Marketing moves with Mahabali

Onam is the test bed of festival shopping in India. What’s on the cards this year?


For Kochi-based B Tech student Malavika Menon, Onam is the time to put her best dress forward. This year, thanks to “Q professional hair studio” she doesn't have to worry much. The Kochi salon is offering to drape sarees, apply light make-up, and style hair for an affordable rate of ₹1,499 during the festive season. “Our primary target is college students who want to dress up for the occasion during Onam. The secondary target would be young working professionals who want to look their best for the office Onam feast,” says Nahum Jacob, chief stylist of the salon.

Meanwhile, local food brand Brahmins is tempting consumers with a lucky draw contest where the winner stands to walk away with a Gold Thooshanila (plantain leaf made of 10 sovereigns of gold). “Thooshanila is an integral part of Onam and Keralites have an emotional connect with it,” says V. Vishnu Nampoothiri, managing director of the company.

Pouring offers

Monsoon rains have been battering Kerala, and with the Idukki dam gates opened, there are fears of dampened Onam festivities. Yet marketers have kept their annual date with Mahabali.

It’s been pouring offers from the usual suspects — durables industry, white goods retailers, jewellery brands, textile showrooms and malls. However, a noticeable trend this year is that beauty chains, food brands, and a host of others are joining the high-decibel sales pitch with unusual offers.

Given that Onam marks the start of the festive season in India, analysts keenly monitor the buying patterns during this period for key consumer insights. With green shoots discernible in the economy, optimism is high among consumer durable companies which are expecting a 20-30 per cent growth in sales this year, compared to last Onam. Reduction in GST rate to 18 per cent on home appliances and smaller-sized TVs is expected to give a big boost to consumer sentiment.

Brands like LG, Panasonic and Godrej are geared up with special promotions, ad campaigns and activations. For instance, Panasonic has launched extended warranty and combo offers across categories, including televisions, refrigerators, washing machines, air-conditioners, and microwaves. “We have aggressive marketing plans this Onam season and through the assistance of advertising and on-ground activations, are eyeing a growth of 31 per cent in southern India,” says Sarthak Seth, Chief Marketing Officer, Panasonic India. Kamal Nandi, Business Head and EVP, Godrej Appliances, says, “Last year, consumer sentiment was not very strong due to various challenges, following implementation of GST from July 1 and Onam sales were muted.” This year, he says, they are bullish. “We are targeting a 30 per cent growth over last Onam, about ₹200 crore in terms of revenues. Kerala is a strategic market for us.”

A spokesperson at LG India said, “We are targeting ₹600 crore (worth of) Onam sales, which is a growth of about 30 per cent over last year. There will be an extensive experiential and engaging marketing campaign across the State during this promotion period.”

Mobile mania

According to Dominic Savio, brand consultant and managing director of the Kochi-based Buzzstop, this year the consumer preference in the market is tilting more towards purchase of mobile phones, evident in the budgetary spend of mobile companies.

“This year, I don’t expect much rush for electronics and clothing because many e-commerce portals have already started wooing customers with irresistible offers from the start of the month. Also, the Aadi sale is not over, facilitating salaried class to carry out their Onam purchase”, says Savio.

Be that as it may, several clothing brands have been holding fashion shows in Kochi. In Thiruvananthapuram, big brands from beyond the borders, such as Ramraj and MCR, are going the extra mile to draw Onam customers to their showrooms. Across the State, large retail chains have roped in Malayalam film celebrities for their star-studded Onam campaigns. Not surprisingly, media houses in the State — both print and TV — have hiked ad rates to catch the commercial bonanza. With ad volumes up, this month media houses expect 60 per cent higher revenues over other months. “A lot of companies do offers based on tactical advertising during this time in Kerala,” says Gopinath Menon, a media planning consultant, describing how many local brands hire ad agencies just for this Onam period — something that is unique to Kerala.

Festive feasting

An interesting new trend is the increasing presence in Thiruvananthapuram of food delivery companies, which are armed with a suitably configured app to conquer willing customers.

Kerala’s capital city is waking up to the sight of delivery bikes of players such as Pinstove, Rabbito, Hoppon, and Swapp criss-crossing the streets. The arrival of Uber Eats has only spiced up the action. During Vishu earlier this year, Uber Eats had reported a record number of delivery orders for celebratory meals. Also, in a State that banks on convenience, literally every item in a Sadya can today be bought in a ready-to-eat format with a plethora of local food companies packaging everything from Kaalan to payasam.

Locally, the Kerala State Beverages Corporation (Bevco), the only wholesalers of liquor in the State, intends to tap into the ‘high spirits’ associated with the festivities. Sparjan Kumar, Managing Director, of the company, said he intends to sit down with field-level officers to draw up a strategy for Onam which concludes on August 25. Last year, the company had recorded sales of ₹440.6 crore during the 10 days of Onam against ₹411.14 crore the previous year. At over eight litres per person per year, Kerala has the highest per capita consumption of alcohol for any State in India — almost double the national average.

Of course, while marketers are ready with their moves, it’s the powers above controlling the rains that will decide the fate of sales in God’s Own Country.

Published on August 09, 2018

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