The owner and manager of a popular news agents in Balham has been forced to start up a cleaning business amid the economic impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Rajiv Damani has run Balham News for 10 years, and had to shut up shop for months when the government was forced to initiate lockdown back in March to cope with the threat posed by the Covid-19 virus.

Since lockdown measures were eased and rent payments renewed, the support offered by the state and returning customers has proved wholly insufficient for Rajiv to cover his costs with the news agents alone — not least since there are far fewer regular customers passing through than there used to be.

"We first locked down at the end of March and reopened on June 1. But since then trade has completely gone down," Rajiv told the Wandsworth Times.

"A lot of the commuters have basically stopped going to work and so foot fall has just decreased. It's impacted our trade to quite an extent," he added.

"We've got our local customers as well of course but the commuting trade is a big part of our income, around 50 per cent I'd say, maybe more."

It is a tale that is surely being replicated at other news agents and small businesses around the country.

And while the government's offer of grant for small businesses was gratefully accepted, it proved woefully insufficient when the rent freeze ended but trade showed no corresponding return to normal.

"We had the small businesses grant of £10,000, we had our rent suspended for three months during lockdown and we took out a loan for emergencies' sake but it's definitely not enough," Rajiv said.

"The rent is back to normal again and the trade we relied on is no way near what it was before.

"There's been no real picking up of the business since the government began urging people to return to the office.

"The kids are back in school but their parents are still non-existent as our customers really," he pointed out.

As such, the Balham business owner was forced to take emergency measures, and turned to an established cleaning franchise in the hopes of raising enough extra cash to cover his costs.

Bright and Beautiful are a domestic cleaning company that manage and support some 67 "family-run" cleaning businesses.

Rajiv recently became one of their latest recruits after having a lightbulb moment when a customer told him that working from home now left them even less time for typical house work.

"I didn't have any experience in the industry before but the franchise has backed me and I'm working from the Wandsworth site, so I can go out into the homes of anyone who approaches the franchise and is in my area.

"We've had specific training which was really good and included class lessons and practical work as well.

"While I can be there to clean, my role is mainly on the administrative side, so I go into customers' homes and get them a quote," he described.

The company sell themselves as tailored cleaning in line with their clients' wishes, and Rajiv was quick to point out that they not only used biodegradable and eco-friendly products but have put in an impressive range of Covid safety measures too.

"At each house we use fresh cloths, mops and everything, while every time our cleaners go into a house, we change clothes, we change footwear before going in."

His venture with Bright and Beautiful officially started today (Monday, September 21).

But how will he manage two businesses instead of one?

"At the moment it's still not too bad. I'm launching the cleaning franchise on the 21st and our website is going live soon, but I'm expecting it to be pretty hectic from then!"

Find out more and get a quote from Rajiv's Bright and Beautiful enterprise by clicking here.