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Lockdown impact: Firms in Mumbai find it difficult to sustain

Sachin Gala, a leading cloth merchant from the Hindmata market is a worried man today as the state government has announced an extension of the lockdown
By Naresh Kamath, Mumbai
UPDATED ON APR 30, 2021 12:57 AM IST

Sachin Gala, a leading cloth merchant from the Hindmata market is a worried man today as the state government has announced an extension of the lockdown. The reason — it is a peak business time for the cloth merchants as this is normally the wedding season, and the lockdown has spoilt things for him.

“From February onwards due to surge of cases and rumours of lockdown, we started losing our customers significantly. Currently, we have zero income. It is more painful this time as we placed large order anticipating that the Covid-19 was over and things have gotten back to normal,” said Gala.

Ever since the national lockdown was imposed in March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the industrialists, businessmen and the retail sector have borne a huge brunt due to loss of business. After the lockdown was eased in the subsequent months, there was some recovery and in January this year, there were signals that Covid-19 would soon be history. There was a hope among the business community to soon bounce back to pre-Covid-19 levels. However, this fell flat as India was hit by the second Covid wave from February onwards, with the surge of cases. The initial night curfew imposed in March-end followed by the mid-April lockdown meant total loss of business.

The Chamber of Associations of Maharashtra Industries and Trade (CAMIT) said the effect was more severe this time. “Last year, we had reserves in hand, due to which we could pull through the lockdown. However, this time, we took fresh loans to restart and revive our businesses. We did not anticipate the second wave,” said Mohan Gurnani, chairman, CAMIT.

“There are approximately 65,208 small scale units in Maharashtra, out of which, 75-80% are now closed. It will not be possible for the owners to sustain themselves if such disruptions continue,” said Gurnani.

However, essentials like grocery shops said that the restricted timings of 7am to 11am have reduced their income by half. “The consumers do not come to shop before 9am and we get just two hours to conduct our business. Home delivery is a very small portion of our business and we cannot sustain on it,” said Anil Parekh, owner, Urban Greens, a mini supermarket dealing with groceries in Lalbaug and Byculla.

The hotels and restaurants sector has called this the worst phase. “Our business has gone for the toss as people are no longer ordering like before. In addition, there has been mushrooming of illegal kitchens, which has majorly impacted our business,” said Gurbaxish Singh Kohli, spokesperson, Hotel and Restaurant Association of Western India (HRAWI), an apex body of hoteliers.

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