Hard times have hit businessman Shaazid Mohammed who says he will not be opening his Otaheite branch of S&S Computers when retail stores reopen on Monday.
As jobs dried up because of the COVID-19 lockdown, Mohammed says he has already sold all of his stocks and equipment at cost price and cleared out his desks from the Otaheite branch.
Speaking exclusively with Guardian Media yesterday, Mohammed, 49, a father of four, said the pandemic has left him bereft. He had mortgaged his Penal home to set up the store in Oropouche five years ago. Now he is fearful that if he cannot pay his bills, he will lose his home.
With two credit cards from Scotiabank, Mohammed said he has mounting debts and is barely making enough to take care of his wife Sunita and their four teenage children.
“Right now we cannot even buy their books. We will have to buy little by little as we get money,” he said.
With his store closed, Mohammed has been driving from business place to business place offering his services as a computer technician.
“I am Aplus certified computer technician. I also have a diploma from England, computer programming, computer science, systems operation and systems analyst,” he said.
All he can offer is free estimates for jobs, but Mohammed is hoping that somehow he will earn enough to give his family a comfortable life once again.
“I used to work for Nex Technology DEL in Chaguanas but ten years ago I went into my own business. It was working out good until this COVID happened. Before I was earning $15,000 monthly from sales as well as from doing private jobs but now I am barely doing three or four jobs and making $1,000 per week,” he added.
Mohammed said he was now hoping to access government aid. He said while many may blame the government for COVID, the people had to take responsibility and maintain protocols so that there will be no further lockdowns to harm small businesses.
“The world just flip upside down. I never thought this will happen to us. Since I am 16 years old I have been working and this is the first time that money is running so low in my life. This has never ever happened before,” Mohammed said.
He added, “Before COVID every other week we would make a cook by my in-laws or my friends. People would come by me to fix their stuff. I implemented camera systems, magnetic door locks, created web pages, designed apps for their businesses. But the business started to dwindle until it reached a point where I had to sell my products at cost price.”
Asked what he had done to stay afloat, Mohammed said, “I dropped my prices but nobody had money to buy. Six months ago, I had to sell out everything. I had used my credit card to bring down items to sell and I now have to pay the bank. For the last three months, I haven’t been able to pay loans and drop sales. I have only enough to pay bills and maintain the family.”
Meanwhile, president of the Fyzabad Chamber of Industry and Commerce Clint Arjoon said there were about 40 businesses in his Chamber that will not be reopening on Monday.
He said compared to other areas, Fyzabad did not have a surplus of stores.
Asked whether he agreed with the data provided by the Coordinator of the Confederation of Business Chambers Jai Leladharsingh that 6,000 businesses have closed because of the pandemic and will not reopen on Monday, Arjoon agreed that this was a realistic figure.
He said some of the business places that faced permanent closure were from the informal sector and were even unregistered.