Suriname businesses unite to fight Chinese competition

(de Ware Tijd) PARAMARIBO — Several big businesses in downtown Paramaribo, including Lucky Store, Kirpalani, HSDS, Uniqa, Beyrouth Bazaar and Steps have united to fight the competition by Chinese mega investors.

The stores propose to stay open longer and have surprises for customers in order to make Paramaribo attractive again. ‘We want customers to experience something different. In fact we’ll turn downtown into the biggest mall in Suriname with the best quality products,  service and a wide variety of affordable products’, says an enthusiastic Pavan Bhojwani, director of HSDS.

Almost all businesses downtown have the same complaint: ‘Surinamese are weary of the busy traffic and the few parking lots. Chinese investors, who put up colossal malls at the outskirts of Paramaribo seem to attract most customers. They stay open late and are not troubled by busy streets and parking issues. ‘It is not easy competing with these foreigners. There are significant drops in our retail, so now we focus on whole sale and those products that they do not offer’, says Jule Fernandes in an attempt to describe the gravity of the situation.

Both HSDS and Kirpalani suffer the same blows, but they stay optimistic. Kenneth Kross with Kirpalani says that the ‘foto’ (downtown) concept will be reintroduced. ‘Abroad, the hours between five and eight p.m are the best business hours, but instead of staying open, we closed. Paramaribo was simply a ghost town after four p.m. Kirpalani has been staying open for business after five for some time. ‘We’ve seen a little improvement’, says Kross. It works both ways, because people looking for employment can find a job since we were obliged to hire more people. The extra hours are not only aimed at locals but at tourists from neighbouring countries.

Bhojwani is grateful for the Chinese efforts. ‘It is a positive move to stay open late. We can learn from their commitment to hard work. The Asians have a phenomenal work ethics and if we want to advance we have to adjust our philosophy’, Bhojwani says.

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