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So different,yet so alike: twin blows on slowdown street

The economic slowdown has manifested itself in two unique faces of trading activity in Pune.

Written by Ranjani Raghavan | Pune |
March 21, 2009 12:43:36 am

The economic slowdown has manifested itself in two unique faces of trading activity in Pune. The over-100-year-old Juna Bazaar,dating back to the Peshawa age and home to scrap and second hand dealers in metal,electronic items,clothes and furniture,has seen 100 of its 300 stalls shut down recently. In another part of the city,Fashion Street in Pune Camp,130 of the 550 stalls have downed shutters,30 of these in the last two months.

Wednesday saw the weekly bazaar at Juna Bazaar but till sundown Ismail Sheikh had not had a single customer. A dealer in scrap furniture dealer for 40 years,he said this has become the norm rather than the exception. “Lately,even fortnights pass at a stretch before we get a boni (the first business deal of the day),” said Ismail.

Till a year ago,traders from Delhi,Ludhiana or Kolkata would flock to Juna Bazaar to buy stock. Not any more. A telling sign of the slowdown is the cancellation of auctions across the city. “Public utilities,government institutions,even companies have cancelled several auctions for scrap lately,” Sheikh said.

The fall in prices of iron and steel should ideally have encouraged dealers to convert scrap into furniture,but the buyers have vanished. Last year,a scrap dealer at Juna Bazaar would do business worth Rs 25,000 a week; that is down to less than Rs 10,000 now.

Collateral damage is not hard to find. Dealer A A Khan said,“The hired helps are going. Owners are sitting in the stalls.” And Akbar Shiekh,whose tempo service once thrived,said,“When business was booming,I bought my own tempo. But I haven’t managed to pay the last three EMIs.”

Across the city,many traders have shut their Fashion Street stalls and left home for Andhra Pradesh,Karnataka,UP and Bihar. A few remain in the city doing odd jobs to support their families.

Five months ago,Chandbhai Sheikh had five stalls dealing in moderately priced fashion wear; since Diwali,he has closed down two of these.

It costs around Rs 1,000 a day to maintain a stall; with almost no business,it no longer makes sense. “The rent is Rs 300. Then,we have to pay salaries,maintenance,electricity and other expenses,” said Sameer Sheikh,who has shut down one of his shoe stalls. In November,S Chiraguddin,who trades in leather belts,decided to work as a part-time autorickshaw driver to supplement his income. “The income from the stall is not enough,” he said.

Many dealers have been defaulting on their EMIs on loans; few are able to sell wares for more than Rs 1,000 — Rs 1,500 a day — a far cry from a couple of years ago,when a day’s sales would be Rs 5,000 to 6,000. “Nothing gets sold. Most business is on credit but these days few traders will sell on credit,” said Chiraguddin.

Adding to the resentment is the presence of over 100-odd stalls that were given permission to set up their businesses here last year by the Pune Cantonment Board. A case is pending over their legality.

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