Kirana stores in and around the Santacruz and Chembur areas of Mumbai are stocked for now. But only just. The situation is no different in cities like Delhi and Gurugram.
As last-minute shoppers pick up groceries from bread to flour, soaps to noodles, anticipating longer shutdowns, Suresh Kiranawala, the proprietor of one of the corner shops in the Santacruz east area, says his inventory will be exhausted soon.
“I normally keep stocks for about eight days in my store. But since the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak, stocks have exhausted quickly, forcing me to seek replenishment every two to three days. New stock last arrived on Saturday, I have inventory left for the next 24 hours only,” he says.
At Darshan Kiranawala, a corner shop some distance away from Suresh’s store, items such as packaged flour, biscuits and soaps are no longer available. Darshan says he will exhaust whatever he has and wait for further supplies. “What’s the choice I have? Transportation is a huge issue right now. The lockdown is hitting business hard,” he says.
Pharmacies in Mumbai and Delhi are also struggling to replenish stocks of hand wash, hand sanitizers and shampoos.
Conversations with multiple distributors and retailers of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) across Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Delhi indicate that traders are struggling to transport goods to retail points as police barricade busy roads and round up people those violating lockdowns.
“Factories are shut and there is no movement from warehouses to stockists, distributors and retailers,” says C H Krishna, president of Federation of All India Distributors Association (FAIDA). “Sales will suffer as a result and small retailers will find it difficult to absorb the losses,” he says. On Tuesday, Coca-Cola India and Nestlé India joined Dabur in announcing that they were scaling down and suspending operations at some plants in view of the lockdown. Coca-Cola said it would operate only in few plants.
Some other firms, such as Godrej Consumer and ITC, are notifying local authorities to allow them to continue manufacturing essential items at their plants, creating buffer stocks, and are working with their vendors to facilitate timely and uninterrupted supplies of inputs and packaging material.
Arun Parikh, a Gujarat-based distributor, says many retailers will be forced to exit the business. “While sales come to a standstill, retailers and distributors have to continue paying utility bills, rent, equated monthly instalments of loans taken and salaries of their staff. Navigating these challenges is not easy when revenue is down,” he says.
While the government on Tuesday said that filing of income tax and goods and services tax returns had been postponed till June 30, sources said FAIDA is likely to petition the government in the next few days asking for more relief measures for small retailers.