While vendors who had PoS machines did better than others, offering e-wallet options didn’t always help.

Cash crunch takes the sheen off Hyderabads Numaish exhibition
news Demonetisation Monday, January 09, 2017 - 17:02

For Imtiyaaz Ahmed, who is running a stall named ‘Kashmiri Embroidery Center’, Numaish was supposed to be an answer to the post-demonetisation fall in business. That’s why he came all the way from Srinagar for the much-touted 77th All India Industrial Exhibition at Nampally.

“We wait for this exhibition all year. We have been setting up a stall here for the past 40 years,” he explains. However, so far Numaish has not fulfilled his expectations. “But this year, the business has come drastically down. Even though we are using PayTm, people are hardly buying anything,” he says.

Numaish has been a long-standing tradition for Imtiyaaz’s family business, with his father and grandfather coming for the exhibition before him. But this year, with business down by 70%, the journey has not been worth it.

“Last year, I used to make around Rs 25,000 every day. But now I can barely sell for Rs 9,000, even on the weekend,” he says. In Srinagar, he adds, his business has fallen by nearly 20% since demonetisation. But in Hyderabad, after counting all his expenses, the year’s exhibition has been a loss. And this, despite coming prepared with digital payment facilities like PayTM.

Like Imtiyaz, hundreds of traders have come from across the country for Numaish, which is one of the most well-known exhibitions in Hyderabad and around the country.

Nawab Mohammad Iqbal, who has been part of Numaish for past 55 years, and is an advisor for the exhibition committee, said that demonetisation has taken much of the sheen off the 2017 exhibition.

“You cannot expect everyone to use PayTm. But, at least on weekends, we can see more people here,” he said.

“We are taking steps from our side though – most of the ticket counters have swipe machines so that visitors don’t have to worry about money while coming to the exhibition,” he added.

However, he says, despite various measures, the numbers have been much lower this year.

(Bhunpendra Kumar's stall)

On the weekend, the numbers did improve, say vendors. But for those like Bhupendra Kumar, who didn’t have digital payment facilities, the higher footfalls made no difference.

“On Saturday and Sunday, we were expecting bigger crowds, and we can see that the crowd has increased, but not the sales. We don’t have PayTm or a PoS machine. Customers come and ask for prices, and then go to other shops,” Bhupendra explains.

Bhupendra has come from Uttar Pradesh, to set up a handloom stall. “We have been setting up shop for more than 30 years, but the last time we saw this kind of drop in sales was just after the bifurcation of the Telugu states. That time we faced a similar situation,” he adds.

In 2014, he says, his sales were as low as 20% of the usual level in Numaish, and this year too the situation is the same.

“Last year, we made Rs 15,000 almost every day, but now we are hardly earning Rs 5000. We have a lot of expenses – the rent for the stall is nearly 60,000. We hope that in the next few days, sales increase,” he said.

Monis Khan, who has set up a stall selling women’s fashion says that only the PoS machine in his stall has made any difference.

“The sales are lower, but people are buying from here because they can make card payments. I got the PoS machine day before yesterday. PayTm did not help much. Many women coming here don’t know how to use PayTM,” he explains.

Naziya Ahmed, a customer trying to buy a blue kurti at a nearby shop, seems to confirm Monis’s view, when she says, “They have PayTM here, but I don’t have a smartphone. And as the kurti is only for Rs 150, they don’t have change for Rs 2000,” she said.

K Harish, another customer, says he’s only buying from stalls that allow digital payments, since he’s saving his cash for more necessary expenses. “Who will go stand in ATM queues again?” he asks.

And that’s the prevailing attitude for even the smallest purchases, says Mohammed Saket, running a stall for Jaipuri footwear. “People are not paying in cash for even small amounts. They are giving cards, and we don't have any choice but to accept it. The situation is similar in Jaipur also,” he says.

What this means is that sales at the exhibition are being judged by necessity, point out vendors. 52-year-old Areef Khan, who runs a small stall selling artificial jewellery, says, “Artificial jewellery isn’t considered important, so nobody is buying. Due to demonetisation, people are buying more useful things like shawls, blankets and handloom. Last year, I was making Rs 20,000 on weekends, but this year I’m hardly making Rs 6000.”

People come and look at the things, but refuse to buy anything that costs more than Rs 200, he says.