The streets in Bhopal's New Market carry a deserted look.
(This is the third and last report of our series on the impact of economic slowdown in Madhya Pradesh. In this part, NewsClick presents a ground report on how the slowdown has impacted the retail shops and markets in Bhopal.)
Bhopal: Eyeing the forthcoming festivals, Sandeep Aggrawal, who owns one of the most prominent men’s fashion outlet in Bhopal’s New Market purchased clothes of Rs 5 lakh from Delhi and Mumbai, a week ago to make some profit. But, even after two weeks, he has only managed to sell 25-30% of his products, with a minimal profit of 5-10%.
Rakesh Gupta, who runs a mobile phone outlet in the same market, is going through a similar situation. “I had brought 60 new smartphones of various companies ahead of Navratri, Durga Puja and Diwali, but, I have hardly sold 10 low cost mobiles till date. Diwali is around the corner and it’s the only hope remaining. The market is yet to pick up the pace.”
The other traders of the market are going through a similar fate. From chaatwalas (snack sellers) to general store owners to bangle sellers and jewellery shop owners, everyone claimed that their sales have drastically fallen in the last three-four months.
New Market is one of the most prominent and modern markets of Bhopal. The city has four big malls which have national and international brand outlets. But, the market in old Bhopal is unique.
From wholesale to retail shops, traditional to western clothes, dry fruits to vegetables, automobiles to electronic, snacks to mouthwatering dishes, the market in the old city has everything. Most products are available at a much cheaper price than any other markets of the city. There are over 2,500 shops spread over an area extending 3-4 kilometres.
However, whether it be the malls in the new city or roads and narrow lands of old Bhopal market, which at one time used to be flooded with people during the festive seasons, making it difficult for people to even walk, are now deserted.
Also read: Economic Slowdown: MP Transport Sector Claims 50% Demand Slump
NewsClick met with Anil (name changed), who is working at a popular samosa stall in New Market. The stall used to reportedly sell 1,200-1,500 samosas and kachoris (fried snack made of gram pulses) every day. People would wait for hours in the evening to buy these snacks. However, it is not the same anymore. Anil told NewsClick , “People have stopped eating samosa and kachoris. The sales have dropped by nearly 35%.”
On being asked if he knows the reason behind it, he innocently replied that he doesn’t know much about economics, adding, “But when people stop eating samosas and kachoris worth Rs 5, then the situation must be critical.”
The following day, this reporter visited the biggest mall of the city located in MP Nagar. The situation is no different from New Market. The outlets of international brands have very few customers. “The footfall has declined by 35%. Despite festive season offers, it’s a lukewarm response from the customers,” said the manager of an international brand’s outlet, requesting anonymity.
The third floor of the mall has a food court which too looks deserted.
The condition in old Bhopal market is even worse. Traders claimed that the overall demand has dropped by 30-40%. “Let alone the festive season, the wedding season is also on the way and usually the market is at its peak during this time. But, no such signs can be seen this year, even jewellery sales are not very positive,” traders said.
Navneet Agrawal, general secretary of Akhil Bhartiya Udhyog Vyapar Mandal, said, “The jewellery market has witnessed merely 10% to 15 % sales this season.”
When asked the reason for the slowdown in the market, Agrawal said, “Heavy rainfall is one of the major reasons. Good crops were the last hope for the market. But excess rainfall has poured water on those hopes. People are still running short of cash, leading to a slowdown in the market.”
“No sector is doing well, the auto sector is subdued. Jewels have lost sheen and electronics goods have lost their spark,” he added.
President of the Bhopal Automobiles Dealers’ Welfare Association (BADA), Ashish Pande said, “Automobile sales are down by 30% to 35% compared to last Navratri. Sales of both two-wheelers and four-wheelers are yet to pick up.”
A major reason for the market slump is attributed to the crop failure after excess rainfall in the state. Standing crops are damaged leading to financial crunch in rural economy, according to market analysts.
“Monsoon continues to torment people as it is still raining. How do you expect people to shop in this season,” one of the traders said.
Huge discounts in the e-commerce market have also diverted customers which earlier used to buy from the local bazaars, complained traders. The popular eateries of the city, too, have recorded a sharp decline in business.
Also read: #Economic Slowdown: 30-35% Demand Slump, Hundreds of Factories Shut Down in MP
During the recently concluded shraadh period (when people in North India perform rituals in memory of their forefathers), there were large number of inquiries at automobile dealers about the variants of vehicles and price, but it failed to materialise into bookings and purchase, according to automobile traders.
“The markets have just failed to revive and the festive buzz is missing,” Pramod Maheshweri, owner of a showroom in Bhopal, said.
Some traders blame the Union Government for this slowdown. “The bad polices of the NDA government have led to this economic slowdown,” said Mahesh, who owns a cloths shop in the old Bhopal market.
“The market had suffered a slump since demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax (GST) came into effect, but, the situation turned ugly from last three-four months,” claimed a wholesale trader Owais Khan.
Nevertheless, the dealers are still hopeful that the sales may pick up once monsoon is over.
Jewellery showrooms and electronics shops continue to wait for the customers amid slowdown.