In conversation with UrbanMorph: Ensuring post lockdown compliance of safe practices by retail shops

“If the Collaborative wasn’t there, we would not have gone into piloting this campaign with such confidence.”


Urban Morph is a change engine, incubating urban solutions that are at the intersection of planning, social behaviour change and technology. With rich experience in Urban Planning, Design and Analytics and working with varied stakeholders, they  transform Urban Spaces through data and design.

The CAC team spoke to Sathya Sankaran, Susheel and  Sonal Kulkarni  of UrbanMorph about their Covid-19 response. 




What have been your key actions and initiatives around the COVID-19 response?

First, we started the Relief Riders initiative, wherein 75 cyclers came together and delivered relief supplies to senior citizens. This initiative was especially crucial for the elderly, given their high level of vulnerability and need to stay indoors.  This initiative covered 1600 kilometers on bicycle, reached  200 senior citizens and saved upto 400 kilograms of carbon dioxide.

Then, our team observed that there is no standard way for people to tell which shops are implementing proper COVID safety measures, in cases where people do need to step out to make purchases. Hence, Urban Morph, along with Artland, co-conceived the Community Organised Precautions Enabled (COPE) initiative,a platform to ensure safe business practices in retail stores. The COPE initiative has two components- awareness and reporting:

Awareness: We researched COVID-19 best practices around the world, put these guidelines on posters and disseminated the posters in 8-10 retail stores in Bangalore. Having a COPE poster in a store is a form of assurance for the customer that the establishment is practicing COVID safety. Establishments that follow guidelines are certified and listed on the COPE platform so people can look up COPE-certified stores in their area before stepping out to shop.

Reporting: Each COPE-certified store has a COPE poster with a QR code, should customers want to verify and raise concerns over any erring behaviour. This has allowed not only a collaborative response from shops, local grocers, vegetable vendors, but also self-governance with embedded systems for reviews and rating to enable analytics on the safety of a store.  

Although the initiative is still in nascent stages, we published the posters on the COPE platform for easy download anywhere in the world. Overall, through the COPE intervention, we aim to mitigate disease transmission at the Point Of Sale during and in the immediate after-math of the lockdown, by fostering synergistic responsibility between communities and local vendors to tackle risks and practice safety.


What are your biggest learnings/challenges?

A major challenge is finding volunteers to scale our initiative. We will need volunteers on the ground to communicate with and encourage stores to register with our platform. Ensuring that volunteers communicate the message effectively will also be a challenge, which we are working to address by developing a communication package.

We have not been able to mobilize people to order groceries from shops enlisted in the COPE directory yet.

On the execution side,  as volunteers enlist a store onto the platform, they get a printable poster. Currently, we have been printing it for them to prevent mistakes;   we have pre-printed posters for the first 200 stores. However, moving forward, we need stores to print the posters themselves. We are also looking into how to monitor and manage the initiative as we scale, and how to measure the impact of COPE in promoting COVID safety.  

What have been your major learnings in the process? 

So far, we have learnt that the engagement of community leaders is a key requirement for the success of the initiative. Also, small stores might be more receptive to the COPE initiative than larger stores since the latter have a plethora of  formalities and procedures to circumvent. Store redesign and reorganization for enabling safety of the customers is one area which will need focus in the future. 

How did you leverage the COVID Action Collaborative (CAC)? How do you plan on doing so in the future? 

We were part of the Collaborative’s first partners’ meet. That is when we got the confidence that we could reach out to CAC for any help. We would not have had the stories we share with you today, if you had not helped with the resources. It was only due to the Collaborative that we could  quickly pull off 200 prints for volunteers. 

We have envisioned the seeding of 200-300 shops across more locations.We would like to leverage the connections from CAC to increase our visibility and recruit volunteers for scaling.

Resources from the UrbanMorph team

C.O.P.E. Poster for Retail Safety




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