Shopping Festivals in India – A Key Promotional Tool for Retailers
By Vasundhara Rastogi
It is festival season again in India.
Brick and mortar retailers and e-commerce platforms are gearing up with additional stock, hiring more employees, and launching attractive deals and offers.
Last week, the e-commerce giant Amazon and home-grown rival Flipkart rolled out their first round of pre-festival sales – the Great Indian Festival and the Big Billion Day, respectively – offering high discounts and deals across key consumer durable categories such as smartphones, home appliances, electronics, and fashion. In five days, the two e-commerce companies generated US$1.5 billion (Rs 9,000 crore) of sales, showing a 40 percent year-on-year growth in comparison to last year’s US$1.05 billion.
The numbers demonstrate the growing significance of festivals in India’s consumer market.
In this article, we provide an overview of some of India’s main festivals, and discuss how businesses can use the festive period to enhance their sales.
Festivals in India
India is home to a number of tribes, religions, and ethnic groups, and celebrates festivals in different forms throughout the year.
However, in terms of business and overall consumer market sentiment, the months starting from September to December are usually regarded as the main ‘festive season’ in the country.
Some of the most widely celebrated festivals falling in this season are given below.
Onam is a harvest festival celebrated by Malayalees – a dominant linguistic group in the southern state of Kerala. The festival falls in the first month of the Malayalam calendar, which corresponds with the period from August to September in the Gregorian calendar, and lasts for four to ten days.
Onam is the biggest festival in Kerala, and is seen as a test market by retail companies for the ensuing festive season in the country. Correspondingly, brands come out with customized marketing strategies to maximize sales and revenue.
This year, Onam began on August 25 and ended on September 6.
Ganesh Chaturthi is Maharashtra’s biggest festival that worships the Hindu god Ganesha. Brands often join the festive fervor with campaigns that express the devotion of people towards Lord Ganesha.
As things bought during the ten-day period are considered auspicious, the business payback from Chaturthi is vast, especially for gold dealers, automobile sellers, and businesses supplying fruits, sweets, and flowers.
This year, Chaturthi began on August 25 and ended on September 26 – coinciding with the southern festival of Onam, adding extra fervor to the season’s business.
Navratri, Dussehra, and Durga Puja
A nine-day festival worshipping all the manifestations of the mother goddess, Navratri is celebrated across India. The tenth day is called Dussehra, which commemorates the killing of Ravana – a demon god in Hindu mythology, by Lord Rama.
In southern states, the day is dedicated to the worshiping of three Hindu goddesses; in east India, people celebrate the goddess Durga’s victory over evil in a separate mythological narrative.
In terms of market trends, Indian shoppers respond strongly to sales and offers during the Dussehra and Durga Puja festivals, as it marks the beginning of an auspicious period according to the Hindu calendar. This is why most sales and discount offers are made around this time to maximise sales and revenue.
This year, Dussehra and Durga Puja will be celebrated on September 30.
Diwali is called the festival of lights in India, and is celebrated in most parts of the country. Earlier, it was prominently celebrated in north India, but in recent years, it has become popular across India.
It is considered as the main gifting season for Indians, and witnesses the highest sales on days leading up to Diwali, especially on the day of Dhanteras: where “Dhan” means wealth. Dhanteras is the day when most Indians consider it auspicious to buy gold and other precious metals, household appliances, and automobiles.
This year, Diwali will be celebrated on October 19.
Like elsewhere around the world, Christmas is hugely popular in India. It is celebrated among all religions and ethnic groups with equal vigor – shopping being the focal point of the holiday.
After a temporary spending dip in the post-Diwali period, the Indian market sees a huge surge in sales during Christmas with retailers re-launching their festive offers.
India’s festive season – A great promotional tool for retailers
In India, the festival season offers a great opportunity for businesses to reconnect with current and prospective clients and customers. Additionally, it allows companies to launch new products, increase brand penetration, and make their products more accessible in the market.
Customs and traditions related to gifting are also on the rise as the increased spending capacity of India’s consumers grows, leading to high sales across all categories of consumer products during the festive season.
This year, market analysts expect consumer durables to see a 10 to 20 percent increase in sales at the end of the season as compared to this period last year.
The high demand is estimated mainly because of the constrained demand built in the run-up to the launch of the goods and services tax (GST) in July, a rise in rural demand owing to a good monsoon, and overall consumer confidence in the economy.
The online market, dominated by Amazon and Flipkart, have become an important part of India’s festive season. Their shopping festivals form huge calendar events that attract millions of Indian online shoppers each year. As these online platforms play an integral role in encouraging consumers to experience new products and brands, they present a great opportunity for foreign brands to successfully tap into India’s growing consumer market and preferences.
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