Kerala floods take a toll on Onam spends; brands divert attention to providing relief

Kerala has been experiencing its worst downpour in over a century and the devastation that has followed has seen the loss of many lives, unprecedented damage to the state’s infrastructure and immense disruption to normal lives of citizens. Though the flood waters are receding in certain areas, Kerala is faced with a very long road to rehabilitation and return to normalcy. 

The devastating floods have come at a time when Kerala is usually immersed in Onam celebrations. This year, the celebrations have all but come to a standstill. Last week, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan announced the cancellation of Onam celebrations in the state. The Kerala Government, which had earmarked Rs 30 crore for the cultural events to be held all across the state, decided to divert that amount to the Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund. 

The Kerala floods have hit the market sentiments on a large scale. More than 50 per cent of the annual sales in Kerala happen during Onam. However, with their homes submerged in flood waters and having to shift to relief camps, people’s buying sentiments have understandably taken a backseat. 

Amit Gujral
Amit Gujral
The festive season in India, which usually kicks off with Onam celebrations, couldn’t have started on a more sombre note. This year, instead of heavy sales push, majority of the brands are diverting their efforts in providing relief to the flood hit. As Amit Gujral, CMO, LG India, remarked, “It is very unfortunate what has happened in Kerala this year. Onam means coming together for celebrations and happiness, but this year Onam has turned out to be coming together to care. We as a brand are standing tall with the people of Kerala and are doing our bit by deploying our resources for care of the people in relief camps with food, clean drinking water, clothes, medicines, hygiene care, etc. The planned customer communication activities had to be halted mid-way and it’s very overwhelming to see the support of the media to stand together in this hour of distress.” 

He further stated, “In the current situation, all the focus is to provide care to the people of Kerala to the best of our abilities and as soon as the situation stabilises, we would love to bring back the cheer to people through our ‘Health and Happiness’ campaign that we coined for Onam 2018 via various media vehicles like TV, Radio, Digital, Outdoor and celebrate with the people of Kerala with our exclusive offers for them via Easy EMIs, cash back offers, lucky draws, gift bundles, etc.” 

Deepika S Tewari
Deepika S Tewari
Tanishq, which had rolled out a campaign around Onam in the first week of August, has withdrawn the campaign due to the prevailing conditions in Kerala. Deepika S Tewari, AVP - Marketing, Jewellery Division, Titan Company Limited (Tanishq), said, “In light of the Onam festivities Tanishq (Titan Company Limited) had released an advertising campaign in the first week of August. However, we pulled it down the campaign on August 14, keeping in mind the adverse conditions in the state of Kerala. We are sensitive to the situation on ground and a team from Titan is working alongside the community, aiding the affected people in coping with the calamity.” 

Tewari further added, “At Tanishq, our relationship with the people of this country has always been and will continue to be the centre of all our activities, initiatives and campaigns. Entrenched in the values that are synonymous to every Tata Group company, we strongly believe it’s not always about business.” 

“Generally Onam is the biggest combined shopping season of the Malayalees. They do wait for the season to avail the offers and discounts offered by not just homegrown brands, but even the multinational ones,” noted Sruthy Sreedharan, Senior Manager, Vizeum. 

Citing the ground realities this year, Sreedharan pointed out that all 14 districts of Kerala are badly hit by the floods, including the commercial capital of Kochi, cultural hub of Thrissur and the NRI belt of Changanassery/ Thiruvalla/ Pathanamthitta. 

She further said, “People who have escaped the ravages of the flood might go about their business and shop all they want for self, but I assume there will be a considerable dip in buying stuff for others like clothes, etc., as pretty much this time it will be dull Onam celebrations.”  

Giving her take on the situation in the aftermath of the floods, Sreedharan stated that the topmost priority of the people would be to get their daily life in order. And it would start right at home – from cleaning the premises to painting to stocking the basic stuff used in daily life like grocery, kitchen utensils, bed spreads, towels, etc. “This will be their first priority. How much money they are left with after all this will decide their further spending pattern,” she pointed out. 

According to Sreedharan, a flip side of this rehabilitation exercise would be that people would have to get pretty much everything from scratch – from footmats to furniture to household electronic goods like TV and refrigerator and so on. “True, a good number ofthat will be repairable, but seeing the destruction for four days on TV, I am not very positive about that part. So, Onam being the ideal time with offers/ discounts, they might hit the streets to replace all the said items. And that might lead to an unprecedented shopping time. But, like I said, consumer behaviour is a complex area and this season can go either way. Only time will tell, I guess,” she added. 

Varghese Chandy
Varghese Chandy
Amid the busy period covering news on the current situation in Kerala as well as carrying out relief work, all Varghese Chandy, Vice President - Marketing, Advertising Sales, Malayala Manorama, had to say was, “There is nothing left to share after the deluge and devastation that Kerala is facing.”


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