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The next big Indian export: festival holidays

by Sanjay Puri
Thursday , June 07, 2012 at 13 : 33

This Mothers Day, I happened to be in India and noticed the amazing way this holiday has caught on in the country. Being a Sunday, I went over to one of the high-activity malls and was surprised to see the rush of people buying gifts at big stores and also restaurants were buzzing with long waiting lines. Mothers and retailers are obviously beaming with joy; however, it made me think why would India adapt a holiday like Mothers day given that every day is mother's day in India!

As an Indian American who grew up in the US, I know some of these festivals were initiated in the West to get the cash registers ringing eg Halloween, Valentine's Day etc. However, these holidays do not have a cultural bearing in India, and yet the vigour with which Indians have taken to them makes one realise that globalisation has come to holidays too. It also makes me wonder that given the huge variety of festivals in the Indian culture, and the fact that India is a land of holidays, why can't India export some of its unique holidays to the US and the west?

How about Hallmark and other retailers look to the diversity taking shape in the US population and look at the challenge of creating additional events/holidays which would have interesting appeal to an immigrant population but also to the non-immigrants who are tired of the same old same old. I believe if marketed right, Indian holidays will ring the cash registers. A list of my favourite festivals would be ones that depict Indianess, connect a cord with non-Indians too and have a commercial implication for retailers (for that is what will make them successful). Here are a few.

Rakshabandhan: Rakhi is a special holiday that signifies the bond between brothers and sisters. I am not sure if any other country has this tradition. There certainly are holidays celebrating mothers and fathers, yet I find that there is nothing that celebrates the special bond between siblings in the West. On the eve of Raksha Bandhan, sisters tie a thread (considered sacred) on the wrists of their brothers, signifying a bond of protection and respect. For retailers, I see opportunities for cool Rakhis and trading gifts since that is a key part of this holiday.

Holi: Holi is a popular festival of colours and a sight to watch! A tradition held on to since centuries, it is a concept with all ingredients to make a perfect festival holiday in the US. I see Holi celebrations the way the festival can be introduced to the West a holiday full of colours, gifts and fun! I suggest organic colours or gulal (you do not want folks to sue for allergies), sweets like cupcakes, pichhkaris (water-toys) and a complete Holi experience!!

I am hoping that this coming August 2, when I am at a mall in the US, I see a rainbow of Rakhis in the stores!


More about Sanjay Puri

Sanjay Puri is the Chairman of the US India Political Action Committee (USINPAC), a national, bipartisan political action committee representing over 2 million Indian-Americans. USINPAC works with members of the Congress and the US administration to ensure that the community's concerns are addressed. He is also a recognised authority on US-India relations and a frequent public speaker on US-India relations.

Sanjay Puri is also the founder and CEO of the Alliance for US India Business (AUSIB). AUSIB is dedicated to strengthening economic ties between the US and India. He regularly leads delegations of business and political leaders to India. He is the Founder and CEO of Optimos Incorporated, an information technology company located in Reston, Virginia. He received his MBA in Finance from the George Washington University's School of Business.

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