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Thursday, May 12, 2005

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God's own country joins gold rush

Sankar Radhakrishnan

Thiruvananthapuram, May 11

IT was a little after 9 a.m. this morning and people flocked one of the large jewellery stores that dot Thiruvananthapuram's busy East Fort shopping district. As more customers trooped in, a slightly harassed salesman explained that the unusual rush was because "today is Akshaya Tritiya," believed to be an auspicious day to buy gold.

Considered a `good' day to begin new ventures and, of course, buy gold, Akshaya Tritiya has been an important occasion in Tamil Nadu and other parts of the country. But, not in Kerala where festivals such as Onam and Vishu were more important.

However, over the past few years, the interest in Akshaya Tritiya has grown following some savvy marketing by the World Gold Council. There has been a deliberate effort to communicate the auspiciousness of the festival to consumers, explained K. Shivram, Vice-President, World Gold Council-India (WGC).

Last year, WGC had promoted Akshaya Tritiya across the South and there was a "huge response" in Kerala and Karnataka, Shivram said. In Kerala, for instance, many jewellery stores now open as early as 8 a.m. to cater to the extra demand, he explained. This year, for the first time, WGC and its trade partners are promoting Akshaya Tritiya across the country, he added.

In the past three to four years, the interest in Akshaya Tritiya has grown tremendously, said John Alapatt, Managing Partner, Alapatt Fashion Jewellery. "In fact, on Akshaya Tritiya we open earlier than usual and get twice the usual number of customers," he added. People have also started booking gold jewellery several days ahead, but actually buy it only on Akshaya Tritiya, he pointed out.

"We were the first to start promoting Akshaya Tritiya in Kerala, four years ago," said Suhas Rao, Partner, Bhima Jewellery. The store has developed specially designed gold ornaments and gold coins for Akshaya Tritiya, he added. This year, it had also set up a separate counter for advance booking.

Meanwhile, WGC is working on several ventures to design contemporary gold jewellery that appeals to young women and working women, said Shivram

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