Milk booths by Amul and Mother Dairy, a Kumbh phone by Reliance Jio, Dabur’s toothpaste dispensers are among the many initiatives by brands steadying for a stint on haloed ground.
As the world’s largest congregation gathers at the confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati (believed to be hidden in the recesses of the earth), a long list of brands is keeping the pilgrims company.
Milk booths by Amul and Mother Dairy, a Kumbh phone by Reliance Jio that comes pre-programmed with information about the fair and apps aptly labelled ‘family locator’ and ‘khoya-paya’ (lost and found) to help people stay safe in the melee, Dabur’s toothpaste dispensers are among the many initiatives by brands steadying for a stint on haloed ground.
For most of the brands pitching their tent in the 2019 jamboree, there is an added attraction this year.
Apart from the massive crowds (around 120-130 million as per the estimates), surveys indicate that there is likely to be a higher turnout of young tourists.
According to travel aggregator ixigo, “66 per cent travellers for Kumbh 2019 are millennials between 15-35 years,” in a survey conducted cross 11,000 plus participants.
Aloke Bajpai, CEO and co-founder, ixigo said, “We have seen an average of 30 per cent increase in travel searches from youngsters and working professionals from cities like Pune, Nasik, Chennai, Bhopal and Hyderabad.”
Increased interest among the young is also prompting many companies to offer experiences and services better suited to their demographic.
The telecom companies have all come up with offers and features that enhance the virtual experience.
Reliance Jio has a special Kumbh functionality on the phone that offers virtual tours and festival-related information as well as telecast of special events via Jio TV.
A Jio spokesperson said, “This demonstrates our focus on bringing disproportionate and true value for consumers.”
Airtel has dedicated kiosks to offer Virtual Reality (VR) experiences and a channel on Airtel TV will stream the proceedings for those unable to visit the Kumbh.
Sameer Batra, CEO, Content & Apps, Bharti Airtel said, “It is amongst the biggest and most important events in India and our endeavour is to bring it closer to our customers.”
“We are expecting 5,000-10,000 foreign tourists at Kumbh Mela. Including non-resident Indians, the number of overseas visitors could be around 40,000,” said Subhash Goyal, chairman of Stic Travel Group.
At MakeMyTrip, its chief business officer, Parikshit Choudhury said, “We have seen a four-time increase in occupancy on our platform.
"Our daily room nights have more than doubled and it is likely to go up further in the coming days.”
This year, there appears to be a concerted attempt to target the luxury tourist.
Special events, larger spaces for luxury tents and historical and cultural walks are being promoted heavily, all aimed at the big ticket traveller.
Cox & Kings has also been promoting The Ultimate Travelling Camp (TUTC) luxury tents on its platform.
Dhun Cordo, co-founder, TUTC says, “The demand is much more this time compared to 2013. Some of the dates our camps are booked upward of 80 per cent,” she said.
However the luxury tourist is still a small fraction of total. Most brands have their eye on the masses.
This is what attracted Mother Dairy which is participating in the Mela for the first time.
A spokesperson said they were setting up 16 branded outlets at the venue apart from other on-the-ground initiatives.
The organisers are also looking a special line of merchandise for the Kumbh Mela.
This is aimed largely at the young and the global tourist.
According to the official website, there will be T-shirts, caps, sweatshirts, mugs, jerry cans etc available on Flipkart.
But neither were able to provide any further information about the same.
Jiggy George, founder-CEO Dream Theatre that works with several global and Indian brands on licensing and merchandising said that it makes eminent sense to have special merchandise.
“The Kumbh Mela falls at an intersection of elements essential to a sustained licensed merchandise line.
"It is culturally entrenched with India, and it attracts massive number of visitors.
"The motifs related bear a lot of synergy with the motifs used by the 'India cool' brands and almost anyone would want to carry some memorabilia from the festival, Indian or foreigner,” he said.
George says that this year the festival has been promoted as much as cultural experience as a religious one, thereby adding to its appeal among younger visitors.
While it is too early to comment on how the merchandise would be marketed, he believes the trick would be to go for products that are easy to travel with, given that most people visit the Kumbh as tourists in one way or another.
With inputs from Urvi Malvania & Romita Majumdar in Mumbai and Arnab Dutta in New Delhi
Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters