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Despite photocopying and thesis printing shops reopening a couple of months ago, the prolonged absence of graduates and undergraduates in the once crowded area near Patel Chest Institute in University of Delhi’s North Campus indicates the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on businesses. The streets which once used to be the centre of hubbub and cacophony, which once saw students lined in front of shops for hours on end, and the time when small businesses like photocopy and xerox shops boomed- are at an all-time low.

With a brisk business of as many as 1,500 to 2,000 photocopies a day during the peak season, the photocopying shops are truly the lifeline of every Delhi University (DU) student. This is due to a lot of reasons- textbooks and readers cost a lot of money, thus, buying the same is regarded as expensive, inept and futile. That’s why most students prefer photocopied reading materials over the premium, pricy textbooks. Apart from that, photocopying is a cheaper, faster and simply an easier way to acquire the same materials.

However, today, these shops in DU’s North Campus are struggling and are barely able to survive, mostly because they missed out on the exam season of March-April and the admission process is also going online, owing to the pandemic. In an interview with the Hindustan Times, Vishal from a photocopy shop at Patel Chest says, “Even two customers a day is rare. Most of our work was for Miranda House and Hindu College, but now that everything is online, we aren’t getting any orders.” He further shares, “We aren’t allowing anybody inside the shop and has devised some strategies for social distancing. But that can only be implemented if we get enough customers.”

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Unable to pay rent, many have wrapped up their business. In the same interview, Dhaneshwar, a local Xerox shop-owner said, “Six to seven shops have been shut up till now. We had also rented another shop but had to shut it as we were unable to pay the rent. With a loss of Rs 1,500-2,000 daily, we aren’t even able to pay our electricity bills. On normal days, we got over 100 customers in a day, but now hardly 10 customers visit the entire lane. Everyone prefers online processes now.”

Another shop-owner has now shifted his place of operation and adopted the new business model. He said, “With the college shut and no prospects of it opening soon, I have shifted to a different area and now create reading materials instead of photocopying them. In two months since taking up this kind of work, we have delivered bundles to students in Delhi and outside of Delhi, as far as Telangana and Kashmir.”

The charges for these deliveries vary, depending upon the availability of primary material. Another businessman revealed, “Mostly we copy pages from those books that are easy to procure from shops or the ones we have already bought from senior students who have graduated. We normally inform a student of our inability to provide materials from obscure books they may request.”

Today, with schools and colleges shut, the future does seem bleak for these Xerox shops. But believe you me, if you miss the idyllic scene of you turning over pages of political prose as the sun sets over the famous old DU buildings- imagine the extent to which Dhaneshwar or Vishal miss the same. After all, it is their livelihood.


Image Credits: The Indian Express

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