Dull Diwali: Smaller budgets, Modi's Make in India call take toll on fireworks' sales

Diwali this year is not the noisy festival it was last year. Sales of fireworks have dropped by a third this year and demand is lukewarm, say most shop keepers.

Last year, the budgets of households for crackers ranged between Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,000, says Sakarwala of HB Sakarwala and Co, who has been in the business in Null Bazar in South Mumbai for the last seven years.

"The household budgets have dropped to Rs 500-1000," he says, complaining that the zest for Diwali is missing.

“With just a day or two left for Diwali, we should have had bumper sales. Nothing of that sort is happening and people are coming to buy the usual zamin chakkars and anars,” Sakarwala said.

 Dull Diwali: Smaller budgets, Modis Make in India call take toll on fireworks sales

No buyers for fireworks? AFP image

Around 20 percent to 30 percent people are buying firecrackers that give off more colours, says Shabbir Bandukwala of K Fidally & Co, Mohammad Ali Road, Mumbai.

"There are a few items this Diwali too to suit the environment-conscious and also children so as to get them to be excited about firecrackers and get out of their homes to enjoy the festival. But sales are dipping compared to last year," says Bandukwala.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 'Make In India' campaign, in addition to the fear of cancellation of licences if shopkeepers stock Chinese fireworks, has dealt a body blow to the business.

“We could sell the Chinese crackers which were cheaper than the ones from from Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu,” says a owner of a wholesale firecracker unit in Mohammad Ali Road, Mumbai on condition of anonymity, adding that he had a lot of complaints of ‘fuskis’ or crackers that go off with a whimper in the past.

“What do you expect if you pay less and buy Chinese firecrackers,” he asked indignantly.

Over the years, consumers have become environment-conscious and have given the go-bye to noisy fireworks. Instead, fireworks sans sound but high on colour have made a silent entry into the industry. Anaars or colourful fountains that spew one colour—either red, blue, green, or gold—or multi-coloured fountains are being lit more. This is followed by zamin chakkars that spin dizzily on the ground emitting colours, some of which make a crackling sound that canny fireworks stores term as ‘musical’. These two types of fireworks are sold for around Rs 150 and Rs 200, respectively, for a box of five.

Another novelty to be seen this year is zameen chakkars in the shape of butterflies that rotate on the ground emitting colours. These are available at Rs 200 for a box of five.

And given you can buy almost everything from the comfort of your home, why wouldn't fireworks also be available online too? Lawangi.com, a Mumbai-based company that has been selling crackers online for the last two years is perhaps the only fireworks seller who is happy with business as purchases in terms of value have gone up from Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,000 and more this year.

“It is not a significant rise in business, but still higher than last year,” says Chetan Rane, Founder and co-partner, Lawangi.com.

What Rane has noticed is that people’s taste in fireworks has become eclectic with more buyers for crackers that light up the sky in myriad colours, and also those that go up in a flood of light but announce their demise with a loud noise.

The highest number of buyers online is for zameen chakkars, sparklers and anaars. It is not that the noisy ones are being avoided. The volcanic bomb aka rassi bomb has had a 30 percent fall in demand due to its ear-popping sound but is still sold out online. Rane says that he has couriers who can ensure that the fireworks bought online reach your home safely.

The most expensive crackers this season continue to be what it has been for some seasons now. The 10,000 laar or garland crackers -- usually seen when the politicians win an election, India wins a cricket match or for weddings -- remains the most expensive.

Most stockists of fireworks claimed to have sold just one or two of this type of firework so far and only some with deep pockets have opted for it. However, with the negotiations for the formation of the Maharashtra government still on, sellers of fireworks in Mumbai can hope for some sales once the announcement of a new government is made.

Updated Date: Oct 22, 2014 10:57:43 IST