New Delhi: The communal violence in northeast Delhi along with the spread of the deadly coronavirus have dealt a body blow to retail and wholesale trade in the national capital. According to one estimate, traders in Delhi have suffered losses to the tune of Rs 20,000 crore in the last one month.
The biggest impact is being felt in the country’s largest wholesale market — the Sadar Bazaar in old Delhi. Footfall at the bazaar has reduced drastically, say traders.
While this may seem only natural considering the government has been urging people to stay away from crowded places, with most colleges and schools in the country being shut down over the rising number of positive and suspected cases of coronavirus, traders are finding it hard to deal with the situation.
Businessmen are unsure of how they would recover from the huge financial losses as more drastic steps and extra precautions are imposed in the days ahead.
Sitting at his shop of wholesale home appliances, Saurav Chaudhary said, “People are not moving out of their homes in fear of the coronavirus. The new pandemic and the riots before that have majorly affected business over the last one month. We are expecting little respite in the coming days.”
“If there were 100 customers on daily basis till about a month ago, these days, we are not getting even 30. We are sitting idle. People are avoiding crowded places. Until the coronavirus fear comes down, we don’t expect the business to recover,” Chaudhary added.
The president of Sadar Bazaar Traders Association, Rakesh Kumar Yadav, said markets in Delhi have faced losses worth Rs 20,000 crore over the past one month. “Around 60% of that loss was borne by traders of larger markets like Sadar Bazaar and Chandni Chowk,” he said.
With most people wearing masks, hawkers of this particular item, however, seemed happy. A young hawker said designer face masks were popular at the moment, adding the same masks that were sold at Rs2 a month ago, are selling for Rs20 each now.
Traders also are doing a door-to-door campaign to ensure everyone is using sanitisers and wearing masks, Yadav said. “We are opening our shops because we don’t want to create an alarm. We are trying to convey to people that there is nothing to panic about. If we were to close the whole market, the scenario would only worsen,” he said, adding an increasing number of retailers are selling their goods on online shopping portals these days.
Some traders say the market is further stressed owing to the scare among public about buying goods imported from China, which is said to be the source of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Those who trade in large volumes of Chinese goods are finding it difficult to move their stocks.
Sachin Deval, a wholesale trader at Sadar Bazaar, said, “Customers are straight away ignoring Chinese products and preferring to buy locally manufactured products due to the obvious fears. Even the retailers are staying away from Chinese products. Some traders are losing out because they’ve stocked Chinese goods in huge quantities.”
Vikrant Handa, a wholesale trader of FMCG products, said, “The communal riots in Delhi affected the business in a huge way. For around three days when violence peaked in northeast Delhi, little or no business happened here.”
A employee at a local wholesale shop said until recently there was hardly any space for pedestrians to move about, but that has changed. People are now moving around in two-wheelers easily in the area.
Laxmi Narayan a wholesale trader of artificial jewellery, said even the festival of Holi could not lift the spirit of local buyers.
Sanjeev Jain, who has a shop in Sadar Bazaar, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi's decision of staying away from festivities, somewhere has affected the business. “Many people who follow the PM have decided not to celebrate Holi this year.”