Doing business in the pandemic

When Corona’s horrific attack hit China, business friends there repeatedly warned and feared it would spread quickly to Bangladesh and to the world. Personal initiative was in the beginning. I sat with my staff in the first week of February on how to deal with the Corona disaster. Although there was no guideline on specific health care at the time, I also took many random initiatives, such as purchasing masks, sanitizing materials, etc, or keeping the office or home clean, adding vitamin-rich foods to the official food list, etc.

Although many office workers did not understand the importance of the issue but they did not lack preparation.

Considering China’s corona crossing, I thought we would be released in two months. But in all hopes, we lost the “golden opportunity through negligence” to resist the pandemic. Being a general businessman, I jumped into the battle of survival with about 60 associates including myself, an organization that was built over a period of more than two decades and now it is 60 families concerned. On March 21, I first sent more than half of the company’s members on paid leave and at March 25 for the rest.

I formed an emergency back-up team with 7 people as the heads. A kind of panic had already been created. Meanwhile, goods worth crores of taka were in the port. I risked my life in a lockdown called a public holiday and ran to banks; customs or port and I had to be humiliated step by step. If the bank is opened for 2 days a week, the bank officials do not come. If the customs open for one day, the respective officials there do not come, when they come again, they do not sign the file except the bribe.

The port does not release goods and threatens for fines. I didn’t get truck and lorries at double the price. That was a terrible condition. I somehow managed to get out of the grip of the police but I could not finish the work at the end of the day.

Meanwhile, family members at home are restless with anxiety. The only son is studying in America, current epicentre of corona. Therefore, he has no chance to return. As a result, anxiety is growing by leaps and bounds. In an effort to save the company with a group of young associates, I started fighting by making the office, ware house or workshop a place to stay. I assured the client, it is a battle, and morale should not be lost. However, one by one, all industries began to close.

At first, the government took great decisions to control the infection by cutting off communication with China, but the affected expatriates from the Middle East or Europe flocked in droves. After that it was possible to handle the situation by locking down Shibchar of Madaripur district. It gave us some hope. Then everything became random.  Decision was taken by the government for general holiday which though was late.

That is, life was gone, the economy was also gone. Corona became extensively cultivated. The frustration grew.

The government announced incentives and interests. That’s not for the medium scale company like us though. I also ran and applied. Bankers said that the Prime Minister has declared in his speech that, “If there is no rice in the house, how can I cook and serve it?” I don’t understand, what is right or wrong. The mercury of despair continues to rise.

There is no opportunity to borrow from the bank, which means the quota is full. Bank interest is rising clockwise. Industrial factories have closed and goods destroyed. How to return the money to the bank? And how can I pay the salary, allowance, office rent etc, as well as maintaining the running costs? Extending the hand of some cooperation in one’s own endeavour. But as the saying goes, begging rice does not grow. They also gradually become dull. And Corona continues to grow. I don’t think the corona came to this country and had fun. Neither the rate of increase nor decrease is the same as in other countries.

Though, Covid testing is a big deal here. Those who are victims they know well what a wonderful system it is! I found myself, in a tough challenge. I have to save myself; I have to save the colleagues; I have to save the organization– otherwise many families will be on the way.

Some factories opened and faced new problem. Many instruments do not work because they are off for a long time. Sensor-based electronic machineries have been crippled. Parts imported from abroad are time consuming. Meanwhile, the workers do not come to work for fear of being infected. When this is the case, many say, layoffs will be inhumane. But in reality, the workers are not coming to work!

The products produced before pandemic have been piled up as we could not sell it. On the other hand, there is pressure to pay the salary allowance of the employee, utility cost and payment of bank loan instalments. The situation of those who were in the expansion of the industry is more complicated. Imported machineries cannot be installed without foreign experts. Foreigners stopped coming, those who were here also left. The problem is that if the machineries are left unused for a long time, they become ineffective. But the wheel of bank interest is always running. Thus, the industries and its owners are in danger of going bankrupt. If the industrialist goes bankrupt, the worker will not survive.

I thought, the duration of the disaster would be two to three months. But due to the ever-active Ministry of Health, it is no longer difficult to understand that it will not reach a conclusion before the end of the year. Due to the fact that the fish of the pond are unbind in the open water, now they are trying to catch it. What a wonderful brain and idea! Who will catch it, those who will catch it means that the administration itself is now running around in Corona? The news of the continuous death of well-known relatives and friend is already coming from all around. On the other hand, there is no treatment. Whether the funeral will be arranged after death – that is the big question now!

The situation is getting more and more complicated. A buffalo was running in the forest. A fox from behind asked him, why are you running like this? The buffalo replied that the police had entered the forest to catch the elephant. The fox surprised and countered, then why are you running? The buffalo’s answer, hey brother, this is Bangladesh. It will take 20 years in prison to prove that I am not an elephant. Hearing this, the fox also started running.
The writer is a Managing Director of Bridge Chemie Ltd.