From cars to watches, protests hit India Inc: ‘Decline in customers visiting showrooms’


JANUARY 12, 2020

THE IMPACT of nationwide protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is beginning to show up on corporate numbers — from automobiles to restaurants and even watches.

Titan Company Ltd, India’s largest watchmaker that controls nearly half the country’s Rs 8,000 crore watch market, disclosed in a regulatory filing that sales “in all divisions” in the second half of December were “impacted to some extent due to forced store closures due to the protests in the North East and in many other parts of the country”.

Top executives with at least two major car manufacturing companies told The Indian Express that December witnessed lower footfalls at showrooms across multiple locations due to the protests, and that January 2020 continues to be subdued as well.

Alongside, auto companies have reported truncated shipments and supply disruptions that have impacted inventory levels at dealerships at impacted locations, although stocking numbers were not available.

Restaurant owners, represented by the National Restaurant Association of India, have pointed to the street violence in urban centres such as Delhi, Lucknow and Kolkata, alongside prohibitory orders imposed by state administrations, having a direct impact on the food business.

Travel industry players have signalled that inbound foreign tourist arrivals are seeing a slide in growth, with places such as the North East seeing cancellation in view of the protests and advisories from foreign governments. Russia, the US, Canada, the UK and Israel are among the countries that have issued advisories to their citizens to exercise caution while visiting India, especially the North East.

“There has been a decline in customers visiting the showrooms since the protests began in December. In times of social unrest there is a decline in purchase of cars and as 2020 has also started on the same note, I don’t see a quick revival in car sales amidst the tide of protest and social unrest,” said the India chief of a leading car manufacturer.

For automobile manufacturers, a source of relief is that highways have not been shut by protestors and transportation has not been impacted much. “We have not witnessed a hit on transportation, else the impact would have been much worse,” said an official with another leading car manufacturer, adding that shipments to dealerships are being truncated as a precautionary measure.

The travel industry is bracing for impact if the protests continue for longer. Subhash Goyal, chairman STIC Travels Group, and past president of IATO, said that since it is the peak season and most of the bookings were done two to three months back there has not been much impact for now.

“However, if the protests continue, the forthcoming seasons may get impacted. We are getting enquiries from our foreign customers with regard to protests and we (the industry members) are telling them that these are isolated incidents confined to particular areas and there is no reason to worry,” said Goyal.

But that may not be true for many others especially those in Assam, which was at the centre of the protests. A tour operator of Kaziranga National Park in Assam said that almost all operators have lost the peak season to protests.

“Every year, till January 15, all the resorts and hotels around Kaziranga are fully packed but this year they are scantily occupied. There are around 300 vehicles that have permission for jungle safari in Kaziranga but only around 20 are plying daily this year. It has been bad for us since the protests began. There are no customers and all businesses dependent upon tourists have been impacted,” he said.

Naveen Munjal, managing director, Hero Electric, had told The Indian Express in an earlier interview that protests on a mass scale generate a very negative image and that while a number of business visitors were supposed to come in, “they are cancelling out saying because of the economy”.

Courtesy/Source: Indian Express