Chasing marketing nirvana at Kumbh

Chitra Narayanan | Updated on January 10, 2019

(Clockwise from left bottom) Chalo Kumbh A first-of-its-kind paste dispenser from Dabur; Welspun’s new towel offering; Headbands from Birla Corp promoting its cement and campaigns with slogans like Divya Kumbh, Bhavya Kumbh

(Clockwise from left) Birla Corp headbands promoting its Perfect Cement at the Kumbh; Welspun’s pitch is aimed at those taking the holy dip; The first-of-its-kind paste dispenser from Dabur; The Kumbh changing rooms have been co-branded by sponsors

Marketers dive deep into the Mela action at Prayagraj with trials, promotions, and more

The Kumbh Mela is the largest congregation of people in the world. With 150 million people expected at Prayagraj this year, the Ardh Kumbh (January 15 to March 4) expects to break all records. The UP government not only wants to make it the biggest ever Kumbh but the grandest ever too, pumping in ₹2,800 crore of investments in infrastructure, touristic and cultural activities.

The Mela will stretch across 3,200 ha, housing a gigantic temporary city of tents. Around 1.2 lakh toilets have been built, 20,000 dustbins placed, 40,000 LED lights installed, 1,400 CCTVs set up, and a veritable sea of changing rooms placed strategically near the ghats. Divya Kumbh, Bhavya Kumbh; Swachh Kumbh and Surakshit Kumbh are some of the slogans for this edition.

Divine tactics

As devotees take the holy dip in the Ganges, marketers are ready to dive in, chasing some branding nirvana and seeding new products. Asia’s largest terry towel producer Welspun is entering the Kumbh arena for the first time, showcasing its new mass market product with the tag line Towel jo jaldi sookhe Aur jaldi sookhaye.

Dabur is taking its hit dant snaan (teeth baths) campaign that it had done in an earlier Kumbh a step further. It is setting up Dabur Red toothpaste dispensers — a new offering — across Akharas. “The first-of-its-kind toothpaste dispenser works on the lines of the liquid soap dispensers found in most five-star hotels across the country,” says Minoo Phakey, head of Marketing at Dabur. Kumbh regulars like HUL, Marico and Coca-Cola are still firming up their strategies.

The Kumbh is a great place for FMCG marketers to display some brand bhakti — with their soaps, oils, hand sanitisers, face washes — and win recall through innovative campaigns. But even non-personal care or food brands are there to make a statement. Take Birla Corp, which is distributing 2 lakh branded headbands promoting its Perfect Cement at the Kumbh and also co-branding 70 changing rooms.

Birla Corp headbands promoting its Perfect Cement at the Kumbh


Says Sandip Ranjan Ghose, Executive President, Birla Corp: “Any activation thoughtfully done gets amplified and with a lingering value, as in the case of the headband which will be worn for a long time.”

Dabur’s intent at Kumbh is to connect with rural folk and influence word-of-mouth endorsements. As Phakey says, “Our experience is that people exposed to products with unique engagements become potential buyers as well as brand ambassadors.” Dabur is not only going to use its dispensers to generate trials for its product but is also using the units to spread the message of oral hygiene with the line, “Kya aapne dant snaan kiya?” (Have you cleansed your mouth).

Keeping it relevant

Dabur has also planned a fun activation for its digestive brand Hajmola, with a tongue-in-cheek play on the upcoming elections. “In this role play-based activation, each Hajmola variant is being positioned as a candidate fighting an election. During the Mela, our promoters will be conducting extensive sampling of Hajmola variants among devotees and they will be asked to vote for their favourite. At the end of the Mela, the winner of this taste election will be declared,” says Phakey.

For Welspun, the intent is to generate awareness for its new product, Welspun Quik Dry Towel, which was launched this October in the west and is now expanding to the north. Till now the company was predominantly exports-focused but now it is trying to grow the domestic business. Says Manjari Upadhye, CEO, Domestic Business, Welspun, “We need to connect with Middle India. There is huge opportunity to build the brand here at Kumbh.” Upadhye points out how 65 per cent of the towels market in India is unorganised. “We are basically where aata, oil and other products were 20 years back. We hope to usher the same branded revolution in towels.”


As Upadhye points out, the target group at Kumbh is so relevant for its product — they are all visiting for a bath and need something to wipe their bodies with. Welspun has taken 20 changing rooms that are closest to the ghat and will be offering free trials. Welspun hopes to touch at least 5 lakh people with its experiential connect.

Apart from this, it will also have sales stalls and put up contextual hoardings at strategic places like railway stations and bus stands.

Jagdeep Kapoor, CEO, Samsika Consultants, says the Kumbh Mela is a great marketing opportunity for companies for four reasons — one, for sampling, two for demonstrations, as some electronics companies do, three for education of services like insurance and banking, and four, for sheer visibility. In the past, Vodafone, SBI et al have made their presence felt at the Kumbh.

The magic of melas

Given that so many products will be there at Kumbh, jostling for the consumer eye, how will these brands break through the clutter? Dabur’s Phakey is confident that both the Dabur Red paste dant snaan promotion as well as the Taste Election Hajmola activation are unique and different. “Another pillar to ensure successful promotion is product sampling as we feel there is no substitute to experiencing the functional benefits of a product,” she says.

As for Patanjali group, spokesperson SK Tijarawala says the biggest draw for its products will be the presence of Swami Ramdev himself, who will be at big akharas like Junapith akhada. “As a brand icon, there can be no one bigger than Swami Ramdev,” he says.

For many of the brands, melas spell magic when it comes to consumer connect. Dabur’s Phakey points out that on an average, over 25,000 melas are held every year across India with a majority of them in the October-November or January-April period, which also coincides with the Kharif and Rabi harvest season. “This means that the purchasing power of the rural population is at its highest when these melas are organised. At Dabur, we identify specific melas basis the geography and the visitor profile and plan our participation accordingly,” she says.

But it is the Kumbh that is the mother of all melas where most of the marketing rupee goes. As Ghose points out, “The Kumbh is unique as it is a massive gathering of both rural and urban population and also has a huge dispersal factor as people travel long distances across the country.”

However, Sudhir Nair, co-founder and CEO, 21N78E Creative Labs, a full service ecosystems solutions agency, feels that while logic would dictate that all mass brands should make their presence felt at Kumbh, given its scale, there are some dangers. “It has a specific image attached to it which is very earthy, rooted in tradition and culture. Not all brands are a snug fit,” he says, also adding a warning, “Given how touchy sentiments these days are, the danger of being bracketed unwittingly in a right-wing ideology may make some brands wary of participating.”

With inputs from Amrita Nair Ghaswalla


Published on January 10, 2019

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