IT mogul, philanthropist, and Wipro founder-chairman Azim Premji proposed the Indian government engage with private companies and allow them to take part in the country’s mega vaccination drive and said that India can vaccinate around 50 crore people in 2 months if it allows the private sector to engage.  

His proposal came during an interaction at the Bangalore chamber of industry and commerce which was attended by him, along with other industry moguls and even Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. 

In the interaction, Premji told the Finance Minister that, “I think if the government was to engage the private industry quickly, we can rest assured that we can achieve a coverage of 500 million people within 60 days.” Further, he appreciated the work the Indian government has done so far and said that the current vaccination rate will get a big boost if private sector companies also join in.  

Speaking about logistics and prices associated with it, Premji said, “There is a possibility that we can get the Serum Institute to supply vaccine at about Rs 300 per shot, and hospitals, private nursing homes can administer this at a cost of Rs 100 per shot. So with 400 rupees a shot, it is possible to do mass vaccination of the population. I think it is very important that the government does consider this as a major supplementation to the effort.” 

Additionally, Premji also touched upon how IT industry completely transformed during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Premji, 90% of the workforce who are employed in the technology sector in India have been working from home. He lauded this hybrid model and said that the hybrid model of the majority of the workforce being able to effectively work from home can have a huge comparative advantage.  

“Technology is becoming the lifeline for us as individuals and also businesses. If there was any doubt, the year 2020 showed how fundamental technology has become,” said the IT Tzar. He said that the hybrid model of working can also help in increase of inclusive growth, better participation of people from all the corners of the country, and women having the opportunity to contribute while working from home.  

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Sitharaman who also took part in the interaction said that the recently announced Union Budget 2021-22 is about the Indian government playing the role of facilitator and private sector companies being the key driver of economic growth. 

“The most important component or input required here is the participation of the private sector. Unless the private sector is energised enough, unless it is facilitated enough, India is just losing a very big opportunity”, said the Finance Minister. 

Moreover, according to Sitharaman, the COVID-19 vaccine was another milestone and example of how government and private companies can work together cohesively. Sitharaman stated that it is India’s vision of being a world leader with an “India touch”, that is more humane, more peaceful, and about bringing people together. Its vision will remain incomplete unless the government does not facilitate the private sector and the private sector plays the role of “key driver”.  

It is not the first time an Indian industry mogul has proposed the Indian government to include private companies in the vaccination drive efforts.  

Earlier this month, Uday Kotak, MD and CEO of Kotak Mahindra Bank said that the faster India gets the vaccination drive done, the better it is. “I would like to see the world and India getting into the roaring Twenties of 2021 and beyond. For us to get there, one of the most critical aspects is to get COVID behind us and under control as soon as possible,” said Kotak in an address at All India Management Association. 

Mahindra group’s Anand Mahindra also called the Indian government’s attention towards harnessing the power of private sector giants in the vaccination drive efforts. Mahindra had tweeted a video graphic that showed that India ranks 4 in the global vaccination race against the COVID-19. 

With the video graphic, Mahindra wrote that although India is at 4th position it is certainly not enough. He tagged the Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Dr. Harsh Vardhan, and said, “We need to harness the private sector’s capability to scale up distribution rapidly. Widespread vaccination is our main hope against any new waves which are now a serious threat.” 

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