Reopening hassles of small businesses

Salalah: This is a challenge in front of small businesses to make a comeback even after the government decides to open activities in the respective sectors.

Keeping them closed for long is not sustainable while opening them with full safety is a difficult task. Moreover, their audience of customers is not yet comfortable in going out and taking the services due to known fears of COVID-19.

Despite keeping them open, it is difficult for many of the businesses to convince their customers, because the sense of fear of getting the virus is very much there.

Most of the small businesses have an issue with monthly rent. Even though they tried to sustain for a few initial COVID-19 months by paying late rent, it was difficult for them to pay when there was a total shut down of the business.

Most of them have a serious issue with this part of the finance and are not getting enough courage to reopen for fear of the reminders of the landlords to pay the rent.

The other issues are recurring costs of keeping the businesses active. Electricity, water, telephone, cleaning, and giving subsistence allowance to their bare minimum staff– are certain expenditure heads, which look small but in the absence of zero or a little business, this also is big for them.

An employee of a music institute admitted to having been facing this issue. For his reasons, he did not want to disclose his identity but said the institute in which he has been working, is closed since March. “Luckily my wife has a job, I can sustain, but for the institute, the rent has been pending for several months, we got our landline telephone disconnected to save even that small amount.”

He informed that the Supreme Committee has allowed the training institutes to operate, but music, art, and drawing being entirely hobby-based learning, no one wants to pursue this now to avoid getting the virus.

“Moreover, our audience mostly is school-going students. Their parents do not want to take any chance with their children. Such courses are hobby learning that helps in the personality development of the participants. A hobby can wait but not health. We are keeping our fingers crossed, as we have not yet opened our activity for physical learning,” he said.

The same is the situation with the owner of a newly opened restaurant in Salalah. Just 20 days after the opening of his business came the announcement for the closure of businesses to ensure physical distancing and check the spread of the virus.

“We opened this business before the beginning of the Khareef (monsoon) season with high hopes of getting good returns during the season. It was closed for several months. Even though it has opened, there is not much footfall. It is a testing time for us because we are bearing monthly expenses like rent, utility bills, and salary of employees,” said Rashid, an employee of the restaurant.

He still has hope and doesn’t want to give up. “I am hopeful that this will also pass like many other crises. This is the real test of patience for the small business community,” he said.