Even as coronavirus cases continue to rise sharply, many shops and restaurants have reopened across the country. All of these businesses have made notable changes in operations to promote social distancing among workers and employees.

While reopening after 11-long weeks of lockdown has made them desperate for business, employers have ensured that all coronavirus-related precautions are in place, including social distancing and santisation.

Ronel David, a resident of Mahim in Mumbai, has been running his family business for the last 28 years.

The 44-year-old said the coronavirus crisis impacted his business severely. His shop is located just outside Mahim station. David said only a few customers are coming to his shop these days, but he makes it a point to ask each of them to sanitise their hands before they enter.

He also asks them to wrap a polythene on their feet before they try on a shoe at his shop.

“Customers will touch the shoes before buying, it is inevitable. Everyone likes to feel the shoes before buying them,” he said.

“I try to give them the exact pair of shoes that would fit their size so that there is not much touching,” he added.

Another problem plaguing his business is the fact that the two salesmen, who used to work at his shop, have returned to their native places and he has no one to help him.

“Local boys here don’t want to work for 10-12 hours. They want to work for just 5-6 hours and want more money. So I have no one to help,” David explained.

“Moreover, I don’t think the people who used to work with me will return soon as the pandemic is still widespread. There are not too many customers as well. I think it will take about 8 months to get back to business like we were doing earlier,” he added.

The scene is not different at a nearby apparel store. Shop-owner Vinod Mehta said, “We don’t have even 20 per cent of the business that we used to have before lockdown. Hope things become better soon.”

He has tied a rope outside his shop and does not let people come in at all.

“My customers are local people who have been doing business with us for the last many years so they know what they are buying. And I am managing without my salesman being here as I don’t even know when he will return,” says Mehta.

Vaibhav Dharamshi, who owns a dry fruit and snack shop, said now he tries to make sure that his customers do not enter the store.

In case they do, then they have to use hand sanitisers and he also checks their temperature. It is also mandatory to wear masks before entering his shop.

“We make sure that no one comes to us without a mask. We have had to turn away many customers because of that. But there are 4 hospitals around my shop and all of the doctors have appreciated that we do not allow people without masks to buy items from us,” says Dharamshi.

He elderly father, who sits at the counter now uses a basket to handle currency.

“We don’t even touch the money that customer handover for the goods they buy. All the notes, coins are put in a basket, which we keep for 48 hours as we think that period is good enough time for germs to die. After 48 hours we use that currency,” says Dharamshi.

Big overhaul

Many big companies and retail outlets, too, are struggling with demand, evident by the low customer turnout at their outlets after the lockdown was relaxed earlier this month.

In the absence of customers, many businesses have now started taking online delivery services seriously.

Electronic goods store Croma has about 132 stores that are open across India. The company had launched a feature called ‘Connect to Croma’ that allows customers to book an appointment at the store to avoid standing in the queue or request for a call-back from our staff to assist in making a purchase without visiting the store.

The daily traffic has gone up by almost four times, compared to pre-Covid period.

As per recent trends, every week more than 3,500 customers are opting for store visits across the country by booking an appointment online.

Ritesh Ghosal, CMO, Croma says, “For the safety of customers, we have started “connect to store” on Croma.com. Through this, customers can book appointments at the store or can even place orders over the phone. Nothing much has changed. What has changed is that people can sit at home and consult the chroma staff before buying.”

Another retail chain, Raymond has re-opened 1000+ stores across India.

They have also started conducting temperature checks at the entry point apart from the use of sanitisers.

Amit Sirohi, Head, Retail, Raymond Limited says, “A lot of things are in pipeline. We are doing major changes in our retail processes and layouts to make store safer for our consumers and staff.”

“Some innovative products are in pipeline and will soon be launched in the market. Our ongoing digital transformation efforts are on and are more relevant now than at anytime ever.”

Fast-food giant Burger King, which operates around 200 restaurants across India, is also taking fresh safety measures to keep employees and customers safe.

Srinivas Adapa, CMO, Burger King India, says, “The all-new Burger King app is contactless. That is something we have introduced. We have also started an initiative called safety assurance pack.”

“What we have seen is that guests are relying heavily on takeaway and delivery channels. So, to exclusively to serve them, we have got new packaging which comes with tamper-proof sealing and we have also asked our crew to personally sign off that each of the safety mechanism has been followed,” he added.

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