By Mario Joseph
Seen as a hub for economic growth in Region Three and the country as a whole, business continues to thrive and expand in Parika despite a slowdown in recent years and increasing competition as more enterprises open.
During a recent visit by Stabroek News to the East Bank Essequibo community, some individuals did express disappointment given a recent slowdown in commercial activity but were of the view that business in Parika has flourished and will continue to grow.
Parika, which was to be officially transformed into a town for more than a decade now, is known for its busy Sunday Markets and speedboat/ferry service. Being the hub for travel to Bartica, the interior, riverain areas, tourist destinations and the Essequibo islands has paved the way for added commerce. The market that endures from Wednesday to Sunday for most vendors attracts entrepreneurs and customers from across the East Bank of Essequibo and other parts of Guyana. It’s a transit point for many gold miners and other supply businesses in the interior. It is located in the northern part of the Essequibo with about four thousand people. Markets seem to be a big thing for Parika – people who live along the northern part of the Essequibo go there to sell their produce daily. Parika has everyone working, from youths to older folk, and other businesses such as fast food restaurants, boutiques, pharmacies and has seen an influx of motor vehicles that gives the impression of a highly congested area.
Big business names such as Two Brothers gas station, Lens General Store, Deo Bukhan’s string of supermarkets and rental complex, Fagu’s Variety Store, Parika (Bollywood) Mini mall, a roadside mall, several medium sized hardware and general stores and a number of bars/restaurants fill up the centre of the town, just off the stelling. One man, residents refer to as the main businessman, Bukhan, has two supermarkets, a large complex that houses a bar, boutique, an internet café, a beer garden and the Church’s Chicken/Mario’s franchise. There are mini malls that house opticians, pharmacies, furniture stores and the Parika mall/“Bollywood” building even provides rental housing out of its top floors. There are over 100 vendors and numerous medium to large enterprises. Taxi and bus work has also grown exponentially with a large fleet of cars and buses that change the appearance of the town to a congested look. Persons say, “If you can’t make a living here in Parika then you can’t make a living anywhere”. Parika is also home to the first and only two-storey parking lot that accommodates a total of 102 cars in a concrete and steel structure.
Kerryann Hira, 26, a fruit vendor for the past four years says that business has been slow but that it has grown over the years.
She said: “I buy wholesale from farmers who come from the islands at the Parika Stelling or from persons at Bourda or Stabroek Market. When I started off, it took three months to get off the ground. Business was better then, I used to even be able to wholesale stuff. These days, I do well on some weeks while others are just flat. We catch sales from travellers and miners headed to Bartica or other places. I think that the gold prices being low has affected us since the amount of miners have reduced and the amount of travellers too. I believe if the gold price rises, then business will improve. As regards the environment, I believe that the Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) is doing a good job at maintaining order here and keeping the place clean.
“As it relates to crime, I don’t think its prevalent here in Parika, you might hear of small robberies during peak times like holidays but that’s about it. People’s homes are robbed once in a while. The major costs associated with doing business here is the transportation cost to bring my goods here but I make a decent enough living to take care of myself and my nine year old daughter. Being a single parent is hard but Parika has provided an opportunity for me to take care of my family.”
Another fruit vendor, an aged woman, named Rampearie Cheddie said that she has been a vendor for the past 20 years and buys her goods from Georgetown. Citing transpor-tation as her major expense, she said she leaves Parika before sunrise to catch the goods fresh and returns in a bus to set up her stall on the road side. Business has grown but it has slowed down. Speaking of her earnings, she said that she is able to eat every day and takes care of her 17 year old grand-
daughter, who has been helping her with her stall. The 60 year old woman said that she experienced a lot of hard times after her husband died 21 years ago, leaving her to bring up her three children on her own.
Asked of the crime situation, she said that there isn’t a crime situation in Parika because the police station is nearby and they patrol frequently. Grateful that the NDC has not removed her and the other street vendors, she said that they are doing a good job at maintaining the environment in terms of drainage and garbage collection.
