Corporates flock across puja pandals, to cash in on the festivities in Kolkata

Shobha Roy Abhishek Law Kolkata | Updated on January 10, 2018

From the ‘White Temple’ of Thailand to the Ashtalakshmi Temple of Chennai; from the legendary kingdom of Amarendra Bahubaali – Maheshmati to a Zamindar’s house, there’s scope of it all this year in Kolkata.

With Durga Puja just a few days away, Kolkata Durga Puja organizers have left no stones unturned to bring in the crowds for Bengal’s biggest extravaganza.

If the Deshapriya Park Durga Puja preferred to replicate the temple of Thailand as its theme – after courting a controversy through its largest ever Durga Puja idol advertisement campaign in 2015; then Ekdalia Evergreen – patronized by State Panachayat Minister Subrata Mukherjee has replicated the Ashtalakhsmi Temple of Chennai as its focal theme to celebrate 75 years of the puja.

On the other hand the organizers of Sreebhumi (a club in the northern fringes of the city) cashed in on the Bahubaali fever by replicating the palace of Maheshmati this time. And believe it or not, the pandal was inaugurated by none other than the Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, herself.

Early beginning

To top this all, around 400 people in the city recently came together to create the longest alpana (rangoli) around the Samaj Sevi Puja Pandal in Lake View Road in south Kolkata.

Durga Puja in Bengal has always been big; but this year it is bigger. No not because of the sheer size and whopping budgets of the puja committees. But this time the festivities have started early.

Officially, Puja starts from September 26 (Sashti) and ends on September 30 (Dashami).

But this year, organizers decided to usher in the goddess early. Most pandals were inaugurated by September 22 (Friday) targeting the weekend crowds. Some started even earlier, from Mahalaya (September 19) – a week before the Pujas.

And in terms of budget, most Durga Pujas have only upped the ante. For example, Jodhpur Park – one of the main pujas in the city – has seen its budget increase by 7-10 per cent; while Bhowanipore 75 Pally – another major name in the pandal hoppers circuit – has seen a similar rise 7-8 per cent rise in budget. In both cases, the puja organizers have pegged a budget of ₹30 lakh and above.

But, there is a worry. GST, organizers say, have come as a cropper for many pandals.

GST cropper

According to some puja organizers, corporate have been hesitant in loosening their advertisement purses this year; especially with the roll out of GST. While, previously, a sponsorship amount of ₹100,000 has a two per cent TDS (tax deducted at source); the GST regime has different economics.

A sponsorship, of ₹100,000 and above, goes through an intermediary vendor; who charges a commission of 10 per cent. This apart, there is this 2 per cent TDS. The intermediary vendor should have a GSTN registration. As most clubs do not have such a registration, corporates are factoring in this 12 per cent from overall ad spends.

“So the actual amount disbursed is lesser. And puja committees may fall short of actual budgets,” says Sumanta Roy, general secretary, Jodhpur Park Puja Committee.

Organisers had to reach out to a larger number of coporates this year and have tweaked their rates, in some cases.

But this really hasn’t deterred sponsorships or advertisements across the city. Corporates and FMCG majors have flocked across puja pandals trying to cash in on the festivities.

Published on September 24, 2017

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