UBS PERSPECTIVES: FRUGAL INNOVATIONS IN THE FIGHT AGAINST COVID-19 PRACHI MEHTA, MARKETING TEAM

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COVID 19 has brought about a transformation in the way we live, and if things don’t get better with time, it is likely to remain so in the approaching times. The magnitude of this crisis has impacted the entire global economy, institutions and even households so much so that even the most advanced countries could not tackle the rampant outbreak of the disease. The world in the past has witnessed a series of catastrophes, but none was compelling enough to make us change our lifestyle to such limits. There is a wave of change in the way we work, travel, socialize, communicate which if practiced in the right spirit can help us from the spreading virus. One of the important aspects is that COVID 19 has affected all; the rich and the poor, the educated and the illiterate, the powerful, and the underprivileged. This makes us wonder whether it is possible to be prepared for such an eventuality or not. Does technological and economical self-reliance alone help overcome such global crises? While money will always be short, especially for the majority living in developing and underdeveloped countries, can technology be leveraged through frugal innovations to help us fight such a crisis? 

The crisis has made us cognizant of a lot of facts which were always in place, but never acknowledged. The first and foremost parameter which came into being was a powerful and well-connected public healthcare system. Most countries in the world have healthcare systems that meet the basic medical requirements of the public, but are not well equipped to upscale its facilities during such crucial times. A lesson learnt here was that most nations promptly need to enhance their medical systems in order to be useful in such times of crisis. Hence these frugal innovations gain importance in such times. 

Covid-19 has required unparalleled frugal innovation responses from around the world. There have been some extraordinary moves. India and Pakistan are refitting their rolling stock of trains to become hospital wards for patients with COVID-19, China constructed a 1,000-bed hospital in 10 days, distilleries have pivoted to produce millions of bottles of hand sanitizer, nations that uphold free choice, movement and competition have suddenly foregone many fundamental values and privileges. For example, in addition to enacting widespread social-distancing measures, the UK, in a landmark deal, has commissioned all of its private-sector hospitals for use by the National Health Service, at cost, expanding capacity by 8,000 beds.  

 The outbreak of coronavirus has had a major disruption on colleges and universities and in such trying times Universal Business School has pulled up its game by innovating its operations in the most frugal manner, yet ensuring efficiency. The college has given easy and flexible fee payment options to students, work from home policy has been implemented for the staff and other support function members, a complete virtual classroom environment has been given to students, on-campus living fee reduction options have been offered to students. By adopting such measures, Universal Business School has adapted to the new normal working ecosystem. 

Frugal innovation in healthcare does not mean compromised quality standards, but instead means the ability to provide safe healthcare in the best way possible under given challenges and constraints. Challenging as the current public-health crisis is, frugal innovation provides opportunities to expand access to healthcare and to ensure that the facilities are good enough under the current circumstances. Frugal innovations will never be an outdated mantra. Doing more, with the less, for the many will always be the hallmark of development.

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