House shifting services had a good business last year after the end of the general holidays declared by the government to contain the spread of coronavirus as there was a rush to change homes and offices due to cost-cutting amid the pandemic-induced economic hardships.
However, the business has come down by half in the peak season of the sector this year compared to the previous years.
Business insiders have expressed their concerns that their business will not return to normal until before the next season.
They said their business was quite good in the succeeding three months of June-July-August last year after the lifting of the holidays which ran from 26 March to 30 May.
According to them, many people lost their jobs and suffered salary cuts due to the economic crisis triggered by the pandemic. At that time, people did not understand when the situation could return to normal. So, many people left Dhaka, some shifted their homes or offices to relatively cheaper places in the capital.
However, schools, colleges and universities are closed now. So, those who used to shift their homes at this time of the year are not doing so this year. And those who shifted their homes and offices in and out of Dhaka during the pandemic are not returning to their previous places, they said.
The four months from December to March are considered as the peak time of the house shifting services business.
In the last decade, in Dhaka, some companies have sprung up in this sector including Pack & Shift, Seba XYZ, Move & Settle, Bengal Movers, Rajdhani Movers, Darkari.com, Dhakamovers.com, Truck Lagbe, Advance Movers, That-quick and Griha.com.
Meanwhile, several companies who mainly run area based business are working as commission agents in this sector.
House-office shifting decreased
Redwan Hossain, owner of Bengal Movers, told The Business Standard that house shifting has dropped by 50-55 percent during the peak season this year. As a result, we are not having enough work.
Some companies have been forced to lay-off their staff due to the crisis.
Shayan Chandra Barman, owner of Move & Settle, a house shifting services company, said, "We laid off three of my office workers because of the Covid-19 crisis and the poor business season."
According to the business insiders, many have shifted their homes and offices from Dhanmondi, Gulshan, Banani and Uttara to Kathalbagan, Mohammadpur, Mirpur, Basila, Dhaka Udyan, Atibazar and Keraniganj soon after the end of the general holidays.
Ruhul Amin works for a private company in Dhaka and used to get a hefty salary before the pandemic. But the Covid-19 crisis halved his salary. As a result, he moved from Banani to the Mohammadpur area.
He said, "I was forced to move. I was living in a rented flat in Banani with Tk80,000 and shifted to a Mohammadpur flat which costs Tk30,000. I am still in crisis. If I can handle the situation, I will go back to Banani again."
More than half of the people have not returned to Dhaka yet
Meanwhile, a large number of tenants from different parts of Dhaka left their homes after the general holiday and went to different districts of the country including Kurigram, Rangpur, Dinajpur, Gaibandha, Kushtia, Lalmonirhat and Khulna.
Businessmen involved with the house shifting services sector told The Business Standard that around 30 percent of those who left Dhaka during the Covid-19 crisis have returned to Dhaka.
Hasibul Alam Zia, head of Rajdhani Movers, said his company shifted about 150 families outside Dhaka after the lockdown. "Recently many of them have returned to Dhaka. But the number is less than half. It will take another year for the rest to return to Dhaka," he said.
"However, around 30% of those who shifted their homes or offices from Dhanmondi, Gulshan, Banani and Uttara in Dhaka to less expensive areas have relocated themselves to their previous areas," he added.
Competition growing in the sector
Businessmen said that in Dhaka alone, about three to four lakh people change their homes and offices every year. The sector has grown by five percent in 2020 compared to 2019.
Ilmul Haque Sajib, co-founder and chief operations officer of Seba XYZ, told TBS that tens of thousands of people have been directly and indirectly employed in the sector in Dhaka alone. "People have become more aware and careful about shifting their homes and offices than before. As a result, the companies involved in the business in this sector with professionalism have become popular."
Pack and Shift has been working in this sector for more than two decades and has changed homes and offices of people of various professions including former presidents, ambassadors, secretaries, poets and writers.
The company is conducting business not only in Dhaka but also internationally. Mohammad Kawsar Alam Khasru, CEO of the company, told TBS that competition in the sector has increased two to three times in the last decade.
"Most of the people in Bangladesh still do not know about professional house shifting companies. But, nowadays, people are slowly starting to know about our business. People's trust in professional companies is increasing day by day, the number of service recipients is also increasing," he added.
However, officials from the professional companies claimed that no one has accused them of theft so far.
Ilmul Haque Sajib, co-founder and chief operations officer of Seba XYZ, said, "A TV had accidentally broken during the relocation of one of our clients recently. They later bought them a new TV. However, if any damage occurs, then we pay a maximum compensation of ten thousand takas after proper investigation."
Meanwhile, Pack & Shift says that one of their clients has recently shifted from Mohammadpur to Mirpur. At that time they lost their TV. The company has provided him with Tk1 lakh and 20,000 as compensation.
Besides the professional companies, many people in different areas of the capital are involved with house shifting services on their own. Individuals involved in this business think that around one lakh people are directly and indirectly employed in this sector.
"I have two tea shops and five vans. I used my vans to change people's homes-offices. Then I bought a small pickup van two years ago because my business was going well," said Saiful Islam who is involved with house shifting services in the Mirpur area.
Businessmen involved in this sector often receive complaints about broken items while shifting homes or offices. In such cases, they pay half the price of the item as compensation through negotiation.