All hell broke loose when the COVID-19 started spreading like wildfire. While the whole world came to a standstill, the small local shops in India were facing an unprecedented challenge. To strictly follow the lockdown, the Government had urged all the businesses to shut down, including supermarkets and malls. When this happened, the tides seem to have turned, and these local shops started playing a crucial role in society. Most people now resort to these shops, leaving it packed like sardines. As a solution to this, the shopkeepers have marked spots every two meters apart with chalk, but social distancing still seems to be out of the question.
These small retail stores are mostly family-run. They are ubiquitous, with at least one store for every 30 families in India. They have a close connection with the people of the community, often giving regular customers a discount. They mostly cater to the essential needs of the customers.
The lockdown has had a detrimental effect on these businesses. "It's like entering a war-zone every single day," said a shopkeeper in a CNBC reporter. From my research and interview, I've learned that it has affected them in three ways- the supply, demand, and the restrictions from the Government. Financially, the liquidity of cash has reduced, which has hindered the credit system on which they used to procure goods from the suppliers. Hindrance in transportation has also taken a toll on the supply of goods. The demand has increased, with long queues outside the shop, thereby causing chaos. Social distancing is far fetched, but the Government has resorted to taking strict actions if they find it violated. The shops have also been ordered by the Government to close by the evening.
The Government has taken initiatives to rectify the supply by relieving certain restrictions on the transportation of goods, along with financial measures. Yet, more has to be done on the demand side. Efficient management of customers is still a challenge that needs to be tackled.