It is Mumbai’s favourite festival and is celebrated each year with fervour and frenzy. But when the city welcomes “Ganpati Bappa” this Friday, the celebrations will be low key.
With a cap on the size of idols, ban on processions and restrictions on devotees visiting pandals, celebrations are toned down for the second year in a row. Festival budgets have shrunk and as a result, corporate sponsorships have dried out.
“This year, while the situation is much better and many Ganeshotsav pandals have approached us, our sense is that devotees will not venture out and will prefer online darshan,” says Mayank Shah, senior category head, Parle Products. “So, we are not sponsoring pandals,” he adds.
While the Maharashtra government issued a protocol for the festival towards the end of June, until last week organisers were unclear about various aspects such as using loudspeakers or allowing devotees and advertising at the venue. For brands, this meant added uncertainty.
“We haven’t received many requests from mandals this year,” says Madhur Pandey, vice president (marketing) of beverage maker Parle Agro. “Nonetheless, we are ensuring the visibility of our brands through points of purchase and making our products available in higher numbers in and around areas where we can expect to see visits for Ganeshotsav.”
has around 12,000 sarvajanik, or community, mandals celebrating Ganeshotsav. Around 3,200 of them erect pandals on roads and the rest in housing colonies. For brands, Ganeshotsav has been a testing ground for new products, and advertisers have used the festive occasion for brand activation campaigns and innovative marketing. In the past both Parle Products and Parle Agro have showcased idols made from biscuits and Frooti tetra packs at the popular Lalbaugcha Raja pandal.
In pre-Covid times, advertisers would shell out anywhere between Rs 10 lakh and upwards of Rs 1 crore for banners, hoardings or advertising on gate arches at the community pandals. This time, the response from corporate entities is tepid.
“Maharashtra government has been strict on following Covid-19 protocols. It did not allow dahi handi celebrations (also big in the state) on Janmashtami due to concerns around the third wave. Since public participation will be limited during Ganeshotsav, too, advertisers will hold on to their marketing budgets and spend it during the next big festival,” says N Chandramouli, CEO, TRA Research, a consumer insights and brand analytics company.
Independent brand expert Ambi Parameswaran, however, believes that brands will realign their budgets and channelise advertising spends on television, digital and print medium during Ganeshotsav. While on-site corporate advertising is taking a backseat, companies
are planning customer engagements at their own outlets during the festive season.
“The festive spirit of Ganeshotsav has always helped us drive positive sentiment into holiday demand,” says Rajeev Kale, president and country head (holidays), Thomas Cook India. “This year, too, our strategy is to target the high potential catchments in Maharashtra, and we are doing a series of customer engagements at select outlets across 15 cities, including Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Kolhapur and Nashik.” Each outlet, he adds, will be decorated with a festive ambience and delicacies will be served to customers invited from adjoining areas.
Clearly, the Covid-19 pandemic has not dampened the festive spirit entirely. “There was fear and uncertainty last year. That has receded now since a large number of people have taken both the doses of the vaccines,” says Naresh Dahibhavkar, president of BrihanMumbai Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Samanvay Samiti, which acts as a coordination committee for pandals across Mumbai.
“Earlier, for the 10 days of celebration, the expenses would be around Rs 25 lakh. Last year, it was around Rs 10 lakh, and it’ll be similar this year too,” Siddhesh Mangaonkar, president of Tardeo Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal in south Mumbai.
“There are fewer advertisers and we are relying on voluntary donations and contributions from our members,” he adds.
They are asking devotees to bring educational material for the needy. “We are also distributing medicines at a concessional rate to the poor.” Meanwhile, the capping of the height of the idols — two feet and four feet for household and community celebrations, respectively — has impacted the business of idol makers. “The government should have notified the rules earlier. We receive orders and start our work in January. The decision to cap idol height has caused financial loss to us,” says Reshma Khatu, who runs an idol making workshop in Mumbai. For Vile Parle resident Dilip Modak, however, it has been a mixed fortune. While he has been able to sell over 90 per cent of the idols for household celebrations, there is a slump in orders for his food catering business: “the orders for ‘modaks’ have plunged 50 per cent”.
E-darshan over pandal visits
Following the new norms, physical events and processions are ruled out. Online darshan will be the norm as organisers have been advised to restrict the number of people in a pandal to avoid crowding. For instance, the GSB Seva Mandal in King’s Circle has partnered with Reliance Jio to provide online darshan on various platforms.
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