The pandemic has jolted families, friends, and individual security. No facial coverings could mask the realities that we all confronted as towns, cities and yes, even countries were forced to shut down. Lives have been lost and families torn apart by its effects. Commerce has also taken the full brunt of its impact.

Pandemic relief supplies being shipped to areas of need by Microsoft.

COVID-19’s many waves have slammed financial markets, devastated the economy, and overloaded healthcare systems, and unfortunately too many did not survive. It forced businesses around the world to switch gears, hold themselves accountable, and find the reset button on their console of day-to-day activities. However, as the saying goes, adversity does not create character—it reveals it. I am pleased to say that good character abounds among members of the South Asia business community.

India, the second most populous country on the planet with nearly 1.4 billion citizens, experienced its own unwelcomed time in May as the epicenter of the crisis. The country is no exception to the global pain of the pandemic, as a new level of leadership was required to get through the abyss of the last year. Businesses around the world lacked established playbooks to deal with something of this magnitude; who would or could have predicted this? Yet industry responded with an uncommon level of compassion and vigilance.

According to reports, the toll of the pandemic on India has been unimaginable, as nearly 30 million have contracted the virus at the time of this writing, and hundreds of thousands have succumbed. The healthcare system is still showing signs of tremendous strain under the heavy burden. Daily cases have now ebbed a bit, but for an alarming period, the country continued to set record highs, day after day.

While it may be safe to consider the possibility of a light at the end of the tunnel, this still remains one of the most significant humanitarian crises of our lifetime—and one that requires a new level of leadership. To that end, many have stepped up, and we would like to recognize the good will of the business community, particularly members of the BELA South Asia Chapter, who are continuing to lead during dire times and have been galvanized into action. While there is a long list of contributions, here are some highlights in a year of crises:

The recently-approved Sputnik-V vaccine being produced in one of Dr. Reddy’s facilities in India.

  • Tata Steel increased its supply of liquid medical oxygen to help save lives.
  • Reddy’s stepped up production of the recently approved Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, anticipating 50 million doses manufactured in India in the coming months.
  • Mahindra leveraged its production facilities and expertise to manufacture health supplies such as ventilators, and Mahindra Logisticslaunched a free emergency cab service for senior citizens in certain areas who require transportation for vaccination and other emergency services.
  • The Coca-Cola Company in India pledged an initial contribution of INR 50 crores ($6.85 million) to facilitate vaccinations, emergency supplies, and more.
  • Intel worked with India’s Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad, to deploy Intel client and server solutions to help achieve faster and less expensive COVID-19 testing.
  • Microsoft continues to leverage technology, resources, and voice to help its several hundred employees in India and other countries. As part of the Global Task Force on Pandemic Response, they helped provide 1,000 ventilators and 25,000 oxygen concentration devices to Indian healthcare facilities (pictured in transit).
  • Uber confirmed that it will provide 25,000 free rides to and from vaccination centers in 19 cities over the coming months to facilitate the vaccination of the vulnerable and disadvantaged elderly.

As Pradeep Parameswaran, Regional General Manager, APAC, Uber, stated in his editor’s letter in the 2020 BELA South Asia Magazine, “It is the responsibility of purpose-driven companies to add a sense of calm and security, which we can do by simply caring and adhering to our cultural values and principles. It is during challenging times like these that people need more than ever the security of knowing that the businesses they rely on can always be relied on to do the right thing.”

The common theme through all of these civic-minded actions is that businesses can and should be accountable to society, particularly during crisis. We are, after all, fellow citizens, providers of economic prosperity and often leaders within the communities that we not only support, but in which we live. Like a good neighbor cares for the family next door, so too must businesses demonstrate concern and take action for the greater good. Proudly the business community has done just that.

Leaders of the BELA South Asia community have exemplified this notion, and they continue to set and exceed expectations. It is clear that by working together—whether that means enabling volunteers locally, connecting peers at BELA South Asia companies to share knowledge about their initiatives, contributing financially, donating expertise, or creating solutions that will matter in the end—we can play an important role in mitigating this terrible situation.

We have seen time and time again that our community of business leaders has the economic and intellectual power that will see India through trying times. Now we have seen that we also have the will. Holding ourselves accountable in ways never done before has helped to ease the pain in our communities. It saves lives. What can be more important than that?

About the Expert:

Aarti Maharaj is managing director of Ethisphere’s BELA South Asia Chapter and Asia Pacific Chapter. BELA South Asia was established in 2017. She is responsible for steering the development of the Chapter, which has grown to over 25 Founding members companies and has become Ethisphere’s key conduit to engaging companies interested in improving business integrity across India, the world’s second most populous nation.

Aarti simultaneously serves as executive director of Communication at the Ethisphere where she leads the Company’s external communications, and global partnerships. From 2016-2019, Aarti successfully spearheaded communications for Ethisphere’s signature event, the Global Ethics Summit in NYC, where she netted stories in numerous publications including the Wall Street Journal, Forbes and other industry publications. Prior to her roles at Ethisphere, Aarti worked at Compliance Week Magazine where she covered Ethics and Compliance in Europe. Previously, Aarti worked at AECOM Technology Corporation where she led ethics and compliance-related communications, training, and awareness.