Immersing with Intention: Our Portfolio Leans Further into India
As a firm that brings the world’s best ideas to India, we put culture at the forefront of our partner companies’ approach to India immersion, growth, and scale. Enabling a product or platform’s participation in the cultural zeitgeist means more than just understanding values and traditions. In the present context, it means finding new ways to be relevant to more than 1.3 billion Indians whose lives have been upended, and who are searching for ways to deal with the ripple effects of COVID-19. Our portfolio companies - which consist of some of the world’s best-known consumer technology companies, including Uber, Airbnb, Coursera, Headspace, Smule, and Wattpad - recognize that success comes from blending true cultural relevance with both compassion and creativity. In doing so, our companies have been able to find new cultural currency in India and, by focusing on customer well-being, have showcased the opportunities that abound in this market.
Uber and Airbnb: Addressing logistical challenges faced by health workers, consumers
One of India’s biggest challenges is the shortage of skilled healthcare workers. Uber, which completes over 14 million rides per week in India, realized that if the gap between healers and patients was to be minimized, the logistics problem needed to be solved immediately. Under its partnership with the National Highway Authority, Uber will initially facilitate 150 cars to transport frontline medical workers free of cost. Another concern Uber has been addressing is that of last-mile delivery of essential items. It has partnered with BigBasket across multiple cities to deliver essential items to buyers’ homes.
Also helping close the gap has been Airbnb, which is providing free or subsidized stays at its properties to 100,000 COVID-19 relief workers around the world, including in India. These “frontline stays,” coupled with their recently-launched online experiences, affirm the value of togetherness that Airbnb has always stood for.
Coursera: Helping institutions, learners tackle academic disruptions
We’re seeing watershed shifts and impactful interventions in the field of education. The temporary closure of once-teeming campuses has affected hundreds of millions, if not billions, students worldwide.
Online learning platform Coursera has stepped into the breach, allowing impacted universities to access and deliver 3,800 of its online courses to their students. This is being offered free of cost for much of 2020. In doing so, Coursera is not only helping universities speedily switch to e-learning, but also mitigating the consequences of lost classroom-teaching hours on students' academic progress.
In India, the digital learning platform is offering free access to its course catalog for impacted universities under its Coursera for Campus initiative. Over 1,200 Indian universities and colleges have signed up and new registrations saw a 500% jump year-on-year, accentuating the fact that India continues to be Coursera’s second-largest market in the world.
Headspace: Offering a healing touch in times of stress
Businesses are seeing massive disruptions due to the COVID-19 crisis, too. As a result, stress, worry, sleeplessness, lack of focus, and inactivity have emerged as risks for professionals as well as their employers.
The world’s leading meditation and mindfulness platform, Headspace, is offering an in-app selection of free wellness resources under its ‘Weathering the Storm’ library. These meditation, mindfulness, and movement resources have benefited countless people around the world: ordinary citizens, healthcare workers, business leaders, and many others. In addition, Headspace’s co-founder Andy Puddicombe - a former Tibetan Buddhist monk - also leads daily virtual #TakeTen sessions, to help people cope better in these tumultuous times.
Smule and Wattpad: Enabling human connection through expression and experience
Meanwhile, Smule is using the transcendental power of music to help people sing together from the safety of their own homes. Using the Smule app, users croon their favorite songs with friends and family across geographies and timezones. This not only gives them a greater sense of connection but provides a break from the grim news all around.
Something similar is happening at the social storytelling platform Wattpad, recently named one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies of 2020. Wattpad is seeing a 25% surge in overall activity in India, with writing activity doubling in recent weeks. We believe that people are increasingly using storytelling to cope with the changes around them, to share their hopes and fears, and to connect with thriving creative communities for encouragement and support. And Wattpad’s compelling writing, community-building, and publishing resources have made it the perfect platform to chronicle these heartfelt, vivid stories.
Even as the world fights back against COVID-19, we believe these times will inspire the best in companies around the world as they rethink how they connect to customers, partners, and society at large. And there’s no better place in the world in which to reimagine and reinvent for a new world than India, a microcosm of all the world’s markets.