This is the first year that Fateh Khan, who runs an ancestral animal husbandry business with his brother Sardar Khan, has had to purchase animals from a third party for sale during the Eid al-Adha.
Every year, Khan, 50, who hails from Sahiwal, eagerly looks forward to the “Bari Eid” (Greater Eid) – also called “Bakra Eid” (a mispronunciation of Baqr Eid) in Pakistan.
Every year for the past 20 years, he has taken his family and a herd of sacrificial animals (reared all year with the help of his five children) all the way from Sahiwal in Punjab to the many livestock markets in Karachi that pop up ahead of the Eid.
“After coronavirus cases appeared in my own family, we had to sell almost all of our animals to make ends meet. This is the first time I have travelled all the way from my native city to Karachi all alone to sell animals that I had to purchase from a friend,” he said.
“Usually, I sell my animals at the Sohrab Goth mandi (livestock market) and PIB Colony (a neighbourhood in Karachi’s District East), but due to government restrictions on animal markets inside city premises, we only managed to sell animals at the main market this time,” Khan said.
Fortunately for him, the coronavirus did not seem to have dampened the spirit of the festival.
Khan said that there had been no drastic change in the prices of his animals, as, to his knowledge, interested buyers are still bidding on animals as per their requirements despite the general impression that the coronavirus might have adversely affected the purchasing power of the masses.
The most expensive animal he sold this year was a calf that went for Rs180,000.
However, local cattle vendor Mohamed Farrukh Ansari, who sells his animals near Maskan Chowrangi, disagrees.
He said that the market had been hugely affected due to the prevailing coronavirus situation, as the purchasing power of the people had been greatly reduced.
Ansari said: “People who used to buy animals for more than Rs100,000 (each) this time purchased animals for less than Rs100,000.”
“Last year, I sold almost 100 animals, and the majority of those were worth more than Rs100,000. This year, I have only sold 60 animals to date, and a major chunk of those was around Rs60,000 to Rs90,000 (each),” he added.
As with other businesses, the coronavirus pandemic has also opened the doors for emerging startups providing services to customers at their doorsteps.
The founder of one qurbani-related start-up, Mohamed Aqib Mughal, shared that the response of the people has been great so far, even if business targets have not been achieved completely.
He said the outcome has been satisfactory and the business seems promising for the coming years.
“We have had customers not only from Karachi, but overseas as well. Overseas Pakistanis have purchased animals from us using online modes of payment,” Mughal said.
“We started our business this year with an aim to continue it throughout the coming years, as people need animals for sadqa every now and then.
“We also plan to take pre-orders for cows and goats,” he said, adding that if a person wants to buy a baby cow or goat six months before the Eid, they can approach the platform for this purpose too.
Maintaining that the customer can rely on the details provided on his business’s site, Mughal underscored: “It is our responsibility to ensure that we provide the same animal that we display online.
“In case there’s miscommunication from our side, we replace the animal right away.”
For reasonable rates, animals are also delivered to the doorstep of customers to add to their convenience.
Mughal said that the animals can be sold online at competitive market prices, as the medium uses minimal resources and time.
The young entrepreneur highlighted that due to a lack of trust in online ventures from the general masses, the major hurdle has been to gain trust, which he expects to be overcome eventually, over time.
In light of safety concerns and because of the imposition of varying degrees of lockdowns for over four months, which have impeded activities in general, more people have opted for online booking and ijtemaai qurbani (collective sacrifices) this year.
According to Jafferia Disaster Management Cell (JDC) public relations officer Oun Abbas Jafferi, the organisation has received a 100% increase in bookings of sacrificial animals as compared to last year.
The organisation’s collective sacrifice is for the needy – all the meat from the sacrifice goes to those who cannot afford it, he added.
The JDC representative said that to date, they have also received over 100 animals, including cows, goats, and camels, as donations from well-wishers around the world.
Elucidating on how the organisation is implementing safety measures amid coronavirus fears, he said that the animals have been tied at a distance from each other.
Moreover, circles are drawn on the ground to ensure social distancing for visitors who come to see the animals.
“We launched this service so that the poor could also enjoy the same quality of meat as we do,” Jafferi added.
He said that the spirit of helping the needy, which was seen in abundance when the lockdown was first imposed, is being exhibited for the Eid al-Adha as well.
“People are donating a lot,” he said.
A representative of welfare organisation Al-Khidmat, Syed Khizer Baqi, said that many people have switched to collective sacrifice this year due to safety measures, but mostly because of the economic crisis.
“Not everyone can afford an animal during the coronavirus,” he explained.
On whether their animals were cheaper than those available in the market, he said: “It is our resolve to facilitate the people, and we provide healthy animals at reasonable rates.”
Comparing statistics with last year, he said that the welfare foundation witnessed an increase of nearly 40% in bookings this year.
“About 350 cows and 500 goats have been booked in Karachi’s Gulshan-e-Iqbal alone, a week before the Eid,” he said, adding that last year they had booked 200 cows and 350 goats altogether.
“We aim to follow all safety measures prescribed by the government, and even our butchers will be provided masks and gloves,” Baqi said.
Amidst the new ventures and precedents being set this Eid al-Adha, 22-year-old Ayesha Ghani has also made quite an impression.
She is selling 36 animals this year in the mandi herself.
“I had always felt the need to break the stereotypes that mandis and animal markets are not places for women,” Ghani shared, describing the experience of dealing with customers and bargaining on the prices of animals an enlightening and interesting process, all in all.
She, along with her team, had sold about 16 animals thus far.
They range in price between Rs100,000 and Rs700,000.
Ghani shared that she had grown up in Punjab taking care of livestock.
She said she often reflects on gender roles in our society.
“Keeping in mind my pleasant experience of selling animals in the market this year, I plan to bring animals to these cattle markets every year,” she added.