Arun Agarwal is no stranger to philanthropy and COVID-19 relief. The Nextt CEO leads one of the largest textile companies in the country and has now turned his altruistic eye toward India, where a variant of COVID-19 continues to ravage the country.
Agarwal has worked with Dallas leaders and Mayor Eric Johnson to form the Jaipur Initiative, a collaboration between the City of Dallas, the Indian American CEO Council, and the Dallas Foundation to raise and send aid to Jaipur, India—a 3.1 million person city where Agarwal grew up. According to Reuters, the deadly second wave of the pandemic running through India has killed 170,000 people in April and May alone. Only 4.7 percent of the 950 million adults in the country have been fully vaccinated.
Physicians are also reporting increasing cases of infections called “black fungus” among those recovering from COVID-19 in India. The infection, called Mucomycosis, is believed to be caused by the potent steroids COVID-19 patients take. The fungus is caused by mucor, which is ubiquitous and doesn’t usually impact healthy people, but has a mortality rate of 50 percent in those who develop mucormycosis. Steroids help temper the immune system’s response to coronavirus but also reduce immunity to bacteria.
So far, the initiative has raised more than $1 million of PPE, including a $500,000 donation from Nextt Shield, a company Agarwal created during the pandemic to make medical-grade PPE. As the pandemic set in last year and Agarwal began hearing about shortages of PPE, he saw an opportunity to help. “It was suddenly like a light bulb,” Agarwal says. “80 percent of the PPE is made of fabric, so why are we not doing anything about it?”
He worked his supply chain and the textile industry knowledge to supply PPE for area hospitals and those across the country. As the pandemic calmed down stateside, it began to rage in India, and Agarwal again had the urge to help. He had become friends with Mayor Johnson, and the two spoke about possibilities for taking action.
Johnson tasked Agarwal with finding a city in India with which Dallas could partner, and after doing research, Agarwal chose his hometown, where his parents and brother still live. Agarwal says that Jaipur was a good fit because they would be able to clearly show the impact of the donations, rather than just asking partners to give to a large fund where donations can’t be easily tracked.
Mayor Johnson and Agarwal have been in contact with Dr. Raghu Sharma, the current Cabinet Minister of Health and Family Welfare for the Government of Rajasthan and City of Jaipur, to understand the needs of the city and how Dallas can help. “I grew up in Jaipur, and it is very personal to me,” Agarwal says. “They laid out where the needs might be, and we went fast and furious as they agreed to the initiative.”
“Cities are on the front lines of solving the world’s problems,” Mayor Johnson said via release. “This has been made even more apparent during the pandemic as local governments, in the absence of clear federal guidance and planning, had to act quickly last year and take decisive measures to protect their residents’ lives and livelihoods.”
Agarwal has a uniquely generous spirit and looks to find opportunities to help his fellow man. He is driven by his faith and is pleased to be joined by other leaders in such a generous community. “If you can’t see God in another human being, why are you searching for him somewhere else?” he says. “I’ve been fortunate to have friends who have been at the helm of their companies who share the same philosophy, and I think we have focused on our giving to the community.”
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