The Festival of Onam is an emotion among the Malayalis across the globe. Apart from the myriad emotions and nostalgia the festival brings in, it marks the beginning of the festive season in the country and is followed by Dussehra, Diwali, and Christmas. Onam sales account for more than 50 percent of the annual sales of the businesses. The festival accounts for 30-60 per cent of the total turnover of the media houses in Kerala. The Cyclone and the catastrophic floods that lashed Kerala in 2018-19 has significantly impacted the state’s economy. The growth rates of the state, which were higher than the national growth, witnessed a downward trend in 2019-20 due to the obstructions the state economy faced during the last three years. The Covid-19 pandemic and the frequent lockdowns have cost the state a revenue loss of Rs 1.56 Lakh Crore.
Nevertheless, the media heads of Kerala are optimistic about Onam 2021.
Sharing his perspective about market sentiments for Onam, Varghese Chandy, VP-Marketing & Advertising Sales, Malayala Manorama, said, “Onam is a period of intense shopping and brisk business for almost all brands and categories. Some categories even record 50-55 percent of their annual sales during the Onam festive period. Though the run-up towards Onam this year was a little muted owing to the restrictions put in place to control the spread of covid, we now see a shift to a more positive sentiment from consumers and from businesses. The recent government decision allowing shops to operate from 7 am to 9 pm from Monday to Saturday has been a catalyst in this shift and will surely accelerate economic activity.”
“There is considerable pent up consumer demand which needs to be fulfilled. Added to this is the traditional shopping spree, which happens during Onam. We have also seen spurts in economic activity from around the world as soon as restrictions are eased. So, our Onam outlook is positive,” he added.
“With the prevailing situation, where the state is facing a very high number of Covid cases, and TPR rate has gone above 10 percent across districts is not an epitome of having a very great Onam this year, observes Shreyams Kumar, Managing Director, Mathrubhumi Group.
“The Kerala government will have to bring about comprehensive changes in the existing lockdowns norms at containing the Covid-19 virus. We are optimistic that we would experience higher revenue share in business vis a vis from last year, Onam,“ Shreyas said.
According to Chandy, 2021 will be witnessing an extended shopping season that would extend beyond Onam.
He further added, “All consumers may not be able to convert their intent into actual purchases within this short period of 15 days or so. We request brands to be cognizant of this as well. Onam falls on 21st of August, and the shopping is already on.”
“Onam is the Diwali of Kerala, and we expect shoppers to be back with some restrictions and expect a good one in the next three weeks,” said PR Satheesh, COO, MMTV Ltd.
“Cautious optimism is what we are sporting this Onam,” said Boby Paul, Head of Marketing, Manorama Online.
“Nothing will stop a Malayali from celebrating Onam. It’s reassuring to note that, after a year and a half since the outbreak, humanity has found indigenous ways to circumvent the pandemic, and digital has been the confidant in the new normal. Cut to Kerala, God’s own country and the best time of the year is around the corner- Onam. This year, Onam for Malayalis across the world this year will be powered by meaningful digital connections,“ he added.
Onam this time is critical for the markets to open up as it is perceived that if Onam in Kerala does good, then festive seasons in the country will be economically prosperous.
“Pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the market, and presently the mood is an all-time low. Uncertainty lurks large due to the TPR surge and classification lockdown due to the same,” said Unnikrishnan BK, Vice President- Sales, Asianet News.
According to Anil Ayroor, Flowers and 24 Group COO, “The spending capacity of people has come down, that along with the regional lockdown rules, has impacted the Onam sentiments negatively.”
“The Television spending capacity has come down drastically. For Flowers TV, the regional vs national spending is 90:10. Major national brands have decreased their spending capabilities, which has paved the way for local brands to become major Onam advertisers. The news genre spends increased as it is affordable and female viewership in the news genre increased,” he added.
“We are hoping that the spirit of Onam this year will be both sweet and memorable in Kerala,” said Santosh Nair, Business Head, Zee Keralam.
