Diwali 2020 will Not be All Sparkle: Here's Why



Diwali 2020 will Not be All Sparkle: Here's Why

2020 has been a gloomy and dismal year so far. The Covid-19 Pandemic and the resultant lockdowns have put the wheels of society into a complete halt.  The government’s regulations and social gathering restrictions have deprived us of the simple joys of life, such as celebrating festivals. This year festivals have drawn a complete blank and muted response. Recently, the ten-day Hindu festival of Ganesh Chaturthi came to its conclusion. For ten days it used to get louder than usual in the city streets of India, as people usually come on roads with loudspeakers and crackers during Ganesh Chaturthi. However, this year the festival was very quiet. Similar scenes were witnessed during the month of Eid when millions of Muslims were barred from offering Namaz at mosques in a move to curb the spread of the virus.

With Eid, Ganesh Chaturthi and Onam giving a muted response, and the Coronavirus Pandemic worsening with each passing day in India, expect the upcoming festival season from Navratri to Diwali to be equally gloomy over here in India. This 2020 Diwali might not have the same glitter and sparkle that it used to have in the previous years.

The major brunt of such muted festivals will be on the shoulders of the informal sector that depends on the seasonal festivals for their livelihood. Anyone from the statue makers, labourers to tent house suppliers, the ones who make fancy lights & crackers, sweet makers and shopkeepers selling festive items, has already witnessed a sharp decline in their sales and will continue to do so during the upcoming festive season.

Average Indian consumers also consider the festive season of Diwali as an auspicious time for making purchases. According to one research paper published by the rating agency Crisil, in the last ten years, 30% of the two-wheeler sales have come in the festive season alone. In addition to that, industry estimates suggest that 40% of the sales of the consumer durables such as electronic products come in the festive season alone.  

The situation is a tad bit different this year. With a faltering GDP at -23 points as of the first week of September, due to the hit the economy has taken because of the imposed lockdowns – the Indian consumers are not in a mindset to buy new purchases at all. Consumers have been heavily cutting down on their spending.

Another major reason for the cutdown on spending has been the loss of jobs. Unemployment levels are at an all-time high in Independent India. According to the Consumer Pyramid Household Survey – 85 million people lost their jobs between March and June. Even at a conservative level, in the Indian MSME sector, around 35 million jobs, which is equivalent to one-thirds of the jobs have been lost by the end of August. The people who have retained their jobs have been facing salary cuts and no increments whatsoever.

Other than the financial impact, there has been a significant psychological impact as well. Spending during the festive period requires people to go out of their homes onto crowded environments, something which is viewed sceptically in the current Pandemic scenario.

Businesses running at a loss may assume that the upcoming Diwali festive season might pull them out of these dark ages, but in truth, it is a very dangerous conclusion to draw. At the moment, there are too many factors going against businesses.

With approximately 80000 plus new cases of Corona turning up every day, Bloomberg has predicted that at this rate by the end of the Diwali festive season India will have more than 5 lakh Corona deaths in total. Therefore, it will be wise to expect the upcoming Navaratri and Diwali festive season to be devoid of the usual glitter and sparkle.