Shutters up but traders unable to get back on track

- July 29, 2022
| By : Rohan Chauhan and Ali Fraz Rezvi |

Although marketplaces are functional once again after two years of the pandemic, traders are facing multiple challenges. Shops are seeing few customers and sometimes closing down and occasionally, there is a suicide due to business losses

Photo: Unsplash

It has been a week since Israr,  in his early forties, a resident of Delhi’s Jafrabad, died – probably by suicide after allegedly killing his wife and two daughters. However no suicide note has been found till date.

The police stated that Israr underwent a lot of business losses and that this might be a reason for taking such an extreme step. 

Israr was working in the watch industry in Saudi Arabia when his company closed down a couple of years ago. He came back to India and started dealing in clothes and jeans. However, he only suffered losses during the lockdowns.

Sources also hint that Israr was involved in betting and gambling, which led to him losing a huge amount, exceeding Rs 8 crore. But this information has not been verified. 

At a time when traders are struggling to bring in profit but are incurring losses – on top of a long period of total shutdown – it is not unusual to hear about cases of suicide. “Businesses are equivalent to high risk. You’ll fall and you’ll rise again, but you must know your strengths and weaknesses,” said the owner of a general store who knew Israr.  

“Israr Bhai tried a lot, but sometimes nothing works. His hopes were so shattered that he tried to commit suicide a few months ago as well,” the shopkeeper told Patriot.

Seasonal businesses  

Most shops scattered in different parts of Delhi are suffering losses. The recent price rise in almost all the items have also impacted their lives and businesses, and it is becoming hard to sustain themselves, their families and businesses in such situations.

“Covid has largely impacted and changed the business pattern,” said Aman, owner of a kite shop in the area. “If we take the example of the markets in Jafrabad and Seelampur, most of the people are doing seasonal businesses,” he explained. Pointing out that his own shop was divided into two parts, he said, “All the corners of this shop are occupied by the kites and other related items as this is the season of patangbaazi (kite-flying). “These two coolers did not sell during the summer and are lying there unsold,” he stated.

Aman, owner of a kite shop in Jafrabad All Photo: Ali Fraz Rezvi

Aman told Patriot that he juggles goods among three business seasons. “First one is of sweaters and leather jackets in winter and then of coolers and refrigerators – and lastly kites”. Almost all the shops in Jafrabad follow a similar pattern. 

Despite showing so much enterprise, traders find that sales have seen a huge fall as compared to pre-Covid times. Shop owners are still able to make ends meet. 

“We are wholesalers,” said Imran, another person dealing in kites as per the season. “People still buy these in bulk; after all, Jafrabad is one of the biggest suppliers of kites in Delhi,” he continued.

Speaking about the competition, profit margin, and losses, he said that they have formed an association of businessmen in the area which ensures that there’s harmony among different traders. “Eik ka nuqsaan kar ke doosre ka faayeda nahi ho sakta,” (We do not try to profit by hurting each others’ interests) he stated while handing over a kite to a kid.

Post-Covid scenario

Most businesses have suffered a huge loss during the current economic conditions. One such example is that of the Meena Book Centre, one of the very few bookshops in the area surrounded by seasonal business.

Meena Book Centre suffered a huge loss due to Covid
(Photo: Ali Fraz Rezvi)

Tariq-bin-Riyaz who’s been running the business for the last 33 years, says the market has been hit drastically by Covid, but even after the shadow lifted, growth has been very slow in terms of financial profits.  

He adds, “Schools have been closed, and people don’t have the money to buy books now.”  Even though this area comprises a large number of school-going students, sales are not picking up because most of the students are not financially sound enough to buy books other than textbooks. 

A similar scenario is unfolding in Palika Bazaar, Connaught Place. Arvind, owner of a shoe shop in Palika Bazaar, said that there were hopes of an increased inflow of customers once Covid was over but it is quite different from what he imagined. “Sales are moving to a new low with each passing day, and in case if there are enough sales, the profit margin is so low that it becomes impossible to sustain the business”, he told Patriot while rearranging the shoes in one of the racks. 

Additional income

Tariq-bin-Riyaz was also given the agency of NCERT books by the Delhi government but that has not given much a boost to his revenue.  

“The cost of paper has gotten so expensive that fewer books are being printed now,” Riyaz explains, “and the books that we do acquire have very few consumers in this area.” Children come to make inquiries about the cost of books and then leave without buying any.

As a result, he also sells chocolates, gifts and stationery to make a living, and unexpectedly, the money from these things is equal to the income from the books.

No competition 

Naushad runs a store of power tools in Jafrabad
Photo: Rohan Chauhan)

What of those who are sole sellers of a product in a given market? Naushad, who has had a store of power tools in the Jafrabad area for the last 13 years, says, “This is the only power tool shop in the entire area but still the business is down.” 

He said they do get orders mostly asking for wholesale deliveries, but considering the demography of this area, orders should be in greater quantities. This has not been the case since restrictions were lifted. 

“We are hopeful that business will start blooming again but it just isn’t happening,” says Naushad. 

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