The closure of gymnasiums because of the Covid-19 curbs has robbed thousands of employees of their livelihood in Vizag. Several owners starring at bleak future said they were mulling permanent closure if the shutdown got stretched beyond the zone. Many say it is getting tougher to pay rent and other overhead expenses with zero income. The shutdown of five months in 2000 had indeed dealt a lethal blow to the sector. And once again, in 2021, the curbs are threatening to deliver a knockout punch.
Speaking to Hello Vizag, owner of the gymnasium, K Winston, said the second wave of Covid infections has hit the fitness service and preventive healthcare sector the hardest. Almost our businesses have virtually collapsed and many of us are facing bankruptcy and complete shutdown from which we are unlikely to recover. We followed all the directives we have kept our gyms/fitness centers closed since 30th April 2021. Nevertheless, this has resulted in immense losses with no relief. As it stands, the business is not very lucrative and runs on the monthly cash flows generated and has to bear high rentals.
As a matter of fact, the shutdown means “loss of livelihood for more than 50,000 people”, he added. Ravi Kumar, a fitness trainer at a gym in Sankarmatam road, has been getting half his salary since May. Of course, he is familiar with a prolonged income loss. In the first wave of Covid-19, gymnasiums were made to shut for over five months. To sustain during the lockdown, I used all my savings. But this time, i have no idea how to go forward I don’t have any savings left,” said the 37-year-old. Ravi Kumar’s wife, a beautician, is also out of work because of the Covid curbs.
Another trainer of a popular gym in Seethammadhara, who did not want to be named, has been selling fish at the wholesale market in one town area. After all, it is survival of the fittest, he added. Some gym owners with whom Hello Vizag spoke, said they will close permanently if they don’t find any solution by this month. We cannot shell out money for paying rents and partial salaries of their staff, one of the owner said, adding I know their livelihood will be gone but I don’t have any other option.
Many city-based gyms have a six-monthly or annual membership option that most patrons opt for. Now with the shutdown, many patrons who have already paid the fee are asking for refunds for May and June, said owners. After the reopening of gyms last year, we are witnessing a decline in footfall, said owners. But some of the trainers are coaching patrons virtually. While the number is quite negligible.
“Income is zero. Fixed-cost components are unchanged. Indeed, it is highly impossible to survive in this condition, especially for smaller units. Almost, all gyms shut down last year, unable to bear the losses. And now, if the shutdown gets stretched, many more gyms will also shut down for good,” said another gym association member. Stating further, he said before opening, we have to spend a substantial amount on sanitisation and Covid-19 protocols. For the owners, spending any extra money will be extremely difficult. Yet this is a fight for survival.