Wadhwani Foundation pledges Rs 200 crore to help distressed SMEs

The Wadhwani Foundation (WF) has committed an investment of Rs 200 crore to help distressed small and medium enterprises (SMEs) affected by Covid-19-induced economic crisis and public health workers to improve COVID-19 knowledge and skills.

Wadhwani Foundation on Wednesday said it is building an ecosystem of partners, including government ministries and agencies, banks, and consulting firms, to help operationalise this large and complex initiative called “Sahayata”.

The Sahayata initiative consists of three programmes — the Sahayata Business Stability programme — that will provide up to 10,000 SMEs with transformational business consulting equipping them with the expertise necessary to survive, stabilise and grow.

Second is the Sahayata Covid-19 skilling programme that aims to initially skill 5,000 existing and new public health workers per month and increasing to 50,000 per month, ultimately serving 500,000 to one million existing and new health workers.

The third is the Sahayata Public Health Innovation programme that will provide innovation grants or investments to up to 50 startups and early-stage companies to help accelerate innovation in public health technology in India.

Each award will be between Rs 25 lakh to Rs 1 crore, the non-profit foundation said.

“Covid-19 has created both a health and an economic crisis that is especially harming SMEs and jobs. Without proper credit and consulting support, the short- and long-term damage to the SME sector will be enormous,” Romesh Wadhwani, Founder and Chairman, Wadhwani Foundation, said in a statement.

“The Foundation’s large investment in Sahayata supplements the government’s massive stimulus package by providing 10,000 SMEs with consulting services that will help them survive, stabilise, and ultimately grow into successful businesses and help save or create 100,000 jobs.”

The foundation said it has built all three Sahayata programmes over the last 90 days and the rapid deployment will begin in August 2020.

“Wadhwani Foundation has signed partnerships with SIDBI, Clix Capital, IIFL Finance, Power2SME, and Magma Fincorp to select the SMEs for this programme, jointly. Starting in August 2020, this Sahayata programme will sign up 50 SMEs per month, increasing progressively to 500 SMEs per month,” said Ajay Kela, President and CEO, Wadhwani Foundation.

Wadhwani Foundation said it will launch Sahayata in Mexico in August 2020 and plans to expand the program to Brazil early in 2021 and in Africa and Southeast Asia (Indonesia, the Philippines and Bangladesh) in mid-2021.