Despite new high tech systems in place to comply with coronavirus norms, the Phoenix Market City, a popular mall Chennai which reopened after five months on Tuesday, has very few visitors.
The mall has deployed a computerised thermal scanning system for contactless screening. A wet mat sanitises footwear as visitors step on it. An artificial intelligence-based technology attached to a large LED screen displays how many visitors and employees are in the building at any point in time to ensure 50 per cent footfall than normal at any point of time to comply with social distancing norms. 162 of the 324 showrooms only have reopened and it's likely to touch a total of 200 by the weekend.
On the hardship due to the lockdown, Pooja Patti, Facility Director, told NDTV, "There have been huge losses for both the mall developers and the retailers. Still the premises have to be maintained. That was a challenge."
At a time the GDP has seen a 23.9 per cent drop, "Scotch And Soda", a fashion boutique in the mall, has had no business at all since they resumed on Tuesday. Among other measures, this outlet has put in place a quarantine and steam iron norm for clothes used for trial by customers.
Chaitanya Prabhu, Store Manager, said, "It is too early to judge about it. These are the weekdays and the footfall is very low. I am sure the weekends are going to be a hit with good footfall."
With no revenue over the last five months, many have renegotiated their lease and rentals.
Vinoth Pandian, Manager of PapaRoti - a multi cuisine restaurant - says "Customers are increasingly preferring takeaway to dining. The restaurant has reduced capacity by 50%".
Not far away, Gautham, a techie who was sacked by an MNC he was with for four years, says he has old parents to take care and his family doesn't get free ration. "Jobs are so scarce now. None are offering. It is time the government intervened and gave financial support to those who have lost jobs," he said.
As India unlocks, many hope this would trigger economic activity, increase productivity and lead to a high GDP. The challenge, many say, however, is to keep India's COVID tally under check, possibly on a declining trend.