India is the only market in the world where even multinationals thumb through almanacs. When Jupiter and the sun align themselves in certain positions, the world’s largest religious congregation takes place. Enter Kumbh Mela. In the 2015 version that commenced this week at Nashik in Maharashtra, over 100 million people will gather over three months to create an unbeatable opportunity for companies to display their brands.
Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Vodafone, ITC and HUL are some of the major companies gearing up to tap Hindus’ largest congregation. Chew on this. HUL created a special heat stamp and served 2.5 million rotis at lunch to devotees with the message ‘Did you wash your hands with Lifebuoy?’ during the 2013 Kumbh Mela in Allahabad.
Kumbh Mela, during which Hindus gather to bathe in a sacred river, is held every third year by rotation at one of the four places: Ujjain, Allahabad, Haridwar and Nashik. This year’s mela is likely to generate around Rs 10,000 crore for Maharashtra, says an industry report. “Call it a brand mela. From umbrellas to ropes, every inch is branded during Kumbh,” says Harish Bijoor, a Bengaluru-based brand expert. “Religion and size is a fantastic combination and Kumbh has both. The Hajj at Mecca is also comparable to the scale and size of Kumbh, but there, brands have to be conservative. Imagine Woodstock or soccer leagues in Brazil and the UK, and multiply the scale by 10. That’s Kumbh for you.”