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Religion meets business at Kumbh

Last updated on: January 17, 2013 08:55 IST

Religion meets business at Kumbh

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Viveat Susan Pinto and Sounak Mitra in Mumbai/New Delhi


W
ith nearly 120 million devotees expected to visit Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh over next two months for a holy dip at the Sangam, the Maha Kumbh mela is being billed as the largest congregation on earth.

Coming only once in twelve years, it is easily the most tracked and watched event this year.

For consumer companies, the throngs milling in and about the city are an opportunity that cannot be missed.

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Image: Naga Sadhus take a dip during the first "Shahi Snan" (grand bath) at the ongoing "Kumbh Mela" in Allahabad on January 14, 2013.
Photographs: Ahmad Masood/Reuters
Tags: , Allahabad , Sangam

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During the period, consumer companies are estimated to earn Rs 1,000-1,500 crore (Rs 10 - 15 billion) in revenues from sale of everyday products such as soaps, shampoos, hair oils, toothpaste, shaving kits, food & beverages, etc.

A PepsiCo India spokesperson says: "Given the number of devotees there, the Maha Kumbh is a great way to connect with consumers."

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Image: A Sadhu stands on the banks of the river Ganges.
Photographs: Ahmad Masood/Reuters
Tags: , India

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Religion meets business at Kumbh

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So, from beverage giants Coke and Pepsi to biscuit major Parle and fast moving consumer goods companies Hindustan Unilever, Dabur, Amul and Reckitt Benckiser - players across the board have lined up a slew of initiatives to draw the attention of pilgrims.

Joining the list are allied players like telecom operators Airtel, Aircel and Idea and financial services firms, besides entertainment majors such as Star, Sony and UTV that will have special screens put up in the mela area showcasing their programmes, especially mythological and other religious ones.

Even pharma companies like Ranbaxy are said to be pushing their over-the-counter brands, such as Revital in view of the millions of devotees estimated to visit.

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Image: Devotees pray as they attend the first 'Shahi Snan'.
Photographs: Ahmad Masood/Reuters

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Dabur India executive director (sales) George Angelo says: "While the space may seem cluttered, it actually offers companies the opportunity to get consumers to touch, feel and experience their brands. This will generate sales in the days to come."

Dabur, which derives a third of its sales from rural areas, is pushing its mass-market brands Dabur Amla Hair Oil, Lal Dant Manjan, Red Toothpaste, Vatika and Odomos at the mela.

R S Sodhi, MD of Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation, the owner of Amul, says: "We have put up 26 booths in the mela area to sell dairy products, from milk to ghee.

We also have special Amul parlours that will be used as means to propagate our brands."

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Image: Sadhus take part in a religious procession near the banks of the river Ganges.
Photographs: Ahmad Masood/Reuters

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Religion meets business at Kumbh

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PepsiCo says it has a marketing plan that seeks to enhance both visibility and availability.

"We are deploying additional chilling infra, as well as setting up branded shops in high-footfall areas at Kumbh, pushing branded trolleys for supply of products; besides making available ready coolers, prominent signages and gate arches," says the company spokesperson.

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Image: A Sadhu receives help from another in tying his hair on the banks of the river Ganges.
Photographs: Ahmad Masood/Reuters
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Religion meets business at Kumbh

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Rival Coca-Cola, meanwhile, is putting up about 800 stalls and outlets around Allahabad city and the Kumbh area to serve its beverages, say company officials.

Parle has tied up with city retailers to push its products during the Kumbh.

The emphasis will be on its snacks portfolio, launched in November last year, says Group Product Manager B Krishna Rao.

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Image: Artists dressed as Hindu deities take part in a religious procession.
Photographs: Ahmad Masood/Reuters

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Jagran Solutions COO Pawan Bansal says: "Maha Kumbh works as an effective medium for companies to maximise visibility of brands. It offers the scope to reach a large target audience within a short period."


Image: A devotee prays before taking a dip in the waters of the holy Ganges.
Photographs: Ahmad Masood/Reuters

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