Big problems in Little India

Rising costs and falling sales are chasing Brickfields traders out of Little India.

(Free Malaysia Today) – KUALA LUMPUR: With rising costs and falling sales, businesses in Brickfields are feeling the pinch.

Many traders and shopkeepers in the newly-converted area of Little India are seeing unexpected losses.

Some have even packed up and left for good.

In June 2010, Malaysian Resources Corporation Bhd (MRCB) started its RM35 million Little India programme that promised to see the beautification of the Brickfields district.

But many of the heavy-handed development projects here have not gone down well with the traders.
Accompanying the new-look Brickfields are higher rentals, changed traffic system and lack of parking space.

All these factors have allegedly contributed to losses in business for traders in the area.

In mid-2010, florist A Karuppiah, 62, was paying RM1,600 rent a month for his shop.

Today, he is paying RM2,800 a month – a 75% increase.

“Before Brickfields was turned into Little India, we were making a comfortable profit. Today, we are unable to make a profit,” he told FMT.

Born and bred in Brickfields, he said the lack of parking spaces along Jalan Tun Sambanthan was also causing many would-be customers to shun businesses in the area.

P Loganathan, 45, a textile shopowner, said that the lack of parking spaces had discouraged both citizens and tourists from frequenting Brickfields.

“In the past, people used to come here for shopping. But there are no parking spaces, so customers don’t want to come,” he said.

No parking and rising crime

The drop in customers have heavily affected his business. Loganathan told FMT that before Little India came into the scene, he could make sales of more than RM4,000 in a single day.

Today, he struggles to earn more than RM1,000 in the same period, although he now has to pay an additional RM5,000 in rent a month.

He added that the scant parking spaces in nearby streets were also being snapped up by public transport users, instead of potential customers.

Loganathan also blamed KL City Hall (DBKL) officials for scaring motorists away. He said that many of them could be seen attacking vehicles with summonses during peak hours of the day.

Once a two-way traffic system, Jalan Tun Sambanthan and parallel Jalan Sultan Abdul Samad have been turned into busy one-way boulevards.

Walkways in front of the shops were also widened for the benefit of pedestrians. However, very few people could be seen using them, even on a Friday afternoon.

“These walkways are so big you can play football here!” said an angry Loganathan, adding that DBKL officials would religiously fine business owners who would ply their trade on the walkways.

To add insult to injury, Loganathan also told FMT that rising crime had scared people away from the area.

They attributed this to the relocation of the Brickfields police station to faraway Sri Petaling late last year.

With not even a manned police beat base in the area, residents said that snatch thieves and other crimes are now becoming a daily occurrence.