Issues around card payments affect business at trade fair

New Delhi, Nov 18 (IANS) Traders who were relying on card payments following the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, are struggling with connectivity issues for point of sale (POS) machines at the 36th India International Trade Fair (IITF) here, leaving even visitors disappointed.

The government announced demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes on November 8 night. And the announcement has hit the traders hard.

Earlier, the traders were accepting demonetised notes at the fair, which began on November 14 at Pragati Maidan here, but now they are taking only new notes or payment through Paytm (e-commerce website). Many are even accepting card payments, but that has still not helped them in getting good business.

Kolkata-based Azad Momi, who is here to sell silk saris, was spotted by this IANS correspondent standing outside a hall with a PoS machine and swiping a card again and again.

“It’s not working. I came out thinking the connectivity would be better, but it’s not happening. My saris are priced between Rs 2,000 and Rs 7,000. Many customers have turned away because they were just carrying debit or credit cards,” he told IANS.

Kamna, who was standing next to him with her fingers crossed, said: “I have just got my debit card. I don’t have the new notes and I can’t stand in such a long queue to withdraw money from an ATM machine. If cards won’t work here, I will just do window shopping.”

S. Dutta, a trader also from Kolkata, is facing the same problem.

“We have been given machines, but they aren’t working. Every year, my saris get good buyers here. I get at least Rs 10 lakh from the customers at the fair. But this year, due to demonetisation, I don’t think I will be able to get even Rs 100,000. I know it is still a business day, but we used to earn from Day One. This time, there has been hardly any sale,” he told IANS.

Irfan, who is here to sell Kashmiri handicrafts, pointed at the machine and asked: “What’s the point of this if it doesn’t work? We can’t even accept old notes now.”

This IANS correspondent saw one more customer moving away from Mohd Fareed’s stall that housed iron products, including lamp shades and candle holders, after seeing another customer’s card getting declined.

“He has swiped the card so any times and still it’s not working. I was planning to buy some products, but after seeing him (salesman) swiping the card again and again, I changed my mind,” said Puja Sharma.

IITF, which will continue till November 27, is organised by the India Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO) of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

When IANS contacted Guna Sekaran, General Manager at ITPO, he said: “I am personally monitoring everywhere. We have been working on it since yesterday (Thursday). Idea is working perfectly fine. Vodafone is fine. Airtel and Reliance Jio have assured us that by end of the day, connectivity problem will be sorted.”

“The telecom ministry is cooperating with ITPO. The issue will be solved by today (Friday). From tomorrow (Saturday), the fair will be open to the public, so we want to make sure everything will be okay.”

Card or cash payment, the sale in general hasn’t been good so far.

“We are accepting only cash and Paytm. Everyone is not tech savvy, so they don’t know about Paytm. There have been hardly any buyers for our mufflers, ponchos and socks despite the arrival of winter season,” Neeraj Chhabra, who is participating in the fair for the 15th time, told IANS.

Quite a few customers turned away from China stalls after reading a board saying: “No old notes, no card”.

“I really liked their scarves and bags, but I don’t have cash. I wanted to use my card, but that’s not an option at some of the stalls,” said a customer.

This year’s fair has 7,000 participants, including representation from 24 countries, Indian states and Union territories, public and private enterprises with around 800 rural artisans and craftspersons.

(Natalia Ningthoujam can be contacted at natalia.n@ians.in)

–IANS

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