Updated: Jul 28, 2020
How is the lockdown affecting small business owners in Northeast, India?
Small business owners had to face various difficulties during the lockdown. Mainak Lodh, 24 manages a small business along with his father in Shillong, Northeast. ‘We have an umbrella shop and we also sell seasonal items such as socks and mufflers.’ says Mainak while detailing his business. He says as the rainy season was approaching, they would get most of their business then, ‘we couldn’t sell our products because there was a total lockdown.’ He says how all the materials were bought before the lockdown and there was no way of selling them and it affected the business. ‘we are in a lot of debt as we have to pay back the money to the companies we brought the product from’ says Mainak.
On the 21st March 2020 Lockdown in Meghalaya, Shillong started and it was two days prior to the national lockdown and Mainak says they had to close down their business on that day itself. They were not earning anything during the lockdown, and he had to rely on their savings to have the basic necessities. Mainak says, ‘Our house is a joint family, so we had people to share the burden with.’ He continues how his uncle also had some savings along with them which they had to use during the lockdown.
While speaking about them receiving any help from the government, Mainak says, ‘Middle-class people are the ones who are most affected class.’ He says the middle class does not receive any amenities from the government and had to use their savings, ‘The poor people received free food from the government but, we did not receive any help.’
When it comes to their business, Mainak says the government has extended the tax dates and has also announced loans for them but, he says he thinks most people would not apply for the loan, ‘Businesses are suffering and paying back the loan would be a very big issue.’
They reopened their business on 21st June 2020, ‘After three months we could reopen our shop and do some business. But, we could open our shop just two days a week due to the rule by the government.’ Mainak says. He then says their shop is very small and compact and not many people could come in and look at the item, ‘ The items we sell are not essential and there are many different shops which sell similar items and so people do not wait for other people to leave.’ This is the biggest problem the business is facing says Mainak.
Even though the businesses have reopened, there is not much sale and Mainak says they have to pay huge amounts to the companies they bought the product from regardless of selling the products or not, ‘We are facing lots of pressure right now as the companies want their money back and we haven’t even sold their products. Not even one piece.’ So many businesses are going through the same things and according to Mainak the recovery from this will take a very long time.