A young man whose job is to sell denims has to mop the shop floor, too. An employee of Fresh Choice, getting 30 per cent of his usual salary, is serving patrons with a smile. The manager of an ethnic wear store, who has not been paid anything since April, is coming to work every day. Many establishments in the city, which have reopened following easing of lockdown norms, have gone for job cuts, pay cuts and other measures in an attempt to remain viable.
The stories that emerge from these places are distressing. But people working there are not complaining because they still have a job, unlike many of their former colleagues. At malls across the city, people working at stores are eagerly waiting for buyers and greeting even passers-by, hoping they would drop in.
Around 2pm on Thursday, the only people inside a sprawling store of an ethnic wear brand at Dabagardens were three employees. “We are hardly having walk-ins,” said the manager of the store which had closed on March 22 and reopened in the second week of June. “We got a very small amount in April, for basic needs. Since then, we have not received a penny, not even transport allowance,” said the manager. He said he used to earn around Rs 18,000 a month before the Covid-19 crisis.
The father of two lives in Madhurawada and spends over Rs 60 a day in auto fare to come to work and return home. “The employer has told us we would get a part of our June salary. We come to work every day, hoping to see a rise in footfall,” said another employee, who used to earn around Rs 7,000, plus a commission on achieving sales targets. That is a distant dream now. Before the lockdown, the average daily sale ran up to “around Rs 40,000”. The store earned “approximately Rs 40,000” in June.
At another branded store in Dwaraka Plaza, a man sitting at the counter came running to the entrance on seeing me and offered hand sanitizer. The store had seven employees before the lockdown. It now has four, who work in shifts. The contracts with housekeeping and security agencies have been suspended to cut costs, said the 25-year-old man. “I have to mop the floor and keep the store clean, which I have never done even at home. But I am not complaining. The situation is challenging. I am lucky I still have a job. His father’s business, he said, has almost crippled because of the Covid-19 curbs. The store used to see a dozen walk-ins on a lean day before the pandemic. Now, after re-opening, the number is “two to three a day”.
An employee of a Deepak Punjabi Dhaba has been greeting every visitor with a broad and earnest smile. He has been drawing a third of his usual salary. “This is the cost of keeping the business running and my job intact. We are waiting for things to improve,” he said.