Kolkata’s Durga Puja, one of the biggest street festivals in the world, is also one of the largest employment generators in the state, providing jobs to over 1 lakh people for nearly six months every year.
With more than 10,000 Pujas in the state and 1,000 more in other parts of India and overseas, the festival has in recent years emerged as a hub of activity with each community Puja sustaining a micro-economy, particularly in Kolkata. From those erecting the pandals to the decorators, idol-makers to craftsmen, electricians to security persons, priests to dhakis, the Pujas help thousands boost their earnings.
“The five-day festival generates transactions worth Rs 4,500 crore in Kolkata and Rs 15,000 crore in the entire state,” says Kajal Sarkar, president of Forum for Durgotsav, a body of the city’s 100 mega Pujas.
“Of the the 4,500-odd community Pujas, 200-odd provide employment to more than 50 people each. The remaining 4,300-odd Pujas employ at least 20 people each. For those who feel so much money is being wasted on art, decor and celebrations, it is pertinent to point out that the money does not go down the drain. It goes into the households of labourers and craftsmen, sustaining the lives of nearly 4 lakh people for over six months,” said Sarkar.
According to Ravi Poddar of Enkon and Avishek Bhattacharya of Brand & Beautiful, who play a major role in linking advertisers with organisers, the corporate spending in Kolkata’s Pujas amount to nearly Rs 500-800 crore, with advertisement through banners and gates accounting for nearly Rs 150 crore.
India Inc finds value in Durga Puja advertising
It was Bosepukur Sitala Mandir, the Durga Puja that Kajal Sarkar helms, that transformed Durga Puja from a religious festival to a megacelebration of street art with a pandal decorated with earthen cups in 1999. That changed the character of the festival, ushering in innovative themes that caught the imagination of the masses and drew people in lakhs. The top draws soon started recording footfalls of 2-3 lakh a day. India Inc was quick to realise the magnetism of these Pujas and spot the opportunity to catch over a million eyeballs over five days. Soon, mega-bucks and sponsors followed.
With the advent of corporate sponsorships, Puja organizers are no longer dependent on contributions from local residents. If the budget of more traditional and low-key Pujas is around Rs 15 lakh, that for the big ones can go up to Rs 1 crore depending on the location, size and execution of the theme. Corporate funding and outdoor advertising account for about 90% of the cost.
“From firms manufacturing biscuits and cakes to bikes and cars, just about every firm finds value in advertising at Durga Puja,” said Rana Ghosh, director of an advertisement agency that operates in the Puja market.
If a multinational served its popular brand of fruit juice at pandals during bhog, another tied up with more than 100 housing society Pujas to get their bhogcooked in an edible oil from its stable and splashed its new range of spices at community pandals. At many mega-Pujas, volunteers serving bhogsported aprons with the logo of a popular restaurant chain. Even saris of idols carried tags of apparel stores and dhakis wore tees sponsored by well-known brands. Among the national brands that made its presence felt this Puja were Emami, Dabur, Amazon, Hindustan Unilever, HP, Samsung, Apple, Mi, Flipkart and others.
Aditya V Agarwal, director of Emami Group that was one of the biggest advertisers at this year’s Durga Puja, said: “The festival’s appeal cuts across geographies and communities and connects people with its unique essence. The four days of celebration fervour on this enormous scale also offers brands a significant opportunity to easily connect with the target group and spread brand awareness at one go. This is an occasion when brands get to reach out to wider audience as lakhs of people also come from outside Kolkata for pandal hopping and celebrations giving us the chance to expose them to our brands.”
Indian Chamber of Commerce director general Rajeev Singh believes Durga Puja’s turnover in Kolkata could triple to Rs 15,000 crore in the next few years. “By 2030, Durga Puja has the potential to touch the scale of the mega Kumbh Mela that generated a turnover of Rs 1lakh crore earlier this year,” Singh said.
“The grandeur of Durga Puja need be marketed globally to make the event as big as the Rio Carnival,” felt the Merchant Chamber of Commerce president Vishal Jhajharia.
Source: Times of India