CHENNAI: Small businesses in T. Nagar saw their sales drop by up to 90 percent following the government’s decision to demonetize Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes.

“The business is down by 90 percent,” said Rashiq Ahmed, a salesperson at Babu Shoes, a store selling footwear on Ranganathan Street. Although he was disappointed by the government decision, he believes the policy would help curb black money.

Ahmed was not alone. Businesses in T. Nagar, one of the biggest markets in Chennai, were dealing with an unusual slump since the announcement of demonetization.

“The business is down by 90 percent,” said Rashiq Ahmed, a salesperson at Babu Shoes, on Ranganathan Street.

Abdul Rahman runs Afsan Boutique – a small textile store at the end of the Ranganathan Street near South Usman Road. “The business was already dull. Now it is worse,” he said.

Like many other sellers in the street, he was not sure if the policy would have an impact on black money. “Whether it will have an impact on black money, I don’t know,” he said. “Now only small businesses and middle class are affected,” he added.

Many small business owners were skeptical about the impact of the policy. “Rich will always find ways to cheat,” said Arulappan D., manager of Esther Plastics. His business was down by 60-70 percent. He agreed this was the case with most businesses in T. Nagar. “Everyone is facing the same problem,” he said.

The crisis has forced some vendors to temporarily accept the banned notes. Nagor Meeran runs a fancy store in Ranganathan Street. When his sales hit rock bottom, he started accepting the old 500 rupees notes.

However, not many have approached him with the banned notes and his business has not recovered despite his lenience.

Meeran was an exception. Most businesses in Ranganathan Street were not accepting the old currency.

Abdul Rahman pointed to the limits imposed on currency exchange. On Wednesday the government had announced an exchange limit of Rs 2000 per person against one account, which went into effect on Friday. The long queue in banks to exchange old notes was another factor that deterred many sellers.

Despite the current lull, many were hopeful that businesses would recover in a matter of time.“Once cash comes in the ATM, everything will pick up,” said Rashiq Ahmed. “It will take some weeks,” he added.

Meeran echoed him and expressed hope that by January the sales would soar to their normal levels.

Ranganathan Street, which is usually crowded with buyers and sellers, was almost deserted since the currency ban went into effect.

Many buyers and sellers disapproved the policy. Some believe it would have little impact on black money. “Black money [is] in shares and other forms,” noted Thiruvikraman, a shopper.

Like many others, he too complained about the long queues in front of the ATMs.

However not everyone was unhappy. “The black money is running our country,” said Gulab Sanghi who is a supplier to local stores. “My business is also affected. But this is for the good of our children. If we need to [curb] black money, this is the best policy for [the] nation,” he added.

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