With Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes banned a year ago, November brings back memories of a time when the crowd in Mumbai’s bustling shopping districts had dwindled rapidly. While many small-time traders took lessons in using online wallets and downloaded them on their smartphones, a year later, cash is once again the preferred way of life for sellers at street markets in the city.
With technical glitches in digital transactions and shopkeepers struggling with payment gateways, the journey through the months following demonetisation brought sellers back to cash transactions, the only way of business they knew before November 8, 2016.
Salim Ahmed (62), who sells chargers and mobile phone accessories at Fashion Street, said, “After demonetisation, I started using an e-wallet as a payment option since cash transactions were hit. The main problem I faced was that when customers paid using e-wallet, the money would be deducted from their account but I would not receive it. This happened to me four or five times. I had lost around Rs 3,500. Hence, I stopped using the payment gateway and now I only deal with cash transaction.”
While shopkeepers faced issues with digital transactions, the introduction of the Rs 2,000 note made even cash transactions difficult, shopkeepers said.
Kulanand Singh (32), who sells jewellery at Colaba Causeway, said: “Post the note ban, the sales in our shop dropped by 75 per cent. With Rs 2,000 notes being introduced, there were customers who came to my shop and bought earrings and necklaces worth 250 to 500 rupees but handed me Rs 2,000 note for which I couldn’t get change. I lost a lot of customers. The two to three months in the beginning were challenging for me. After three months, business slightly picked up.”
“The demonetisation of high end notes and the Goods and Services Tax (GST) have impacted business severely. Shortage of currency affected purchasing ability of consumers. We have also raised our issues against the current tax slabs of GST —18 and 28 per cents —which is high. The unorganised sector is surely affected. Business has also slowed by 30 per cent,” said Viren Shah, president, Federation of Retail Traders Welfare Association (FRTWA).
In Bandra, street shopping continues on Linking Road with most customers reaching out for their wallets and pulling out notes to hand over to sellers after a hard bargain. The switch to e-wallets was short-lived but the slump in business, most sellers say, was not. Several of these vendors believe that demonetisation is far from a success and that it could not achieve the purpose it had aimed to.
Babloo Pandey, who owns a women’s accessories shop on Linking Road, says, “In a month, we have been suffering losses for 25-26 days on an average after demonetisation. Previously, we had customers willing to buy an item priced at Rs 200 for Rs 400, whereas, now, customer want to buy the same at Rs 100. There is a lack of customers, like never before.” Pandey, who has been working for the last 25 years at the shop, adds that business in the last one year since demonetisation has been poorest in all his time here.
Mustafa Ali (55) who sells jewellery and sunglasses at Colaba Causeway said: “I have been running this business for the past 30 years and this year, by far, has seen the worst sales I have ever witnessed. Customers just come, see the products on display, ask the prices and go. They are not willing to buy anything. Every year, post Diwali, sales are down but this year, sales have reduced by 70 per cent.”