Covid 19 impacts Little India businesses but not the spirit!


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For most of the Indian community in Sydney, Harris Park has emerged over the years as a very popular location to visit whether it is a weekday or weekend. With over 90 businesses mainly restaurants and spice centres, the three streets of Harris Park namely Wigram Street, Station Street and Marion Street have been very busy catering to thousands of customers day and night. Such a popularity of Harris park has earned it a nickname “the Little India” of Sydney.

However, this was the story till the outbreak of the pandemic Coronavirus called COVID-19 in Sydney among other Australian cities dynamically changing during last one month or so. With many businesses have been closing, thousand jobs being lost each day, the Australian economy is virtually at a standstill.

The Little India with many businesses managed by the Indian community members is no exception.

Many other businesses are also affected in different ways.

The Indian Telegraph spoke to some of such businesses.

Sanjay Deshwal is running both an immigration consultancy and a boutique for fashion garments. Sanjay is also the Director of Little India Harris Park Business Association (LIHPBA).

Sanjay Deshwal Director of Little India Harris Park Business Association
Sanjay Deshwal Director of Little India Harris Park Business Association

Sanjay Deshwal said “we are operating since 2010 in Harris Park. It is a big hit for small businesses more than ever before. We had the draught, bushfire, heavy rains and now this Corona virus within last one year. Covid-19 has shaken the confidence. There have been lot of cancellations for my businesses, more than 50%.” Sanjay added the government should step in at the street level to support businesses for ongoing rents and maintaining staff wages.

Mr Subbarao Varigonda, Chairman of the Little India Harris Park Business Association (LIHPBA) said “we are seriously concerned and keeping a watch on developments of the COVID-19 crisis daily. We are aware that travel agents operating from Harris park are getting terribly hit. Restaurants have been affected very badly. We need lot more benefits to small businesses like cash handouts, interest free loans, tax concessions which will be very helpful at this hour. Small businesses are very important to the economy. Both Federal Government and NSW Government support is very much required. Any visit by the law makers (Federal and State) to Harris Park will be very much encouraging. Bipartisan support will also be required. LIHPBA Board is talking to Parramatta Council for support to Harris Park businesses especially maintaining cleanliness, hygiene of surroundings through chemical sprayings etc.

This crisis is unprecedented and worse than World wars. Lot of awareness still needs to be created as well among the community members. But we sincerely hope with sincere effort, hard work and cooperation between Prime Minister Scott Morrison and NSW Premier Gladys Berejikilian and support from community we all will survive this monumental crisis”

Informally talking to the managers of Ginger Restaurant, Tikka corner and Haveli also revealed many hardships the restaurants were facing in Harris Park which is made even worse now with restaurant closures and restricted business through take aways.

Tikka Corner Harris Park
Tikka Corner Harris Park

Mr Amrit from Price beat Travels (now closed and only open online) said that “this is a major impact on the travel industry due to banning international travels by the Government. This sudden impact is a huge shock to our business. With practically zero income, mortgage payments and fixed costs such as rent, the future looks bleak as we do not know how long this crisis will last”

Mr Amrit - Price beat Travels
Mr Amrit – Price beat Travels

Mr Gurmeet Tuli of Tuli Jewellers and President of Little India Australia said that this crisis is virtually brought Little India to a standstill. He said” however we are in close to with Parramatta Council. We had a meeting with them. They have promised ongoing support to us in many ways.

Gurmeet Tuli Little India supermarket
Gurmeet Tuli Little India supermarket

We are now engaged with seven restaurants in Harris Park in leading free food distribution to affected International students maintaining social distancing and lockdown schedules. Our organisation is in touch with the Indian Consul General Mr Manish Gupta for spreading the message to Indian students, but we are also extending this support to other international students as well. Apart from this at Billus Restaurant we have arranged to distribute rice, dal and flour to the needy by registration process”. Gurmeet Tuli added “Our support to community will continue as long as we can”

Sanjay Dhodi, managing the Durga Paan and Falooda shop has faced a different kind of problem.

Sanjay said” we are not getting raw materials (Paan leaves) on account of ban on the flights.

Sanjay Dhodi Managing the Durga Paan and Falooda shop
Sanjay Dhodi Managing the Durga Paan and Falooda shop

Even milk is becoming hard to get these days’ adding his business has been affected only marginally.

Sardarji Orginal Live Hot Jalebi
Sardarji Orginal Live Hot Jalebi

The only silver lining visible was that the Indian spice Shops were very busy and doing well.

At this time both Federal and NSW Government have announced various measures to support small businesses and it is hoped that Little India businesses will be benefited at least in short term by availing such measures.

In general, it was heartening to see despite many hardships and unknowns many businesses in Little India are putting up a brave front with hope of securing more support from Government agencies and the community to maintain their spirits.

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