CHENNAI: Throwing open night life is exciting for a metro like Chennai, considered conservative, yet safe. The Centre’s decision to encourage round-the-clock business hours with the proposed Model Shops and Establishments (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Services) Act has enthused various sections of the society in Chennai, who say it is important for any world city to have life and activity without any restriction based on the clock.
This new model law that got concurrence from the Union cabinet on Wednesday would allow cinema halls, restaurants, shops, banks and other such facilities to be open round the clock. However, such a radical move comes with its own set of difficulties for authorities and at least a section of establishment owners.
“It would be fantastic to be able to leave work late and go out to dinner or shop and not worry about closing time,” said Preethi Thomas, a customer experience manager at an online portal.
Agreeing with her, S Priya, a KPO staff, pointed out that availability of food round the clock would be a blessing especially for those who are single. “This is will be particularly helpful for the large number of people who work on night shifts, who cannot get their shopping done during day time,” she added.
Praveen Anand, the executive chef of Crowne Plaza, Chennai Adyar Park, is one such, who explained how he never finds time to buy grocery. “Whenever I leave the hotel it's always too late. This would really make my life easier - I'd go to a mall and do my shopping peacefully at night, with no hurry or worry.”
The bigger establishments are convinced that this would be beneficial for them and the customers. “Five-star hotels like ours already run restaurants and the bar throughout the night as per our license, so I don't see much change happening from the employee perspective. If business picks up in a big way post the midnight hour after this comes in, we will ramp up our staff strength to meet the demand,” Rajesh Radhakrishnan, general manager, The Park Chennai told Express.
While hotels are salivating at the opportunity, not all retailers are convinced that Chennai is ready for such a move. “One-stop shops are completely dependent on the free flow of customers. In a city like Chennai, most of the people don’t come out of their house after 10 pm,” said Ganesh, Vice-president, marketing, Express Avenue.
Echoing him, Natarajan, the person in charge of Mayas Plaza argued that they would have to employ more staff to work on shift basis, which would in turn cut into their profit. Added to this, the infrastructure cost like running air conditioners during the odd hours at night might make it a difficult proposition, he added. It would remain so until the critical momentum is reached.
As G Anbu, a HR senior executive with Poorvika puts it, the move is good for select sectors like restaurants and other big malls, but not for retailers.
Another group that is not enthusiastic is the police, already facing the daunting task of managing the State with nearly 24,000 vacancies. The effect of this shortage would be accentuated if they are to field large number of staff during night hours as well. For instance, there are only two deputy commissioners on duty at night as against a dozen during the day at present.
"I am not saying it will be a big issue, as our night patrolling is one of the best. But we have staff shortage, and our Inspectors and their sub-ordinates are already loaded with work," a senior police officer with the city police told Express. An inspector said the force will have to bring in shift system if this is to be undertaken.
Another officer, however, pointed out that security for commercial establishments like malls and hotels is primarily their own responsibility. Police’s work would remain almost the same, the officer contended.
Former DGP Letika Saran, who has also been the city police commissioner, said these concerns would be over soon enough. “I presume in the initial days there will be increase in the calls that the police have to attend to. But, as time goes by, it will all pan out," she said.