The last time Prince Gulati (31), an East Delhi trader who imports toys from China’s Shantou and Yiwu districts, spoke to his agent there, he was assured that “business will resume by March”. Epicenter of the deadly coronavirus which has claimed over 900 lives so far, China is under a virtual lockdown. And tremors can be felt in Delhi’s wholesale hub of Sadar Bazar as well as in offices of travel agents.
Gulati, who imports from China and sells the goods in Sadar Bazar, said, “Chinese markets were anyway shut because of the Lunar New Year and were expected to open early February. Despite assurances from agents in China that markets will open by March, I have my doubts. We are in a limbo and many importers are hoarding goods and hiking prices since they won’t get material for sometime.”
Sadar Bazar trader Latesh Nandwani, who has been stocking “100 per cent” products from China since 2011, said, “It is not easy to manufacture such goods in India because setting up such units here is tedious. The current situation could lead to a price hike.”
Dhivan Gupta, who imports cosmetics from China, said his agents in Yiwu and Guangdong have said that factories are shut: “I have been reassured that by February-end, markets will open, but there is no certainty. I do most of my business with China and have no back-up plan.”
Meanwhile, travel agents said that bulk cancellations of air tickets to countries such as Malaysia and Thailand have also happened over the last month. Gaurav Chawal of Swan Tours said, “Of course, 100% bookings of clients to China have been cancelled and airlines aren’t even going there. Apart from this, travel across Asia is impacted, with foreign tourists shaky about visiting India too. Even our domestic bookings to Kerala have been cancelled as a few cases have been diagnosed there.”
Another travel agent said that “travellers want to avoid even taking planes that cross China. There’s a lot of fear about visiting other countries, including Japan. There’s a lot of misinformation too”.
Over chats and phone calls, traders and travel agents said “horror stories” from ground zero have added to their apprehensions. Gulati said, “My agent told me that one person per family is allowed to step out once in three days to visit a departmental store. Outside these stores too, there are checks, and those who are sick are rushed to hospitals. I visit China five times a year but I am quite hesitant now.”
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