Businesses hail Karnataka's 24x7 move, but infra and other concerns remain

Illustration by Binay Sinha
The Karnataka government’s decision to allow all shops and commercial establishments that employ 10 or more people to operate 24x7 has been welcomed by industry players, especially by those in Bengaluru.

The state announced the move to help businesses recover revenue lost because of Covid-19.

Industry players said it was inevitable that Bengaluru’s nightlife became one of the key drivers of its economic growth.

“The city has a lot of young migrants coming here for work opportunities and any world-class city also boasts of a thriving nightlife economy. This development will help take that to another level. The unemployment crisis will also take a u-turn with Bengaluru 24x7, as restaurants will be able to increase their workforce by 10-15 per cent,” said Ranveer Sabhani, business head — South, Impresario Handmade Restaurants, which runs eight outlets in Bengaluru, including Social and Smokehouse Deli. However, outlets that fall under the ambit of the excise Act are not covered.

Restaurants near IT parks are seeing this step as a game-changer. “Being located right next to the IT hub, we hope this will be a game-changer for corporates to come out during their night shifts for dine-ins, team meetings and also team get together,” said Prasanna Kumar partner at BLR Brewing Co in Electronics City, which houses companies such as Wipro, Infosys, and Tech Mahindra.

While the decision is meant to accelerate economic activity in the state, it could become a lost opportunity if not implemented in properly, some said.

Shashie Kumar, chief operating officer, retail, at Brigade Group, which operates three malls in Bengaluru, says the best way to go about it is to implement the round-the-clock opportunity on Fridays and Saturdays and then gradually move to the entire week. “If it is 24x7 for 365 days, it will not be significant for anyone, neither large retailers nor small players. And the opportunity will be lost,” he says.

While this step could stimulate consumption, at the end of the day the consumer is king. Traditionally, it has been only night clubs that have been sought after and unless there is a major festivity, there’s no late night shopping. While the stakeholders can do the promotions, for them to sustain, the consumer has to respond. Experts say they will have to wait-and-watch if shop goers are looking at an indulgence beyond normal trading hours.

Keeping shops running 24x7 will also require tweaking of infrastructure, which will come at a cost. “The business shift at night beyond the 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. trading hours will have to generate at least 40 per cent of the sales made during the day. If it is less than that, the retailer will not be able to recover the cost that he is incurring, be it a mall or a retailer,” said Kumar. Safety of staff and overtime working hours will be another important area of discussion among businesses.

Such an initiative was announced in Mumbai last January, but the pandemic struck before it could bear fruit.

“When the Mumbai 24x7 initiative was announced, we did keep a few of our restaurants in malls open for extended hours. Two short months later, just when we were seeing a good spike in revenues, the pandemic-induced lockdown happened,” said Sabhani of Impresario Handmade Restaurants.

“However, we did keep food delivery on till extended hours and that business has doubled over the last 10 months. We are hopeful that this trend will continue for Bangalore 24x7 too,” he added.

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