Pakistani start-up repurposes to help healthcare system cope with pandemic
23 June 2020 Charles ARTHUR
“ModulusTech is a company born out of the need for sustainable housing solutions. As the world grappled with this unprecedented crisis of COVID19, we went back to our drawing board to see how we could help.”
Nabeel Siddiqui is the CEO and co-founder of a Pakistani start-up that has restructured its manufacturing line in response to the COVID-19 emergency. Siddiqui says, “The biggest issue confronting us right now in Pakistan is not the fatality rate of the disease, but the collapse of the healthcare system under pressure of circumstances that no country was prepared for. Without proper care and isolation, a lot more people will get sick and a lot of lives that could be saved would be lost.”
COVID-19 is spreading rapidly through Pakistan and by mid-June the country had seen more than 180,000 confirmed cases, a 257% increase on the previous month. Officials are estimating that nationwide confirmed cases of COVID-19 infections could reach up to 1.2 million by the end of July.
“At ModulusTech, we believe in quick, simple and economical solutions,” says Siddiqui, “Therefore, we have redirected our expertise and restructured our manufacturing line to build and provide infrastructure to support our healthcare system, and our country, through this crisis.”
The Karachi-based company aims to revolutionize the affordable housing sector with its innovative flat-packed modular design. Using an industrialized housing concept, ModulusTech houses can be transported and set up in as little as three hours, while being cost-effective and sustainable. But now the company is repurposing to help hospitals deal with the influx of patients infected by COVID-19.
Siddiqui explains how they have already started working with Karachi’s Imam Clinic.
“They were initially facing difficulties in isolating suspected COVID-19 patients from the rest of the hospital and had to set up tents in the parking area. However, the summer heat in Karachi, coupled with the fasting month of Ramadan, was making it impossible for doctors to sit outside wearing personal protective equipment and they urgently required a screening room to be built. We provided them with a low-cost - around US$4,400 - air-conditioned screening room with space for further testing of patients in less than 10 days, while there was a lock-down in the city and all markets were closed.”
He adds, “This time-frame included manufacturing, assembly and finishing of the structures. The hospital staff was super happy with the speed of delivery, as well as the energy efficiency of the structures, considering the room remains cool and comfortable even while entry and exit doors are opened every 30 seconds – it’s a busy hospital.”
He is discussing work with other hospitals in the city which urgently require similar solutions. The company has also designed emergency response units for the authorities to use for quarantining those who might have the coronavirus, and has developed a conveyor system for disinfecting packages.
Note: Screening room at the Imam Clinic
ModulusTech’s original low-cost design of energy efficient houses, which can be assembled in just three hours, won first prize in Pakistan’s edition of the Global Cleantech Innovation Programme (GCIP) in December 2017.
Siddiqui said, “The prize was essential for our survival as we were able to get initial funding for our start-up and start operations, as well as find the right partners.”
ModulusTech later competed in the global edition of the GCIP in Los Angeles and won the Special Commendation Award with a grant of US$20,000.
The GCIP, which is run by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in partnership with the Global Environment Facility (GEF), supports start-ups and small and medium enterprises from around the world to develop cleantech innovations into market-ready products that mitigate the causes of climate change, pollution, and resource depletion.
Its aim is to foster innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems, promoting affordable and scalable solutions that enable countries to leapfrog to cleaner, more resilient economies while protecting global commons.