Arati Rao
Oct 07, 2010

Live Issue: Is the festive season losing its importance?

Arati Rao poses the question to five marketers and find it's still very much a part of their annual marketing plans

Live Issue: Is the festive season losing its importance?

’Tis the season to spend lots without feeling guilty. Tradition demands the purchase of new things over the next couple of months, and marketers will continue to help the Indian consumer celebrate the festival season, even though they admit things have changed a bit. LK Gupta, chief marketing officer of LG Electronics India, said, “Yes, the Indian consumer has evolved. Nowadays consumers like to shop throughout the year. Consumers still like to buy during the festive season to celebrate, and because some consider this time to be auspicious.”

On why people would still wait for the festival season for major purchases when sales are on at frequent intervals through the year, K Sriram, vice president - sales, marketing and service, Mirc Electronics Ltd. (Onida), believed, “Basically the need to wait for festivals (to buy durables) can arise out of cash flow issues, or out of a “deal-seeking” mindset. Having said that, to some extent, payment of festival bonuses to employees by governments and large organisations triggers purchase of durables in some consumer segments.” He added, “If marketers start offering good deals throughout the year, I am sure we will discover that the season is much less important than we tend to believe.”

For a brand that has deals running through the year, Sandeep Walunj, chief marketing officer - value retail (Big Bazaar), Pantaloon Retail India, explained the development of their communication for the upcoming festival season [seen above]. “Firstly, we scan the environment for motivational and behavioural triggers. This festival season is a time for upgradation and renewal, and we look at how Big Bazaar can partner that aspiration. The focus is on the upper range of TVs, upholstery and curtains etc, as people look to upgrade their living spaces, ” he said. “Secondly, regarding the communication, we thought Vidya Balan is someone who connects with homemakers in terms of upholding traditional Indian values and her non-controversial persona.”

A festival like Onam is as important as ever in Kerala, with 50-60 per cent of the sales of consumer durables of the year taking place during the month-long buildup, said Varghese Chandy, senior general manager, marketing operations, Malayala Manorama. He added, “We also look for opportunities to find festivities and occasions for advertisers. For instance, a festival like Akshaya Tritiya was an alien festival to Kerala, but now it’s considered an auspicious time not just to buy gold, but to buy anything. Also, July-September is considered the NRI season in Kerala and we ask advertisers to make it seem like a festival in their showrooms.”

The inauspicious time in the calendar should be the real worry for marketers, said Shashank Srivastava, chief general manager – marketing at Maruti Suzuki India. “Logically the promos should be done in the inauspicious period, but the problem there is that no matter what you offer, consumers who have religious sentiments are not going to buy in this period,” he said. The need to go all out during the festival season is because of competitive pressures. “In the auto industry, there are many manufacturers today (especially the newer ones) who know that in this period the conversion rates are very high, and, therefore, irrespective of product strengths and financial logic, a lot of market share can be ‘bought’. Other manufacturers follow the same strategy with the result that nobody really has a competitive advantage.”

LK Gupta


 LK Gupta, Chief Marketing Officer, LG Electronics India

 “Consumers still like to buy during the festive season for various reasons to celebrate, and because some consider this to be auspicious. For example, buying an LCD TV is a celebration for the family. The whole family feels excited to watch TV together. It’s a matter of pride, and certainly people get Diwali bonuses which they would like to spend on the aspirational products. The spirit of festivals is the same across the country. Through innovative festive campaigns, companies can move closer to the Indian consumers and can maximise brand pull.”

Shashank Srivastava


 Shashank Srivastava, Chief General Manager - Marketing, Maruti Suzuki India

 “We believe that the festival season is NOT losing its importance. The inventory planning is done keeping in mind these huge variations in retail demand. For the auto category, the maximum efficiencies are obtained if the production is uniform and in good market conditions more so. In times of low retail, dealer inventory goes up. A case in point is the current inauspicious period of “Shraddh” in north, east and central India. The dealer inventory goes up substantially but as soon as the auspicious period starts, the inventory is expected to deplete equally fast.”

K Sriram


 K Sriram, VP - Sales, Marketing and Service, Mirc Electronics Ltd. (Onida)

 “The festival season is still important enough for marketers, but the importance of the festive season in relative terms has been reducing over the years. This is because affordability is no longer a major issue for most product categories, consumer incomes have risen rapidly in the past decade, and therefore the need to wait for the festival season is more in the mind of the consumer as ‘a good time to get great deals’ rather than ‘to wait for enough cash on hand’. If marketers start offering good deals throughout the year, I am sure we will discover that the season is much less important than we tend to believe.”

Varghese Chandy


  Varghese Chandy, Senior General Manager, Marketing Operations, Malayala Manorama

 “Festivals are still very important in the marketing calendar, especially in Kerala. With Onam being the beginning of all seasons in India, all the shopping starts with the festival. In consumer durables, 50-60 per cent of annual sales takes place in less than a month’s period of the festivities. As a media house, we help create important dates in the marketing calendar, so that there are peaks more often and the focus isn’t just on a month or 15 days, which could lead to logistical nightmares in inventory management.”

Sandeep Walunj



 Sandeep Walunj, CMO - Value Retail (Big Bazaar), Pantaloon Retail India

 “The importance of festivals depends on the target audience. There are a whole host of people in the working class for whom the festival still has its charm and holds its sway. The upper classes on the other hand, have been through a socio-cultural evolution. I think mall culture is more of a manifestation of the socio-cultural and behavioural progress of certain classes. It is more of an urban phenomenon, while cultural and religious sensibilities are more prominent in other areas. In retail, the time of the festival is well known and the marketing activity and inventory is planned well in advance.”


Campaign India

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