HYDERABAD: The lockdown has been lifted and the streets of Hyderabad are back to life with bustling markets and eager shoppers. But, a closer look at the commercial pockets of the city reminds us of how cruel the pandemic has been to businesses. Many stores have been permanently shut and are now wearing to-let boards. At some places, establishments could not survive the harsh blow of the lockdowns and had to be demolished.
Take for instance the Khaana Peena drive-in cafe on the Langar House Road in Mehdipatnam which opened in 2019. Today, it has been reduced to rubble. The drive-in, once a popular hangout for youth and families in this part of town, used to serve everything from quick bites to full-fledged meals along with beverages. But Covid-19 led it to an abrupt shutdown just before the second lockdown could be announced.
“There were ten stores serving pizzas, burgers, grilled cheeses, fries and dosas. Some of them decided not to reopen because there was no business, but after the latest lockdown was announced a month ago, all the stalls decided to close and the owner is now demolishing the drive-in,” says K Sainath, the gatekeeper of a convention hall adjacent to the drive-in. Another popular cafe, which was perhaps the only lavish hangout spot near the Golkonda Fort, has also downed its shutters too.
“The cafe was shut during the lockdown. But when it opened once the relaxations were announced, there were no customers. The owners finally decided to shut it forever,” says Adil Ahmed, who runs a snack stall abutting the cafe. “I may have to shut my store too. There are no customers. The lockdown has ruined my business which relies on tourists,” he fears.
This apart, many apparel stores in the city, particularly those selling traditional, wedding dresses have decided to pack up their business. “Wedding clothing is expensive. And now, people are not spending that kind of money on such heavy clothing. Weddings too have become a low-key affair these days. The owner (of a fancy apparel store next door) had already taken a major hit during the first lockdown and has emptied his store recently. He sold all the stock to other merchants,” says Nabeel Ahmed, a bangle seller at Charminar market. Look in any direction and one can find to-let boards.
The markets are patched with bills pasted on walls or boards hanging on shutters advertising commercial spaces for rent. Besides moderate businesses, many small stores have no option but to shut down permanently because they were unable to meet the overheads during the lockdown. But they could not afford to advertise on yellow pages. These small vendors — tailors, carpenters and electricians who were forced to leave their small stores — have scribbled their phone numbers on walls near their stores. They have no choice but to take orders over phone and WFH.