Demonetization: Telangana’s small businesses suffer

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The street vendors who sell their wares near Secunderabad Railway Junction in Telangana usually lead to traffic bottlenecks. But ever since high value currency was demonetized, their sales have taken a hit. Even on Sunday, the market witnessed very few buyers.

“On Sundays, usually, our sale increases by 10 to 20%, but because of the recent ban of Rs.500 and Rs.1000 notes, we could only sell very few products,” says Ahmed Sheikh, who has been selling footwear in Secunderabad for the past 10 years.

Small businesses and roadside shops have been badly affected by demonetization.

“My business is down. And it is likely to continue this way for the next one month,” Ahmed adds. Even if people come to buy products, he says, they are more keen to know how much change he has.

“Our business is down by 70% here. Usually I make Rs.7,000 to 8,000 a day, but now I am hardly making 1,500,” says Mohammad Sajid, Secretary of the Telangana Street Vendors Association.

He says that all the street vendors are in the same boat.

“Many of them don’t even have bank accounts. After the sudden ban of Rs.500 and Rs.1000 notes, they didn’t know what to do with the banned currency,” he says.

59-year-old Nawaab Basheer, who has been selling household products for nearly three decades, is one of the vendors who doesn’t have a bank account.

“I’m facing a huge loss. I had to exchange my Rs.500 notes with local brokers by giving them a commission of Rs.200,” he says.

Even the wholesale markets like Begum Bazaar have been affected.

“We buy products from Begum Bazaar and sell it here. But now, neither we are able to purchase from wholesale markets nor sell the products,” Nawaab says.He feels that the vendors have been blindsided by the government’s move.

“We know that this may help India in the long run, but till then how are we supposed to survive?” Nawaab asks.

It’s not only Secunderabad’s street vendors but also the retail market sellers in Sultan Bazaar who’ve been affected . Many hawkers at the major retail business hub in Hyderabad say that the sales have dropped by 50%.

During winters, the sale usually goes up as people buy sweaters and blankets but not this time.

“We usually sell more than 40 products a day, but till now I have sold only 10 sweaters,” says Shashi, who owns a kid’s wear shop in Sultan Bazaar.

“The main problem is change,” notes Govardhan, the owner of a bangle shop in the same bazaar. “People come with Rs.2000 note. They buy products for Rs.100 and seek change for the rest.”

The vendors now feel that they are losing customers as more and more people are going to the expensive showrooms or malls where payment can be made with cards.

The Telangana government is planning to provide one lakh point of sale devices to small traders, whose turnover is between Rs 2.5 lakhs and 5 lakhs, to boost cashless transactions.The the government is seeking financial assistance from the Center for the program.

“But till that day, we have to face these losses. Even if I plan to buy the machine, it will cost me more than Rs.12,000. Now that the business is down by nearly 60%, I can hardly manage to sell the old stock,” says Govardhan.

According to the commercial taxes department, there are 1.87 lakh traders registered with the government and nearly over 1 lakh traders outside of the records.

Small street vendors whose turnover is no more than Rs.2 lakhs per annum will continue to face losses.

Mohammad Wahid, a 55-year-old street vendor, sells pillow covers. He used to earn nearly Rs.500 daily. Due to the lack of notes of lower denominations, he can now hardly sell products for Rs.200.

“I don’t even have a shop, I just sell them on a small movable stall. The small businessman can still afford to buy the credit card machine, how will I?” he asks.

He also says, “Whatever decision is taken by the government is said to be for the good, but I can’t see anything profitable for me and my family. After the currency ban I have been facing huge financial crisis. On the next day of the announcement, I was unaware of the ban, and one person gave me Rs. 500 and took the change, but later I struggled a lot to use that note.”

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