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A quiet diwali for Hudhud-affected Vizag

This diwali is set to turn into a dark one for the businesses in Visakhapatnam, the largest city in Andhra Pradesh with a population of over 1.8 million.

Apart from the cracker business, sales of major businesses like garments, gold and silver and consumers goods have seen a drop of as much as 60 per cent with people slowly getting over the devastation caused by Cyclone Hudhud.

“Normally gold and silver sales increase 20-25 per cent on diwali and dhanteras. But this year, we are witnessing a fall of 60 per cent even in our normal sales,” says Mahendra Jain, managing partner of Hira Panna Jewellers.

Post Cyclone Hudhud, 30-40 per cent gold showrooms still haven’t opened due to lack of power supply. A mid-sized jewellery showroom normally sees 40-50 footfalls in a day, but from the last two-three days only three-five customers have been visiting these shops, he added. The sales put together of all the city showrooms stand at Rs 8-10 crore in a day during diwali, and this has now slipped to Rs 1-2 crore, he says.

Malls wear a deserted look. Cloth and garments sales have fallen 50-60 per cent. “After a gap of five days, we opened our shops on October 17 keeping the diwali festival in mind, but no more than five customers are dropping in in a day,” says Ashok Hirawat, proprietor of Hirawat Textiles.

Due to the devastation, thousands of construction workers, daily wage labourers and industrial workers have lost their earnings, impacting the festival sale.

Same is the case with electronic shops. Haranath Raju, managing director of electronic chain Galaxy, says they were opening their showrooms one by one for the last two-three days but power supply is still a problem.

Cracker business

The main business of the festival -cracker – is likely to suffer a loss of Rs 8-10 crore. With the government not allowing cracker shops this time in view of the cyclone, more than 1,000 crackers shop owners have lost more than Rs 2 crore as advance paid to wholesale dealers.

About 200 crackers shops licence holders have paid more than Rs 50,000 each and about 800 small shop owners had paid Rs 10,000-15,000 per head as advances to cracker dealers.

“We have lost this money now as dealers will not return it us,” Srinivas, a cracker shop licence-holder, told Business Standard.

Besides, to get a licence each shop owner had paid Rs 12,500 to the government, and this amount they have now requested the government to return, he added. Normally, about Rs 10 crore worth of cracker business is done every year in Vizag city.

This apart, people do not seem to be in a mood for any kind of entertainment now. Many theatres, including Inox, in the city had been damaged due to heavy windstorms, and are seeing an occupancy rate of below 40 per cent. This is making it unviable to run the shows, a theatre owner says.

Interestingly, the liquor business too has been affected 35-40 per cent in the city. According to Ciri bar and Restaurant proprietor Kishore, about 90 per cent of its liquor sales come from lower middle and poor sections who are daily wage earners and these people now have to spend first on fulfiling the basic necessities.

The food business, however, is the only one which is flourishing post Hudhud. Even roadside food businesses are making good money. Hotels too are seeing increased occupancy though margins have dropped drastically due to the continuous use of generators, says SA Rehaman, vice president, AP Hotels Association.

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