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That couldn’t be done, and they did it

The health and well-being of the communities of South Rajasthan are integral to the prosperity of Secure and Semsites. When the community needed oxygen supplies, it was natural that we would step up. This is the story of how we did it.

India was struck with fear, rising deaths and a national paralysis. Businesses were closed, factories counting their sick and anyone producing oxygen or oxygen generating equipment was beleaguered as a crippled nation tried to confront the Covid second wave at the end of April 2021. We were also searching for how we can help.

“Somebody said that it couldn’t be done” E A Guest

This story began with a South Korean vendor enquiring about the well-being of our people. On the off-chance of finding a solution, our Group-CEO asked him if he had any leads to purchase some PSA based oxygen generators. Our procurement team took up the mantle and enquired high and low for oxygen generators. Marshalling every form of communication to hand, the team found a credible supplier on the 26th of April itself, albeit, late at night. Best of all, the supplier was based in the neighbouring state of Gujarat. Perhaps, we thought this would not be so hard after all.

“That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one
Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried” E A Guest

Gruelling discussions; technical, commercial, and logistical ensued. Within a working day, it seemed we would be able to strike a deal for five machines, made in India itself. Usually, a purchase of this scale and technical complexity would require weeks of discussions, which we rallied together and completed in a day. At the last moment, the supplier said he could only deliver in 48 days; his present stock was diverted. As far as we were concerned, this was 40 days too many. It was back to the drawing board, and we had lost a whole day.

Given the urgency, we continued to work on leads from other vendors from across the globe. On 27th April, we found an Australian company, through a local private hospital. Deep negotiations began immediately. We knew we had a small window of opportunity before the close of play in Australia (5:30 hours ahead). During these discussions, we found the Australian company was owned by a Chinese company, further complexifying the conversation.

Miraculously, they had five machines in stock in Hong Kong. In all negotiations, there is a give and a take. As we were in a hurry for delivery and there was a clear supply-demand gap, we knew we could not push too hard on price or payment terms. By 28th April, in within 24 hours, tens of millions of rupees worth of capital equipment had been ordered. Five plants would be dispatched as per our schedule. We would have to pay before they shipped.

“There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,There are thousands to prophesy failure” E A Guest

On placing the order, the logistic team in China came across a seemingly impossible hurdle, the Golden Week holiday from 1st to 5th May. China comes to a stand-still to celebrate this week. We had to take a leap of faith, trust a vendor we knew nothing about, trust the banking systems to ensure money paid from Udaipur, India, through the vendor’s branch in Bengaluru, would be routed through the Australian company to its Chinese parent so shipment could take place. We paid up on 29th April, they promised to ship three machines on the 1st May, but two machines would come later. A few early morning negotiations later, all five we promised for dispatch.

“But he took off his coat and he took off his hat And the first thing we knew he’d begun it” E A Guest

Into the ring stepped former Semsite and a long-standing friend of Secure, Harpreet S Puri. He became ‘our man in China’. Having no previous experience of the vendor and only phone calls and emails to work from, we needed assurances about the good. Harpreet flew in, inspected and listened. This is when we hit the next obstacle. Due to Covid restrictions, the next freight flight to India was after 7th May.

We didn’t lose hope. Our freight forwarder arranged a chartered flight on 5th May and the material would be delivered in India on 6th; the machines landed in India on 6th May. We have already got all the custom related formalities done in advance and on 7th May, the machines were in Udaipur.

“So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin On his face. If he worried he hid it” E A Guest

Oxygen generators don’t work in isolation; they need compressors, piping, tanks, air conditioning and a myriad of other facilities to work. In parallel to getting the machines, the logistics team began sourcing all the parts. The team from the oxygen generator company in Bengaluru was incredibly helpful. We could get everything. The storage tanks needed to be welded in Coimbatore, but all the oxygen tanks had been reserved for medical use. No oxygen, no welding. Through local sources and help from the government, even this hurdle was crossed.

None of the hospitals we were donating to had existing facilities to house an oxygen generator. We needed to build these, with foundations and footings, walls and windows, pipes and power. Work started at five different sites on 1st May. Once again, covid restrictions reduced our ability to bring suppliers, contractors and specialists to the sites. Thankfully, the local administration helped and enabled shops, workshops and contractors to open up. We built four complete buildings in three cities in 14 days; one hospital was able to give us some internal space. We built three independent buildings and one service room on the roof. As the hospital was an active Covid centre, we had to crane all the material and people from outside. We also had to prepare cabling, ducting and copper piping. That is where the next challenge came from.

“With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin, Without any doubting or quiddit” E A Guest

Medical grade copper pipes and approved fitters were both in extremely short supply. With assistance from Hindustan Zinc, local administration and air conditioning service providers, we cobbled together a team of people who were working within the hospitals and with our teams. This activity was on our critical path, with components being flown in to meet our needs.

In each site, we came across build challenges. At Ambamata hospital, we found that the flooring was inadequate to bear the weight of columns and new flooring will require a 4-5 days curing period. Thankfully, our contractor on the ‘Third Space’ stepped up and the flooring was done in a day. In Bhilwara, insulation fell short. We immediately sent it from another active site in Udaipur. In Banswara, we couldn’t even find a contractor ready to work in pandemic conditions at the hospital.

Teamwork, innovation, communication, and a can-do, must-do attitude reigned over the team and the myriad of people who supported us. We were all connected by a common purpose and high technology; calls, virtual meetings, group chats, video calls, etc. People came together from Australia, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Delhi, Gurugram, Bengaluru, Coimbatore, Ahmedabad, Bhilwara, Banswara, Rajsamand, Jaipur, and Udaipur. Some were Semsites, others were not, all put together delivered.

“Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing that “cannot be done” and you’ll do it” E A Guest

11th May 2021 – First plant operational at Ananta Hospital in Rajsamand

12th May 2021 – Second plant at Ambamata Satellite Hospital in Udaipur

14th May 2021 – Third plant at M G Hospital in Bhilwara

15th May 2021 – Fourth plant at M G Hospital in Banswara

19th May 2021 – Fifth plant at Hiran Magri Satellite Hospital in Udaipur

Together we can, together we did!