people vaccinated in hard-to-reach areas
- 300,000 children’s wellbeing and safety are protected and improved
- 22,000 people benefit from improved livelihoods
Among the founding members of the India Recovery Fund is BT, a strategic partner of the British Asian Trust for the past 3 years in India, working to empower adolescent girls in India by leveraging the power of digital technology. Co-chair of the event Andy Wales, BT Chief Digital and Sustainability Officer, spoke about the way BT has been working with the British Asian Trust to support their programme partners and the girls they are working with in India, during this crisis:
“We have stepped up support for our colleagues and partners as well as their communities with funding for emergency relief during the devastating second wave. This included not just delivery of food rations, oxygen concentrators and medical supplies, but also dedicated mental health support. We also helped fund higher education fees, provided laptops together with data plans and other devices to support remote learning. We proudly supported the hugely successful Oxygen Appeal that was initiated by our long-term partner the British Asian Trust. And we are honoured to be one of the founding partners of this new initiative that will help us deepen our relationship with the BAT and help secure a better future for India.”
The India Global Forum event ended with a call to action from Lord Bilimoria for businesses to join the British Asian Trust ‘India Recovery Fund’ to help India build back better from this devastating period. As Kshitija Krishnasway, Managing Director – Corporate Citizenship at Accenture, a Founding Member of the Fund, highlighted:
“There is an urgent need to respond to the needs of communities on the ground, to overcome vaccine hesitancy and rebuild livelihoods including in new in-demand sectors such as healthcare and green jobs. We hope more companies will join with us, so we can achieve the scale and impact necessary for a sustainable recovery.”