“ZEE Keralam is coming up with a lot of exciting content with a number of celebrities like Manju Warrier, Bhavana, Manoj K Jayan, Jayaram, Remya Nambeesan and many others. Our Onam special event with Manju Warrier titled – Manju Bhaavangal will also be hitting the screens on 22nd August. There will also be special episodes of our regular programmes like SaReGaMaPa Keralam Li’l Champs, Let’s Rock n’ Roll and we are premiering Manju Warrier’s recent hit film – Chaturmukham, a techno-horror thriller,” he added.
Kerala was under strict lockdown rules for the past few months, and the state government revised the guidelines a few days ago. The government has decided to restrict the weekend lockdown to a single day, and this move by the government has marked a positive note on the state’s economic revival.
Speaking about the response from Regional and Retail Brands, Chandy said, “The major concern of all brands was the reduced number of days outlets could open and operate in Kerala. This situation has now changed, and business activity will pick up significantly. All brands have welcomed the new guidelines from the government and expect a good Onam. About 60 percent of our advertising comes from within Kerala. This shows the strength of retail in Kerala.”
“It’s the retail market which is most affected. The Onam season is very critical as far as Regional and retail brands are concerned. Business in these sectors have been at a standstill, and the community is quite optimistic about a roaring sale during the season. During Onam, it is regional, which normally contribute more to the billing cycle. But last year saw much a reverse trend with national business doing more than regional. Presently trend indicates slow spending from National markets. This too is attributed to the lockdown sentiment,” said Unnikrishnan.
“Combined with the position in the festival calendar, the sentiment lifting capability of and the state’s heightened sense of civic consciousness, Onam is poised to mark the revival of the shopping season in adherence to the protocols by leveraging the seamlessness of digital experiences” observes Paul.
He said, “The pandemic has certainly impacted the way we live, work & play, but in Kerala, it has not lowered the spirit of Onam thanks to festivities taking a virtual turn. Regional and retail brands are warming up well to Onam; given the limitation which pandemic has caused, they are using more digital touchpoints to augment Onam spends in a healthy way keeping all the Covid precautions in place. We have a 50:50 split between National & Regional brands on Manoramaonline.”
Speaking about the national and regional brands in ad pie during Onam, Shreyams said, “Several brands in Kerala earmark 25-40 percent of their annual budget for this traditional festive season. Retail, jewellery, FMCG, automobile, and durable consumer brands are expected to splurge in a big way during Onam. We are quite optimistic about the revival of the market during this festive period. Over 40percent of national brands advertise during this time period. The consumer sentiments are high and positive. The brands are utilising this progressive sentiment and bringing in products that they could not launch due to intensive lockdowns in the country. Onam considered the beginning of festivities followed by Diwali Dussehra and Christmas, leading to more product launches in the coming months. “
Education, Automobile, Healthcare & BFSI are the categories most active on Print.
“We should now see retail activity picking up – especially Consumer durables, Electronics, Jewellery, Textiles and other retail clients,” Chandy said.
“There have been categories such as automobiles, education, online education portals, Hygiene products, BFSI – financials, banks & insurance – and governments, who continue to patronise the media. In addition, many brands have resorted to corona virus-related advertising,” said Shreyams while speaking about the major advertisers on Print.
The Television market is buzzing with new launches and new program line-ups.
Sharing his perspective on whether that denotes a positive sign in consumer behaviour, Unnikrishnan said, “Television and media as such are creating a scenario wherein the Onam festive season kindles into general masses, forgetting the impact of the COVID virus. We at Asianet News, too, are trying to create positive vibes among viewers to minimise the negative impact of COVID but then urging all to celebrate the season with utmost care and following protocols. Once people start following all protocols and are careful, we can do business and be cautious of not to get infected.”
According to Santosh, the new Television show launches are a sign that life is slowly getting back to normal.
“Everyone is taking necessary precautions to remain safe while balancing their day-to-day activities. New launches are being announced which is definitely a treat to Television audience. We look forward to a prosperous and healthy Onam as a family, taking all necessary precautions to keep Covid away and celebrate a safe Onam together,” Santosh added.