Vengadesh is one of the million entrepreneurs that make up India’s service sector which contributes to 30% of the country’s GDP. He employs seven people in his welding workshop in the small town of Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu. All of them have worked with him for over a decade and four of these are migrants. On being asked how COVID has impacted his business, he said, “Due to the lockdown and transport restrictions, business orders have reduced, leading to a cash crunch. Even with restrictions easing up, the footfall of customers has been limited to 2-3 per day; mainly those who come for urgent repair work.” This scarcity in demand has led to low incomes for many like him. His average daily income has plummeted from Rs. 3000 per day prior to the lockdown, to a meagre Rs. 500 a day.
“Despite this situation, I did not consider laying off my workers. Instead, I had a conversation with my workers about their preferences. Based on that discussion, I continue to pay two of my staff members who were willing to come in for work and retained the others without salary.”
The others who come from nearby villages face transportation issues and Vengadesh is counting on taking additional orders once the situation eases up to compensate for their losses during this lean period. Interestingly, 81% of the businesses in our study echo Vengadesh’s optimism and are confident of business revival.