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Crisis As a Catalyst: A Showcase of Pandemic-Driven Entrepreneurship Entrepreneurship isn't just about taking advantage of economic opportunity. It is also about finding solutions when necessary

By Nishikanth Samarth

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Nikhil Arun

The COVID-19 pandemic was one of the defining moments of our lifetime – emerging as a pivotal unfortunate event. Healthcare systems couldn't keep up with the unprecedented outbreak, , mortality rates were high, and lockdowns adversely impacted the global economy.

The pandemic presented an interesting case study for entrepreneurship: showing how entrepreneurs can help society in a time of need. We generally think of entrepreneurship as building businesses to take advantage of economic opportunities, but entrepreneurship is also about finding solutions when necessary. Today we are going to highlight one such story about a child of immigrants who found himself in the middle of the pandemic and used entrepreneurship to help millions.

Key Takeaways:

  • Entrepreneurship isn't just about taking advantage of economic opportunity. It is also about finding solutions when necessary
  • The pandemic shows us how entrepreneurship can help in a time of need
  • There were many innovations in the pandemic, including COVID tests, testing as a service, vaccine distribution for the underprivileged, and outbreak trackers

Nikhil Arun, the son of Indian immigrants to the US, is a serial entrepreneur who rose up the ranks at Microsoft and founded a digital advertising technology company that he successfully exited in the Valley. As VP of Product + Customer at 1health, Arun found himself in a place to help those in need in the middle of the pandemic. Arun and his dedicated team were instrumental in introducing four innovations that proved invaluable during the COVID Pandemic.

The Team — In-Video Impressions

The first at-home saliva test

Arun played a crucial role in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic by spearheading the product team that developed the first at-home COVID saliva test in the United States in partnership with Rutgers University Labs. Arun's vision and relentless dedication were key in orchestrating the innovation that allowed individuals to conveniently conduct a test for the virus from the comfort of their homes. With this, he remarkably contributed his efforts to the progress of medical testing while also drawing a comprehensive understanding between academia and the healthcare industry during the global crisis.

This was a major breakthrough in the battle against COVID-19 as it allowed individuals to test themselves accurately for the virus without having to rely on healthcare professionals, making the testing process much more accessible and convenient for people in underserved areas. The test was particularly important for those who lived in rural areas, poor areas, or with disabilities since they did not have easy access to testing centers.

Due to geographical limitations, financial constraints, and/or physical disabilities, the marginalized population often encountered challenges in accessing testing facilities. Hence, the introduction of the testing kit by Arun marked a stride towards inclusivity in healthcare, as it provided healthcare safety to those who are underserved. Narrowing the gap and providing accessibility empowered individuals, regardless of their circumstances or location, ultimately leveling the playing field in the fight against the pandemic.

Testing As a Service

Creating "Testing as a Service" was a game-changer in the fight against COVID-19. Before this innovation, COVID testing was limited to certain healthcare providers or institutions, and the process of implementing testing programs was complicated and time-consuming. Many Americans didn't know any of the brands of COVID tests or where to find them.

Arun's idea of offering COVID testing as a service made it possible for any organization to easily deploy a COVID test with their brand on their website. Hence Americans could just pick up COVID tests at the institutions they already went to under the brands they already knew.

A student could get a COVID test from his school, a fitness enthusiast could pick up a test at GNC, the manufacturing employee just took her test at the General Motors plant, and the senior citizen had COVID tests at the counter of his nursing home. Yet it was 1health that was producing these tests across 300+ different brands without the customer knowing it. By making COVID testing more widely accessible in the places and under the brands people knew, Arun's innovation played a critical role in slowing the spread of the virus and saving countless lives.

Vaccine management for the underserved

As the COVID-19 vaccine became available, it became clear that there was a significant challenge in getting the vaccine to those who needed it most. This was particularly true for underserved communities, which often lacked access to the resources needed to facilitate vaccine distribution and administration.

Nikhil Arun recognized this challenge and took action, developing a tool to manage vaccination administration specifically for underserved communities. This tool enabled these communities to effectively track the distribution and administration of vaccines, ensuring that the most vulnerable members of society were prioritized and protected.

Matt Meyer, the County Executive of New Castle County, explained the value of the vaccine administration product:

"One of our most sacred public responsibilities in a pandemic is to protect the most vulnerable. 1health has enabled us to do that with excellence…Our partnership has been one that has successfully provided a much-needed service to the citizens of New Castle County during this unprecedented time."

Tracking outbreaks

Nikhil's team at 1health.io developed a product to track COVID outbreaks and compliance, which has been utilized by over 300 institutions, including companies like McDonald's, schools, counties, and the US Air Force. This product allows institutions to operate safely and effectively by tracking COVID-19 outbreaks and ensuring compliance with safety protocols. It has been particularly important for businesses that operate in industries with high levels of customer or employee interaction, such as the food and beverage industry and the transportation industry.

With the potential for rapid transmission of the virus, the tracing device proved to be an invaluable tool to curb the spread. Several businesses adopted the tool, aiming to swiftly identify and isolate potential outbreaks while preventing extensive contagion. Through ingenuity, Arun's team played a crucial role in allowing the industries, particularly those focusing on human integration, to navigate the challenges posed by the pandemic – ultimately boosting public health and minimizing disruption in the economy.

Conclusion

Arun's innovative nature didn't stop during the pandemic. Since the pandemic, he has led 1health in developing innovative solutions to help identify individuals who may be at risk for developing cancer and help prevent adverse drug reactions, deploying 4 million tests to health systems. However, Arun's innovations before or after the pandemic will never match the humanitarian impact he had during the pandemic.

We think of entrepreneurship as taking advantage of economic opportunity. However, entrepreneurship is arguably most important when it is used to solve problems in a time of necessity. Entrepreneur Nikhil Arun is an example of a person who happened to be in an opportune place to help in a time of necessity – and many lives were saved because of the innovations his team created.

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