Mini lockdowns and night curfews imposed by several state governments to tame the sudden surge in Covid cases are impacting businesses that were gradually managing to get back on their feet after the pandemic-led disruption last year.
The present set of restrictions, especially in Maharashtra, is impacting the overall retail industry and its ecosystem across the country. About 1.3 million retail stores employing about 5 million people in Maharashtra alone are getting impacted by the ‘retail lockdown’ implemented by the state government, the Retailers Association of India (RAI) said.
“India will always be a consumption economy and strain on the retail industry cripples the entire value chain, which involves manufacturing and entertainment, right down to artisans and other micro-enterprises, leading to layoffs and downscaling or even shutting down operations widely,” the association said in a statement. “While implementation of stricter rules to curb the spread of the pandemic is necessary, it is also important to calibrate a balance between lives and livelihood,” RAI added.
Already footfalls had seen a significant decline since the past two weeks with night curfew timings and random testing norms at place, said Mukesh Kumar, CEO at Infiniti Malls that runs two properties in Malad and Andheri. “Customers who usually visit the mall for leisure activities were not confident to step out and some were hesitant to get themselves tested,” Kumar said. Basis the new guidelines issued by the state government, the malls will now be only operational for essentials and home deliveries of food till the end of the month.
The hospitality industry is staring at another crisis. The Hotel and Restaurant Association Western India (HRAWI) said over 20% of the hospitality establishments across the country have not opened fully even after the first lockdown was lifted and 30% of them have shut down permanently due to financial losses. The rest continue to operate in losses and revenues are below 50% of the pre-Covid level. The new guidelines introduced by the state government will force almost 90% of restaurants to shut down completely, the association said. “We request the government to either allow us to continue regular operations with the mandated SOPs or permanently shut us down, rather than keep us half alive and in a state of misery,” said Sherry Bhatia, president, HRAWI.
As per analysts at Crisil Research, Mumbai and Delhi-NCR account for nearly 50% of the total organised restaurant market.
“My suggestion to the government is that if they are worried about people crowding at pubs and clubs to drink they should put the curfew timing at 11 or 11:30 pm. That way customers can still frequent restaurants for dinner which would be a lifesaver for the industry,” AD Singh, founder and MD at Olive Group of Restaurants, said in a recent tweet.