Many others in Mumbai, a city of 18 million where the high-rises of the super-rich soar over the shacks of the dirt poor, are not as lucky.
Together with two former classmates at the elite Indian Institute of Technology, also in their early 20s, Makkar raised money to retrofit mostly rented vans to function as ambulances which hit the streets last year.
Before the pandemic, HelpNow received around 800 calls a month and charged anything between 600 rupees ($8) to 5,000 rupees, depending on the distance and equipment needed, just to cover costs.
But once the pandemic struck, demand skyrocketed, reflecting widespread shortages across the city’s overburdened health infrastructure, with morgues, wards and ambulances running at full capacity.
The jump in calls to HelpNow — more than 4,000 last week alone — has been “way beyond our expectation and our preparedness”, said Makkar, energetic and quick to smile despite surviving on less than five hours of sleep a night.
He has hired 10 more staff to man the phones, and plans to add another 25 vehicles to their 347-strong fleet, with the aim of getting an ambulance to its destination anywhere in Mumbai within 15 minutes or less.