Thousands of small salons facing difficulties staying afloat
The ongoing pandemic has affected almost all businesses regardless of their size and the industry they are in. However, the small enterprises are the ones who are facing the most difficulty turning around their fortunes. There are countless such examples found in almost every Dhaka street where barbershops and beauty parlours have sprung up during pre-Covid times to make a living but had suffered a huge blow during the lockdown. Dhaka Tribune had made an inquiry on the barbershops located in and around Mohammadpur Geneva Camp where they most commonly reside. Roughly around five to seven thousand people from the camp are directly or indirectly involved with the profession, meaning this huge number has been denied of any income for about five months.
“I have lost everything in this pandemic, with three months’ worth of rent, of both the shop and my room still outstanding,” said Mohammad Arman, a local barber who has been in this profession for more than 20 years now. “Neither can we work properly nor can we beg,” he added. Speaking to quite a few from the same profession, most of them claimed that they have not received any help from the government or any non-profit organizations despite repeated verbal reassurance by their representatives.
Geneva Camp, more commonly known as the Bihari-camp among the city dwellers is one of the largest and most densely populated areas in the country where social distancing is simply just not an option. This naturally makes the residents of the camp more susceptible to the disease as any case of Covid-19 there would likely spread like wildfire. This is one of the primary reasons why most people are avoiding barbershops and salons, especially in these areas and thus putting thousands out of business. This could lead to other problems such as a rise in the number of crimes in the area, according to social analysts.
“We opened our shops right after Eid-ul Fitr, but the number of customers was less than one-third of a regular day before Corona,” said Mohammad Sohel, an owner of a small barbershop in the capital’s Rayerbazar area. According to him, business improved a little after Eid ul Azha, as customers returned but still nowhere close to the numbers they were used to. Many complained that they had to pay the usual rent even if the shops were completely shut for months, which put these small enterprises in a tight spot from which they are having difficulties coming out of.
Many also came up with innovative ways to attract customers, some even wore PPEs to convince people that their shops were safe, others went on house calls only. Some barbershops were also seen selling trimmers and other accessories as the demands for those skyrocketed suddenly. Speaking to quite a number for such hairdressers, it was evident that they are worried about the winter months as they expect sales to go down again. With coronavirus cases likely to go up again, casting a shadow of uncertainty over them, there is only very little these people can do to help themselves.