By G. Amit Kumar
[Pics by M.N. Lakshminarayana Yadav]
Pandemic has affected every business in the last two years and heavily impacted small businesses leading to financial fragility and even closures. One of the most affected sectors is the stationery business that was booming earlier.
COVID is not the only thing affecting their businesses. Online classes, digital learning and online shopping sites have crushed their prospects with trade coming to a standstill. Century-old stationery shops in Mysuru are facing 70 percent drop in business and there has been no growth ever since the pandemic has hit.
Retail and wholesale stationery shops are not happy with the ongoing digital learning process. They are also angry about the rules of certain private schools as they have made it mandatory for students to purchase books and study materials from the school itself.
This has even more affected the stationery business as students visiting shops is completely restricted. Although many stationery shops offer door delivery of books and stationery items, students, techies and bank employees prefer online trade.
One of the major reasons for the downfall of stationery business is the increasing demand for online purchase. Students are showing more interest in buying stationery items online. Students avoid visiting shops due to fear of catching the virus. Also, many retailers blame the State Government for increasing property tax and trade licence fees. They expressed displeasure over the Government for failing to consider stationeries under the category of essential services.
‘Online torture’ for children
When Star of Mysore contacted a few owners of stationery shops many expressed that online classes are not only ruining their business but also they are mentally traumatising children.
A.R. Venkatesh, Proprietor of Sri Ramachandra Book Depot, Devaraja Market, said, “Our shop is 85 years old and I have never seen a worse situation like this before. It’s been almost 2 years since COVID affected all businesses. Moreover, conducting online classes has not only affected our business, but it’s also affecting our children mentally.”
“Eight to ten hours of classes, hectic project work and lack of individual attention on students. I would call this ‘online mental torture’ for students. Also children spend time on mobile phones and laptops the whole day creating health issues. Writing notes by looking at a mobile phone is difficult and it’s an extra burden for students. My children are using eye drops every night”, he added.
No ray of hope
A.N. Rakesh, owner of Sree Krishna Power Press and Krishna Agencies, a century-old stationery shop, Shivarampet said, “We are witnessing 70 percent dip in our business and private schools have snatched our remaining business too. There is no ray of hope for the foreseeable future. Even if schools reopen, our business won’t take off easily, as many private schools have issued circulars to buy notebooks from them compulsorily.”
“I don’t think it will gain its market in future. Even the State Government has neglected us by imposing high taxes and trade licence fees. Our Government does not consider stationery an important service and it will make no difference even if we suffer losses. I request the Government to implement strict rules on private schools, who are looting money in the name of donation, books and online classes,” he said in a disappointing tone.
A.R. Vijay, Owner of S.R.S Printers, Narayana Shastry Road, said, “Online shopping sites have become our all-time business rivals. Even customers like students, techies and bank employees are dependent on online sites. Even though we offer door-to-door services, they prefer online purchasing. Online shopping sites take 2 to 3 days of time for a delivery and impose delivery charges on items.” He hoped there will be an end to the problems soon.
There are more than 3,000 stationery outlets in Mysuru and they are requesting the State Government to hear out their problems and provide financial assistance till the business gains its market back.
Private Schools taking our profit
Owner of Prime Stationers, Devaraja Market, Syed Abdul Mujeeb said, “Now we can see 10% of increase in business, since Schools are open. Yet it’s a loss for our business and have never experienced like this since 10 years. Firstly, online sites affected us badly. We cannot expect more than 30% improvement in the business.” He added, “Earlier Private Schools used to give list of books, which are to be purchased outside. Now trend has changed that we started supplying books to Schools. We open book counters at Schools and charge Rs. 3,000-3,500; we get 10-15% of profits out of it. But School Management takes away all profit and we are left with zero profit.”