Jasim Uddin had a small juice shop beside Mohammadpur town hall market. He used to sell juice worth Tk15-20,000 every day before the pandemic from which his net profit was Tk3-4,000 excluding all the expenses.
He was forced to close his shop because of the Covid-19 pandemic. All of the eight employees of the shop lost their job. Being unemployed, he started to sell fish at the same place where his juice shop was. But he realised that selling fish is not as profitable as selling juice.
"I was totally unemployed during the first three months of the pandemic. I had to continue borrowing for a living. Then I started a fish business. But, last week, I counted a big loss. I hope the business will be better soon," said Jasim Uddin.
He said he borrowed around Tk1 lakh during the pandemic which is still unpaid.
Small traders like us cannot take loans from any bank. So, we are forced to borrow money from local associations with a high-interest rate
"Small traders like us cannot take loans from any bank. So, we are forced to borrow money from local associations with a high-interest rate," he said.
"Living in Dhaka with my parents, wife, and two sons has become difficult and many of those who worked with me have gone to their village home," he added.
There were about 16 juice shops in the Mohammadpur area. Among those, only two survived the economic turmoil of the pandemic. Moreover, none of the shops on small vans which sold juice in the same area can be seen anymore. The picture is almost the same all over the city.
The Covid-19 pandemic has significantly altered consumer behaviours, especially about food and drinks consumption, due to health safety reasons. As a result, the business of small juice shops is decreasing day by day. Many stalls had to be closed. Those which are still operating is suffering from poor sales.
Yousuf has been selling juice on a van at the Mogbazar intersection area since 2013. During the pandemic, he had lived an inhuman life along with his family members as his shop was closed.
He had to spend all his savings during the lockdown period. Describing his current condition, he said, "Before the pandemic, I used to sell juice worth around Tk6,000 per day. From which I earned Tk1.5-2,000. But, at present, it has been difficult to earn Tk200."
He said the number of customers has severely decreased due to the fear of virus infection.
In this situation, many juice sellers have gone back to their native villages as it has been difficult for them to survive economically. Many of them have changed their profession like Jasim Uddin. Those who have continued their business are counting loss.
Juice is a bit luxurious product. So people avoid them. As a result, these small traders have exhausted all their savings. In this case, their tendency to be associated with the crime will increase
Dr Sayma Haque Bidisha, professor of Economics, Dhaka University, said, "Corona infection in the country has not decreased yet. As a result, demand for products has decreased along with the income of people. Those who do the business of the products of daily necessities are trying to turn around a bit but those who are from a lower economic class are not likely to turn around. It is not possible to turn them around without any cooperation."
"Juice is a bit luxurious product. So people avoid them. As a result, these small traders have exhausted all their savings. In this case, their tendency to be associated with the crime will increase," she added.
She also said that if arrangements are made for the informal traders to turn around, they will find some hope. Small incentives can be arranged by collecting their information.
"Where big incentives default, a small loss in the case of these small traders is not a big loss for the country. The government can work for these small businessmen as well as for the expatriates," said Professor Sayma.