Love + Business = Valentine’s Day

Guess which ‘festival’ after Diwali means big business for India? It’s Valentine’s Day on Feb 14 and if you’re surprised don’t be. Like Diwali, vital sectors of Indian business look forward to Valentine’s Day festivities, that last all of one week; to spur sales and improve their bottom lines. In a word, it’s great for the economy!

By Geeta Singh

When it comes to love and spirituality, we Indians have an advantage. The love of Radha and Krishna goes back 5000 years in time, to temple towns like Vrindavan fabled for their Radha Krishna lore. In later centuries, love (or lust?) became rather explicit going by the wall carvings in Khajuraho and the Ajanta-Ellora caves. Still later, we had the Taj Mahal, one of the World’s 7 Wonders, love poetry cast in pristine marble.

Then the change happened! Blame Globalization or Westernization, blame today’s fast paced life where cryptic messages on the mobile phone, the Internet and Facebook have tended to lessen the intensity of friendships even as every element of that friendship or relationship is laid bare for the world on social media. Today, friends break up on Facebook, or even twitter (if you’re pressed for time). 

That emotion called true love or true friendship no longer seems what it was or used to be. It seems more instant (like two minutes noodles), which is probably why Valentine’s Day has become what it is: A high profile and loudly proclaimed event to remind every one of us about the importance of love, of friendships and relationships in our lives.

And because this is the age of Globalization and Westernization, it’s also intensely marketed to sell a range of products from the ubiquitous Valentine’s Day Card to pink flowers, candy floss ribbons, chocolates and just about anything else you can think of.

ASSOCHAM says for 500 corporate and e-commerce firms, Valentine’s Day sales is worth Rs 1800 crore

And yes, don’t forget your bhujiawala around the corner who’s even packaging barfi and gulab jamun in Valentine’s Day colours. In this day and age, it’s about smart business and even smarter marketing; love/friendship etc is a commodity, to be processed, packed and sold!

Worldwide, the figures tell it all. Valentine’s Day cards are runner’s up only to Christmas cards in the sheer numbers sold. Last year in America alone, one billion cards were sold on this day. According to the US Greeting Card Guild, 85% of Valentine’s Day cards were bought by women.

Esther Howland, the artist and business woman who introduced and popularized Valentine’s Day cards, was awarded the title ‘Mother of Valentine’. Her company sells the highest number of Valentine’s Day cards worldwide.

Valentine’s Day had its first echoes in India in the 1990s, and it was limited to the Westernized, largely upper class sections of society that travelled abroad and were familiar with aspects of that culture.

But the rest of the country, meaning other classes, took only three decades to catch up. Today, forget metros like Delhi, Mumbai or Bengaluru, places like Ranchi, Patna, Dehradun and Kanpur where Valentine’s Day is most popular and growing every year.

According to an ASSOCHAM report, Valentine’s Week is the “most profitable week for the market”, and after Diwali, the highest profits are generated during the Valentine festivities. Among the top earners in this period are restaurants, travel agencies, jewellers, shops selling greeting cards, confectionary (with chocolates marking the highest sales), clothes and apparel shops, all kinds of electronics, hairdressers and not to forget, florists.

The expression of love is incomplete without a red rose, an important ritual during Valentine’s Week

The ASSOCHAM survey says for 500 corporate and e-commerce firms, the Valentine’s Day sales alone is worth Rs 18000 crores today. The survey suggests that this market is growing by 20 to 25% annually. Last year, retail and online marketing surged to Rs 15,000 crores.

The ASSOCHAM survey threw up other interesting data. Typically, spending for the young couple (unmarried) ranges from a low of Rs 1000 to 50,000 and most of them come from the services sector of the economy. Married couples spend anywhere from Rs 20,000 to 1.5 lakhs.

Students spend far less, from Rs 500 to 10,000. Here’s the kicker: Men in India spend more on Valentine’s Day than women, accounting for 65% of those buying gifts for friends and lovers. Comparatively, women make up only 35% of those buying gifts for their men.

Here are some more figures to confirm the point that Valentine’s Day is great for business. Couples spend over 60% of their money on personal grooming and attire for V-Day. Then there are trips to the restaurant for lunch or dinner. V-Day spenders splurge about 38% of their money on buying chocolates, 40% on flowers and about 7% on electronic gadgets.

Travel companies trying to cash in on the V-Day season offer two-night holiday packages with the most favoured destinations being Kerala, Goa, Nainital, Mussoorie and Shimla.

Anil Moolchandani, Chairman & Managing Director of Archies, India’s biggest greetings card manufacturer, hit the nail on the head when he said: “The expression of love without a greeting card is worthless”. But Moolchandani’s beginning in the V-Day card business was not smooth.

For nearly 16 years beginning in 1984, he struggled to sell these cards. But his luck started to turn in the year 2000 and since then he’s hasn’t looked back, selling three million cards on V-Day. Today, he has a turnover of Rs 12 billion and has expanded to Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

Last year in America alone, one billion cards were sold on this day. According to the US Greeting Card Guild, 85% of Valentine’s Day cards were bought by women.

The expression of love again is incomplete without a red rose.  This is an important ritual during Valentine’s Week. Consequently, the business of selling red roses is booming with ASSOCHAM reporting that pavement sellers, who earn jut about 500 rupees on regular days, rake in as much as Rs 10,000 on V-Day. But it’s the rose growers who have struck gold. . Bangalore based company; Karuturi Global Ltd is placed among top five Rose producing companies in the world.

It grows roses in Kenya and Ethiopia (other than India) and makes a profit of Rs 500 crore every year.  N Ramesh, President of the South India Floriculture Association, says February 14 is a peak time for their business. He says the ‘Taj Mahal’ variety of red roses has highest demand and it will increase by 50% this year.

Second only to Diwali, makers and sellers of chocolate have reported major sales during Valentine’s Week. The mushroom growth of confectionary shops and bakeries in every nook and corner of Delhi is a case in point. Since 2009, chocolate sales have grown by 30%, and this trend has also been visible in smaller towns and even villages.

There is no doubt in concluding that soaked with romantic love; the Valentine’s Day has opened up new avenues for business in countries worldwide. 

So Valentine’s Day is good for business, more so at a time when Indians are beginning to understand how important trade and business are to overall economic growth. The more products are bought and sold, the more products will be made, which means more will be employed. It’s a cycle far removed from the economic drivers of 30 or 40 years ago but underscores that the economy is growing, diversifying into different areas and bringing change. So live, love and grow!

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