The initiation of the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) Services Wing is being widely blamed for the creation of a virtual monopoly over services needed by residents of DHA and adjoining areas, with affected businesses also claiming widespread unemployment due to driving out competition.

A number of caterers who were providing services for staging marriages and other ceremonies in DHA for the last several years claimed that the setting up of ‘DHA Services’ in mid July has created adverse circumstances for local businesses, as they have been virtually debarred from the business arena. They claimed that without competition, function organisers in Defence would continue to be exploited with “compromised” quality of service and expensive rates of food, catering, and decoration services.

DHA Caterers and Decorators’ Association President Qais Sheikh said that before DHA Services came into existence, some 26 to 27 caterers had been actively working on the panel for seven DHA clubs. He said that about 10,000 people are directly employed by these caterers, while 50,000 people are indirectly associated with them through suppliers.

“The system has been reorganised in a manner that the function of event management in DHA has become a virtual monopoly for DHA Services. The service employs the assistance of only three caterers, and there is no business left for other caterers in the area,” he said.

He said that the present situation puts a serious question mark over direct and indirect employment of thousands of people associated with the catering business, adding that the setting up of the DHA Services has led to the cost of rent of halls and lawns in DHA clubs to double. Furthermore, the prices of food services for wedding functions have also increased. For example, he said, the standard menu comprising rice, Salan, Nan/Taftan, as well as decoration for such functions has increased from Rs300 to Rs550 per person. Also, a person arranging a wedding function for 600 people through DHA Services has been paying Rs200,000 or more on average for catering and decoration services.

“The system of organising wedding functions in DHA has been reorganised in a manner that in order to arrange an event, one has to go to one of the DHA clubs in the area, which makes it compulsorily to use the DHA Services,” he claimed.

He maintained that the collective daily capacity of all DHA clubs for holding functions is 15,000, and a mere three caterers cannot possibly be able to fulfill the requirements of the business in a wedding season.

Association of Defense Residents (ADR) Honorary General Sectary Asad Kizilbash told The News that any decision and policy which minimises competition in a services sector would surely hurt the interests of the end-users or customers. Similar is the case for catering and event management services as far as the DHA area is concerned. “People need the best quality of services and at the lowest possible costs. In the case of event management services in DHA, most end-users of the service would be residents of the area, whose interests would be compromised when there would be no or little competition among the service providers”.

DHA Services Director Major (retd) Abdul Ghani Tabish however maintained that DHA was open for negotiations with anybody who felt deprived of running their businesses due to the revised event management policy for DHA clubs.

“After Ramazan, when the season for marriage functions would once again start, we will think about expanding the number of caterers on the panel of DHA clubs”, he said.

Major (retd) Tabish said that there is no such thing as monopolising the business or minimising competition in the catering service, as previously the clients had to contact the secretary of the DHA club of their choice for holding the event. Now however, he said, the office of the DHA services is the sole responsible organisation, and customers would be able to avail all services under one roof.

According to Major (retd) Tabish, the caterers were previously only sharing just the rent of the hall or lawn of the clubs with the club administrations, and pocketing the rest of the amount received from the clients. “We have also revised the whole system of event management with the sole purpose of saving DHA clubs from further financial loss,” he said, adding that the system has been redesigned in a manner that the clubs would get the economic benefit at par with the caterers. Moreover, denied any recent increase in rents of halls and lawns of the DHA clubs.

Meanwhile, President Caterers and Decorators’ Association DHA said that meeting with the DHA Services Director Major (retd) Tabish on August 27 had given him hope that ultimately DHA Services would go for increasing the number of caterers as panelists for the DHA clubs.

Source: The News