‘COVID Forced Me, a Designer, to Sell Food Outside My Empty Store’
There have been no social gatherings or weddings, so people are not looking to buy luxury items right now.
Video Editor: Sandeep Suman
Video Producer: Aastha Gulati
Camera: Amarjeet Singh
I love designing clothes and dressing up people. I have been in the fashion industry for a long time. I was working with a design label earlier but in October 2019, I opened my own store at Mumbai’s Juhu Tara Road.
With the help of a few friends, who loaned me money as well as some of my savings, ‘Pehnawa by MS’, my passion, came to life. I was looking forward to expanding my business online and overseas. Then, the coronavirus pandemic changed all of that.
The nationwide lockdown, that began in March, halted all sales. I had a huge build up of pending bills and rental charges.
Come June, when the government eased the lockdown, I put my faith in the spirit of Mumbai and tried to resume my business. Unfortunately, the COVID graph of Mumbai remains at an alarming level.
People are scared to venture out and there have been no social gatherings or weddings. So, people are not looking to purchase luxury items right now.
A lot of designers around the country are facing the same kind of problems because we have a huge inventory, a backlog of kaarigars and vendors who depend on us. I had to temporarily release the three salespersons at my store because of the situation.
Had I permanently shut my shop, the liabilities and loans incurred would put me at a greater loss. Given my creative disposition, I could not sit idle as well, as it takes a toll on me mentally.
For a short while, I started selling COVID essentials like masks and sanitisers, but soon realised that everyone was trying to do the same. Suddenly, I got an idea of confectionaries, which is not a big investment.
Moreover, as I'd noticed, people are only buying essentials. Secondly, there is little contact in supplying bakery foods, because it is made in the oven and given straight to the customer.
I had big plans and I wanted to do a lot of things but, all thanks to the lockdown, I have had to resort to selling burgers and rolls in front of my empty showroom.
This is the risk that I have had to temporarily take, because the pandemic has thrown us all into oblivion.
Relief for MSMEs?
Before starting the bakery, I had also tried to get benefits of the relief package announced by the government, for small and medium enterprises. The irony of it, however, was that banks asked for first years' bank statement for my business.
Now, I opened last October and have still not completed one year. Secondly, even if I had completed one year, out of that, for 8 months, there was no business!
Given these guidelines, even 40 percent of business owners would not be able to avail the benefits.
The government needs to think of these conditions and some initiation needs to be taken for very small business and its owners, who who are struggling.
The COVID-19 pandemic changed me from a designer (who used to sell outfits ranging from Rs 10,000 to Rs 3 lakh) to selling confectionaries.
Obviously, the earnings are not enough and it is not a source of permanent income for me, yet, I don't want to lose my spirit as I do not know when things will get back to normal.
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