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India's local festivals go national

News, 26 October 2016

MUMBAI: India has long been a land of festivals but the way in which these are celebrated is changing, as local festivals are taken up across the country and spending patterns shift away from traditional categories – with implications for advertising expenditure.

Mint highlighted the trend for regional festivals – like Durga Puja in east India or Onam in the south – to be adopted pan-India, with consumption of associated food and drinks also spreading via restaurants and retailers. At the same time Western festivals such as Halloween have gained traction.

"For the Malayali, sadhya is tradition whereas for others, it is about modernity and celebration," observed Damodar Mall, CEO of Reliance Retail. "The change is that people are getting more relaxed about traditions and everyone is celebrating."

And while custom is still important, it is now only one aspect of festivals which are increasingly becoming occasions for people everywhere to tap into.

"Earlier, our identity was community-driven – it came from the region of our ancestors and from our caste," said Santosh Desai, CEO of Future Brands. "Now, this has changed to where you live and work."

Brands such as Coca-Cola and Domino's have spotted opportunities. The former has earmarked festivals of all sorts – from Diwali to college events – as a way of building consumption, while the latter launched a special Navratra pizza made of water chestnut flour and white millet flour to appeal to practising Hindus who avoid eating wheat and rice while fasting during October.

The end-of-year festival season has traditionally seen a spike in consumer spending and confidence as people buy clothes and durables like TVs and refrigerators, but KPMG India data indicate how shopping patterns are altering, in part driven by the online bargains that have been available in recent years.

The proportion of consumer festival spending on things like mobile phones, for example, has risen sharply, as the purchase of products for individual use gains ground on those for communal use.

Advertising has shifted in tandem but it remains the case that "the festival season accounts for almost 30%-40% of the total advertising spending for most CPG companies," according to Raja Wahi, partner and head of the consumer, retail and agri sector at KPMG India.

Data sourced from Mint; additional content by Warc staff