Hakan Karpuz from Turkey has been putting up a stall of ornate home decor at the India International Trade Fair (IITF) for the last 19 years. This year, though, he said his business has been “suffering because of GST”. With a nearly 50 per cent drop in business since last year, Karpuz claimed he would not return to the fair next year.
“Business is very bad this year. We have paid $30,000 (Rs 19.4 lakhs) for the stall and we are only earning about Rs 20,000 per day. I won’t come back next year,” he said. Several foreign participants said they were facing problems because of GST — both since they had to pay state GST on their sales apart from the Integrated GST (IGST) already paid earlier, and because customers were not buying products due to high tax. Ishaq Timurzada from Afghanistan, who has set up a stall to sell carpets, also said business was “very poor” this year.
“Ever since the exhibition began this year, I have only sold about two-three pieces. Last Saturday was relatively better. Otherwise, most of the time we’re just sitting idle. I have been setting up a stall for the last 10 years but business is quite bad this time,” said Timurzada, who has carpets starting from Rs 10,000 up to a lakh.
Some, like Salman Khan, who was managing a cloth material stall from Sharjah, said this was the second bad year at the fair. “Last year, it was demonetisation, and this time, it is GST. We have paid about Rs 5 lakh as rent for the stall, and we’ve only sold clothes worth Rs 50,000-60,000 till now. It has been 12 years since we’ve been putting a stall here but we’ll need to think twice now,” he said.
Foreign participants said it was difficult for them to get their GST registration number because of complications in the form. “We have to fill a GST form that requires us to provide an Indian mobile number, which I don’t have,” said Pitak from Thailand. However, J Guna Sekaran, general manager, Functional Division: Foreign Fair, Domestic Fair, India Trade Promotion Organisation, said the process had been made smooth for foreign participants. “The phone number doesn’t have to be registered in the person’s name. We’re only asking them to pay an advance tax on their sale estimate, and if their sale is less than that, they will get a refund. Earlier, there were several other taxes they would have to pay, so there’s no business loss for them because of GST,” he said. State stalls too said they were hit by GST.
Krystal, 22, who mans a stall in the Mizoram pavillion, said, “Business is not as good as expected. Now people want us to not add GST in the bill.” The fair is also smaller in scale this year since the Hall of Nations and Hall of Industries were demolished in April. Instead of the usual 6,000-plus stalls, there are only 3,100 this year. Bhairav Dutt, 36, who sells the popular Shan masalas, said, “We’ve been coming here for years and would get double the space in hall number 6 and people would always find us. This time, we are in a corner, and visitors are having trouble locating us.”