… 𝑺𝒉𝒓𝒊𝒏𝒌𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒐𝒇 𝒎𝒂𝒓𝒌𝒆𝒕 𝒊𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒄𝒐𝒖𝒏𝒕𝒓𝒚 𝒄𝒐𝒖𝒍𝒅 𝒑𝒐𝒕𝒆𝒏𝒕𝒊𝒂𝒍𝒍𝒚 𝒍𝒆𝒂𝒅 𝒕𝒐 𝒎𝒐𝒓𝒆 𝒃𝒖𝒔𝒊𝒏𝒆𝒔𝒔 𝒄𝒍𝒐𝒔𝒖𝒓𝒆𝒔
As it is, the Business owners were crying foul because their businesses have been affected by the pandemic. Post-pandemic, their hopes remain high that the road to recovery and normalcy would offset what they lost. But the road ahead had stored something else. Just as the situation began to return, the business owners witnessed sluggishness in their business with steady declining of customers. Thimphu, once a bustling town, now scarcely sparse ambling people can be seen in the town.
“Before, the town used to be crowded and business was doing fine. However, even after the pandemic business did not rebound as expected which eventually led to closure of my small grocery shop. It was very difficult to earn even shop rent,” said Kinley, who used to operate a grocery shop in Thimphu. “I feel it’s not just the pandemic but Bhutanese leaving abroad which aggravated the dire situation,” he added.
Sonam, the owner of kitchen utensils shop in Thimphu said that there used to be customers in the peak seasons (February till March mid), but there are not many people now. “We earn Nu. 20,000 during weekdays and up to Nu. 40,000 during weekends, but now sales has drastically dipped.”
“As it is, we were already finding it difficult to meet our monthly target and the situation got worse ever since everyone started leaving the country and we are losing our customers. Over the time, sales dropped drastically,” said Dorji Namgay, restaurant owner in Thimphu.
The owner of a coffee shop in Thimphu said, “I borrowed money from my relatives and friends to start this business. For months, I hardly sold anything and future of my business looks grim.”
He further said, “It is going to take a long time to recover my losses. I am worried that I would not be able to pay back on time borrowed money, loans and even rents. However, I cannot just let my business die. Therefore, I am planning to avail some more loans for expansion and makeover the place, and make more attractive perhaps, this would help my business.”
Most of the small businesses affected with declining numbers of people are grappling today with most basic expenses of paying shop rents and staff salaries.
The owner of clothing store in Thimphu, Yangchen waits for customers, in expectation that someone would walk in today. She talked about how she lost her regular customers and affected her business. “I had a group of girls who always ordered cloths from me but now, they went abroad for their studies. Since then, I noticed that sales have been dropping. I used to earn Nu. 7000-10,000 in a day but sadly now, it is really difficult to even get Nu. 1000,” she said.
“With staggering business, paying rent has become a hassle. For now, we are surviving on few customers,” she added.
Likewise, entertainment outlets also reported same tale. One of the karaoke owners said, “Before we could see the place brimming with people but now, only a few same customers, it is really difficult to pay rent for the space at the end of the month”. Most of the frequenters that I know have left for abroad, he added.
The owner also said that the business has loans and there are staff salaries and other overhead expenses to take care, the situation is getting really worse.
Some employees at the karaoke, requesting anonymity said, “We couldn’t stick around as our boss doesn’t pay us enough salary.”
The plight of shrinking market is not confined to the capital but similar predicament is reported from other parts of the country too.
Kinley Wangmo, the owner of Dardin Lungtaa Tshongkhang, Haa said that with many shops in the area and in contrast, many people leaving abroad have left shopkeepers facing difficulty to keep their businesses afloat. “This twitch in the market has disrupted smooth flow of our businesses, too many goods chasing few ngultrums. Earlier, our daily sale used to hit Nu. 40,000 now, we hardly earn Nu. 10,000,” she said.
She further added that those leaving abroad has not only affected the market with their absences but posed immediate competitors by selling their furniture and other household items at much cheaper rates.
Norbu, who runs a grocery store in Paro said, “Despite the low turnover of people, we are still open to not lose the few customers that we have.”
Similarly, Pema Lhamo, owner of a grocery store in Wangdue Phodrang said that the business is down because there are not many people now.
Many shopkeepers said that despite fewer shoppers, they still have to open the shops to avoid losing out on customers and in order to meet other expenses.
18 other shopkeepers were asked of their business situations and all of them attributed the adverse impact of people leaving abroad.
However, Bhutan Chamber and Commerce Industry (BCCI) insinuate businesses for diversifications during market distress.
“To grow economy, we need larger market. We need to create and sale our own products and we need people. When majority of people opting to go abroad, Bhutan Chamber and Commerce Industry (BCCI) cannot do anything. But, it is a concern to BCCI,” said Tandin Wangchuk, President, BCCI.
He said that for traders, if the shops are not going well because of fewer customers, they have to diversify their business rather than focusing on one business. “They should have proper idea and venture into industries. For that purpose, if they visit BCCI, we will facilitate and help them to bring them some investors because there are lots of investors who are interested to invest in Bhutan,” he added.
Almost all gamut of business are facing challenges of shrinking local market. If local market shrinkage is in anyways ascribed to the Bhutanese travelling abroad and compelling businesses to winding up then country impends to market slump. The calls for an urgent intervention for government and take the situation into its cognition with measures to avert overseas drift as well.