India Unlocks: Businesses limp back to action

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Published: June 9, 2020 1:25 AM

Malls in Delhi, offices in Mumbai & religious places in Bengaluru open up.

Malls in Delhi-NCR saw very thin crowdsMalls in Delhi-NCR saw very thin crowds

Commercial establishments like malls, restaurants, shopping centres, and office complexes on Monday reopened across most parts of the country after two-and-a half-months as part of the government’s Unlock-1 measures. Though by no means it was business as usual but certainly it pointed towards businesses limping back to normalcy. While malls in Delhi-NCR saw very thin crowds, Mumbai saw high traffic as corporate offices in the Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC) and lower Parel started functioning with 10% attendance. Shops in key market areas of Dadar, Colaba and Kurla also opened for businesses.

Even as the lockdown remains in force till June 30, the Maharashtra government, as part of the phase-wise reopening of the economy and public activities under ‘Mission Begin Again’, has allowed private offices to resume operations with 10% of staff. The corporate office of JSW Group in BKC saw top management executives coming to office. Similarly, Larsen and Toubro’s office opened after major sanitation drive with 10% staff who were encouraged to maintain social distancing and wear masks and gloves for their own safety.

At Hiranandani, staff who travel by public transport were discouraged to come to work. The company has arranged for two buses to ply the 10% employees from two directions in the city, and this will be followed till situation improves.

The Aditya Birla Group’s corporate office will reopen only on June 15 with 10% staff which will only entail senior leadership team coming to work. Also, as commuting due to lack of public transport will be a challenge, regular staff will take some more time to be able to attend work. The company may make some arrangements for commute, but a decision on that is pending.

Mumbai has not allowed opening of malls, restaurants and hotels.

As restrictions on movement were eased, a number of buses of the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking (Best) started plying with filled seats.

In Delhi-NCR though malls and shopping centres re-opened, business remained thin. The focus remained on the hourly disinfection of the common areas, contact-less shopping and physical distancing to prevent the spread of the virus. Staff were seen measuring body temperature and keeping a record of the visitors entering the premises.

Nimish Arora, director and interim CEO at Select Citywalk mall, Delhi, said it has resumed operations on Monday and is hopeful that all the stores will be operational in the next couple of days. Arora expects the crowd in the malls to be led by the youth in the days to come and categories like personal care, cosmetics and electronic items will see traction. “The apparel section will be led by casuals. H&M saw good traction today,” Arora said.

Malls owners are expecting around 20-30% footfall in the first few weeks. Monday and the next two-three days could see very low footfall being weekdays, but during the weekend, more crowd is expected.

Shopping malls, restaurants and other establishments reopened in West Bengal also and people came out on the streets of Kolkata in large numbers, with many flouting the social-distancing norms. Traffic snarls were reported from several areas of the metropolis as government offices started operating with a 70% attendance and most private offices and establishments recommenced near-normal functioning.

“We have two malls in Kolkata – Southcity Mall and Acropolis. We have an association called Shopping Centres Association of India (SCAI), where we have jointly prepared an SOP (Standard Operating Procedures) for opening of the malls, basically, what are the precautionary measures to be taken, how we should prepare ourselves for mall opening and how we should clean business places which remained closed for months. Accordingly, we have taken all the necessary measures for the preparations for reopening of the malls. We are happy that all those preparations have been useful. As a result, now we have a proper management system to regulate the crowd,” Sushil Mohta, director of Southcity Mall and chairman of Acropolis mall, told FE.

Places of worship, hotels and restaurants opened in Bengaluru and several parts of Karnataka also. As temples opened up with some strict guidelines in place, the number of devotees remained scarce. Checking of body temperature at the entrance with infrared thermometers, use of hand sanitisers, wearing of masks by devotees and staff and social distancing were common sights at temples. No ‘teertha’ (holy water) and ‘prasad’ are being distributed to devotees for now, a temple official said.

(With agency inputs)

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