For Mohan Sundaram, the founder of Investpoint Advisors, a small investment advisory and accounting firm in Mumbai’s Chembur, business has been on a virtual standstill since the first day of the lockdown. While some large firms managed to work remotely, Sundaram says he was not so lucky given the tight financial constraints.
“To be able to work from home, we needed additional infrastructure such as computers and hardware, but for a small firm like ours it was a huge cost burden,” Sundaram said over the phone. “We were not able to service clients and, only when public transport including local trains resume fully will we be able to resume work.”
Thousands of small businesses across India’s financial capital, which bore the crippling impact of five extended lockdowns so far, continued to report acute distress, as the residents were forced to stay indoors due to the rising number of covid-19 infections.
On Monday—first day of the state government’s “Mission Begin Again” to get the megapolis back on its feet—traffic congestions and confusion dotted Mumbai’s streets as local trains remained shut, forcing thousands of commuters to either use their own vehicles or queue up for limited modes of public transport. Buses, taxis and auto rickshaws were back on roads, but operated with significantly reduced capacity.
Malls, restaurants and salons, which will remain shut till 30 June, are counting on the experience of their counterparts in other cities which have begun operations.
“We recently opened our salons in Bengaluru and have received a very favourable and overwhelming response from our clients who are impressed by the measures and precautions we have undertaken. So we will be drawing on that,” said Samir Srivastav, chief executive, Jean Claude Biguine (JCB) Salons India.
The company has appointed a JCB Special Task Force to monitor the new safety rules, operational changes and superior hygiene standards. It is looking to start its Home Salon Service division, JCB Home, once the restrictions are lifted.
While the service industry, which includes home delivery of food and beverage, has started operating in Mumbai with certain restrictions, industry watchers said the city is yet to adapt fully to the changed reality of living with the virus and the fear of rising infections.
Besides, restrictions imposed by vigilant Resident Welfare Associations ( RWA) and cooperative housing societies, have kept most door-to-door business activities at a bare minimum, often only limiting to supplies of essential items.
Despite the easing of the lockdown measures, Mumbai’s large corporates also remained cautious, asking employees to avoid travel.