INDUSTRY & LOCKDOWN
SHARANPAL Singh Narula, the owner of Narula Furnishings based at Nakodar Chowk here, said that the Covid-19 pandemic has hit the local furniture industry hard, as it has seen a drop of nearly 60 per cent to 70 per cent in sales since the imposition of the lockdown. In an interview with Avneet Kaur, he throws light on the problems facing the industry and how he intends to re-strategise his business to sail through the tough times. Excerpts:
How is your business doing amid the lockdown?
The work is moving at a very slow pace. We have a retail showroom that deals in furnishing services including furniture, home decor, artifacts, wall decors, floorings, etc, in Punjab, Himachal and other northern states. We are also a leading manufacturers of mattresses in Jalandhar. I always had advanced bookings for March, April, May and June because of weddings, but Covid-19 has played a spoilsport and we are now struggling to find ways to cope with the losses.
A large number of labourers have gone back to their native places, which has badly hit industrial operations here. Nearly 50 labourers worked at my manufacturing unit before the lockdown. The number has now come down to just 15. I am now trying to convince my workers to come back, but it is to be seen if they return. —Sharanpal Singh Narula, owner of Narula Furnishings
What are the major issues troubling you at present?
Well, the first major issue is that most of our operations involve off-site visits. No matter what orders we receive, be it curtains, wall decor, flooring or furniture, a site visit is a must for measurement and other purposes. But as Covid cases are increasing every day, people are afraid of letting anyone in their homes. Another problem affecting us is that the creditors have dried up. Vendors want us to make immediate payment while they had been earlier allowing a credit period of 30-40 days. So, things are becoming problematic as of now. Besides, supply chains have been disrupted.
What is the status of your labour?
A large number of labourers have gone back to their native places, which has badly hit industrial operations here. We are also facing a shortage of labour. Nearly 50 labourers worked at my manufacturing unit before the lockdown. The number has now come down to just 15. I am now trying to convince my workers to come back, but it is to be seen if they return and when the crisis ends.
Do you expect your business to pick up in the near future?
Looking at the situation, I think that the industry will not be able to stand on its feet for at least next six months. Although, many businessmen are expecting the business to get better by Diwali, but chances are very less. Also, because of the low liquidity, people aren't really starting their housing projects. Only those who had got most of the work done before the lockdown have resumed construction.
What lessons have you learnt from the crisis?
The Covid-19 pandemic has been a wakeup call for all. It has taught us the lesson to become self-reliant in all respects. You won't believe me but 70 per cent of luxury homes are built in India with Chinese home furnishing products. But now, I have asked all architects, interior designers and builders associated with me to go for Indian home-furnishing products.
What are your expectations from the government?
There is a dire need of relaxation on interest accruing on bank limits or loans for a period of six months. Due to closure of operations and non-receipt of outstanding payments, it has become difficult for us to pay both loan instalments and interest.
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