• Platform to exchange free goods and services for those in need
  • MBAs wanted to help communities isolated during the lockdown
  • ViralExchange has seen shopping and IT help taken up by users
  • The platform has helped alleviate social isolation during the crisis

A team of MBA students created a free online platform for people to exchange goods and services to help each other and vulnerable groups during the pandemic.

ViralExchange sees people offer services like shopping or setting up video conferencing for families in lockdown for free on the website, which people in need can then take up.

The site also allows people to ask for assistance or help, which other users can then take up.

Daniele Todaro (pictured), who helped set up the platform and is in the final year of his Executive MBA, said: “The idea originally came from one of the members of my cohort who initially brought it to the attention of the whole group. After having gathered a group of interested people an ad-hoc team was created so the idea could be discussed in depth with the people who wanted to help developing it.

“During the pandemic it has been great to see how our local communities across the country were already efficiently and tirelessly providing help to those in need and I believe ViralExchange has helped more people be able to do this.”

Lockdown is now being eased across much of Europe, but when it was at its height community spirit was vital in helping the more vulnerable in society, such as those that needed to shield because of medical conditions and the elderly.

The pandemic has seen more than 12 million people infected with COVID-19 and more than 560,000 deaths worldwide up to July 13 according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Meanwhile, the WHO has warned that "in most of the world the virus is not under control" and the pandemic is "getting worse".

It has left many people unable or too scared to leave their homes and it is initiatives like Daniele's that are endeavouring to help those isolated by the pandemic.

“The core of the website and content was created over a weekend, then it took around a week to refine the platform and launch it,” said the 42 year-old, who lives in Leicestershire and is a director at OceanLED Marine, which provides LED technology for underwater lights for the luxury marine industry.

“It has been great to see communities come together to help each other through this difficult time and I hope our platform has played a part in that.

“The scope of the platform was to offer services ranging from shopping delivery, IT help, social isolation help, home or breakdown emergencies, and anything else that people needed assistance with.

“Along with these services there was also the opportunity to borrow tools and equipment, such as lawn mowers, ladders and DIY tools from members of the local community as the shops were shut for quite some time.

“It was created with the intention of wanting to make a difference through a global crisis and hopefully it has helped people realise they are not alone and there is a community willing to come to their aid.”