Festive Season – One That Never Came

(Image used for illustrative purpose only)
The peculiarity of Indians’ buying behavior is unmatched. Nearly 50% of annual sales of consumer products happen in three months between August and November each year. We shop because we are in a happier mood. We are happier because we like festivals. Most of important Hindu festivals are bunched up during this period. When we are happy, we buy. From house, cars, furniture, holidays to refrigerator, air conditioner, clothes, kitchenware to sweets, savories, fire crackers, etc. The purse-strings of a typical Indian are loosened during festival season every year.

This year has been a bit different. This year, festivals came on schedule, but a buying-season has almost given it a miss! The industry segment data on personal automobiles, real estate, consumer durables, etc. are not telling a very encouraging story. Consumers seemed to have given it a pass on their decision to buy. There is hardly any product category that has not been affected. And reasons for postponement of this purchase decision are largely macro. Rising crude oil prices, currency, liquidity crunch, demonetisation, GST, US, Trump, North Korea, Iran, depressed stock markets, judicial activism and that mother-of-all reasons – the great Indian political season. No one wants to take a bet on the outcome of elections in various States as well as General Elections in about six months. For some strange reason, Indians are more risk averse in the elections year. While every Indian agrees that India grows despite her politicians, we postpone our spending/investment decisions during elections year. This results in a rather lumpy growth trajectory. Short phases of euphoria followed by long troughs of depression.

Indians take pride in saying that they are world’s largest democracy. Also, the huge size of our middle-class, younger population, rapid urbanization, growing literacy levels, large investments in core infrastructure, etc. are factors that no one denies. Yet, the attention is on other issues. We keep postponing our decisions because we seem insecure of our future. We are insecure because we are worried on caste, creed, religion, Ram Janmabhoomi, etc. We are almost successfully made to believe that these issues are more important than any other. Economic growth, social justice, strengthening our institutions, etc. can wait. Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikaas can wait.

Indians need to choose to stay happy. For centuries, we were deprived of our rightful growth due to divisions created on religious, caste, economic status, etc. The story continues.

Our society, evolved through thousands of years, has created festivals as common reason to celebrate. Festivals, as an additional reason to buy large-ticket goods, is understandable. Equating heavy-duty shopping to convey that we are celebrating a festival, is not. It is important that we should decouple festivals from buying. This is commercialization of our festivals. One does not need to buy expensive things to celebrate Lord Ram’s victory as a triumph of good over evil as Diwali.

Happy Diwali and a prosperous new year to all of you.