A variety store proprietor, Colleen Nedd boasted of growth in business over the years but bemoaned the recent sluggish market when speaking to Stabroek News. The married woman and mother of three said that she started off with a stationery store in 2004, renting out of the post office building but has been able to expand into a variety store. She sells items ranging from clothes, footwear and household items, in addition to stationery and a second stall/store in Bartica selling the same thing. Goods are brought from Georgetown and the major expense is fuel and vehicle main-tenance. She said that there has been a continual influx of businesses and this has caused a decline in sales for her business.
Nedd went on to say that the Parika environ-ment is conducive to bus-iness, since new establish-ments are popping up constantly and that it has allowed her to make a decent living. She said that she is optimistic about the future and is satisfied with the work of both national and local levels of authority in maintaining Parika and fostering economic activity. The only problem she com-plained of was flooding affecting a small area from the stelling up to the first junction, which she believes is because of clogged drains. Speaking about crime, she said that, as far as she knows, it’s not a major issue.
Proprietor of a newly established gift shop called “Scensation Perfume and Gift Shop”, Anita Hiralall, said she established the gift shop with her husband to offer something unique to customers who come from the wide expanse of the East Bank Essequibo area. The couple, who has two children established the shop just one month ago as an expansion of their stall inside the Parika mini mall, also called Bollywood, which they’ve operated for three years to gain access to roadside
shoppers, since this stall is exposed to the road and has a large tarmac in front where more goods can be displayed. She described the last three years of business as being good, with sales occurring seasonally, on holidays, weddings and Christmas. She explained that the major challenge she faces is competition with several stalls congesting the market but is optimistic that her new establishment will stand out.
Asked if she had any fears of crime, she said, it does exist and that is why she remains modest in her undertakings and main-tains a low profile so as to not attract the attention of criminals. She opined that the NDC is doing a good job and that
business in Parika is growing. She said that soon Parika will become like Vreed-en-Hoop or she at least hopes so. A general store manager, also daughter of the proprietor told Stabroek News that business is growing at a faster pace than the supply of good labour. Nandranie Parbhu, 31-year-old daughter of the owner of K. Parbhu General Store has been working hard for her family business since 1999, when it was established. The store that sells items like cement, paint, steel rods, kitchen appliances and electronics employs eight persons, four of whom are family members. “Good em-ployees are hard to find, people come and stay for a short while, then leave or are not focused on the job”, she lamented.
Nandranie explained that the store was built with a significant level of space to accommodate the growth that they’ve experienced. She further explained that, in the beginning, just a fraction of the store was used but now, it’s fully occupied. This was due to the developments in commerce at Parika, she said. Like most persons interviewed she is of the view that business is a little slow but later referred it as stable. Speaking of crime in the area, she said that her store has never been robbed, but she has heard of robberies occurring during Christmas time. She however pointed out that the police have a strong presence in the area, but the fear of being robbed always lingers. A precautionary measure for her store is to close before nightfall.
Optimistic about the future of her family business, she said that the competition is stiff and this forces them to reduce their prices and thus narrow their profit margin. Asked changes she’d like to see made for the business community, she said, “If the VAT is reduced then customers will buy more because they complain of paying too much taxes. She is also of the view that the Government and local authorities are doing a good job and expects Parika to grow commer-cially.
Sita Devi-Bhaggan, a 25-year-old furniture store and boutique owner says her business has been flourishing since she opened The proud mother of one said that she established her furniture store, Devi’s and Daughter Furniture Store about two years ago with her husband and has made great strides so far. She added that she has been able to open a boutique just next door to her current enterprise. Business is good for the boutique every day but is seasonal for the furniture store, she explained, adding that August and September, so far, in her experience aren’t good months for selling furniture. She said that her furniture is made to order by a supplier of hers and clothes are imported.
The young entrepreneur is of the view that business in general is thriving in Parika despite over-whelming competition. She expects to experience more growth in the future and believes that as long as you’re willing to work hard, you can
succeed. She believes that the NDC is doing a good job at maintaining the commu-nity, that the police is active in deterring crime and that the government is doing what it can to foster a thriving business com-munity. She made it clear that Parika does not experience a lot of crime and that robberies occur infrequently.