For the last 17 years TS Pattabhiraman, the Chairman and Managing Director of Kalyan Silks, with family had been celebrating New Year abroad. But 2019 was different. He decided to spend it in his hometown and he has reasons galore to be satisfied with this. The month-long Thrissur Night Shopping Festival or Happy Days that came to a close on Wednesday was reason enough for him to have an equally enthusiastic New Year celebration as what the festival offered him was fun and frolic that he had enjoyed abroad for the last 17 years. “Why can’t we celebrate New year in our own backyard,” reveals a jovial Pattabhiraman, who is also the General Secretary of the festival, the true spirit behind the Thrissur Night Shopping Festival.
The land known globally for the grand and colourful Pooram, did wear a festive look for the whole of the month and it was a 'Pooram of sorts' between December 15 and January 15. People flowing into the fully illuminated town from different parts, taking part in the festival till late in the night, enjoying the music and dance programmes organized as part of festival, eating out - Thrissur turned out to witness a mini Pooram, said a cross-section of people who witness this first-time extravaganza.
Like Pattabhiraman, there are several who were part of the festival which is slated to be an annual affair. For Joy C, who comes from the outskirts of Thrissur town, the festival was an occasion for him, his family and also for his friends to take part in the Christmas and New Year celebrations this year. "I've been to Goa during New year on a few occasions. I've worked in Dubai for over a decade. I've regularly taken part in the Dubai Shopping Festival. What I saw in Thrissur by no chance matched the scale of the Dubai fest. But this was the first attempt. It was a very local affair. The promise that it would be a calendar event is reason to be hopeful of the festival growing in scale," Joy told Pennews.
"We had a social platform. I went out with my family twice and my children had real fun. Our Christmas/New Year shopping was done as part of the festival. There were offers and discounts which made things quite affordable and I didn't feel a big pinch," was what Paul C from Ollur had to say.
Pattabhiraman said that this was an idea devised by a group of businessmen in town to take on the overwhelmed economic slowdown. “The logic behind this is that wherever a crowd hangs on, by default it leads to business,” he shared the logic of business.
Thrissur has been home to some of the leading jewellers and textiles. Besides, it is also the headquarters of three private banks - South Indian Bank, Dhanlaxmi Bank and CSB (formerly Catholic Syrian Bank) and also that of one of the country's leading NBFC Manappuram Finance. All these give Thrissur an edge over other districts when it comes to trade and business, says Pattabhiraman.
One big social advantage of the festival that gave Thrissur a pride of place was that women could freely move around during night during festival nights. "This is no mean achievement. Initially, we had apprehensions regarding ensuring safety of women. Some of the dark corners that once used to the den of anti-socials turned out to be woman-friendly destinations. This has indeed given courage and hope to take the festival to higher levels," said Pattabhiraman.
Mayor Ajitha Vijayan was enthused by the success of the event. "It is going to be an annual event. The government, the various trade bodies, including the Chamber of Commerce, lent big support to making this event a grand success," she told Pennews.
This was a local affair, bringing together local business and trade. None from outside the district participated in the event. The success of this small start has given us strength and next year we can have big names and brands from not just within the State but from the country too, she added.
The festival, like Thrissur Pooram, will turn out to be an event that will be much sought after. "That will be our aim," she says. The town spread over a vast area gives it the advantage of being ideal for a shopping festival. Besides the shops gearing up for the festival, a number of open spaces became venues for people to come, select and buy wares of their choice. The open spaces also became eateries, giving the eating out culture different tastes and dimensions.
The municipal corporation and other authorities came together to ensure proper and easy movement for people. It was an unusual site as after 8.30 pm, the Saktan Bus Stand which wears a deserted look with most of the buses having left for their last service to different corners of the district, as the place was bustling with activities till late into the night. Autorickshaws were seen plying criss-cross in the town. This gave people a chance to come in large numbers for the festival and go back only around the time shops downed shutters for the day.
Even small traders admitted that they did see success in business which was otherwise dull.
For Thrissur, the Pooram only a few months away, there is expected to be another festival by the end of the year, keeping the town bustling.
As trade and business has been reeling under a slowdown for over a year, the Thrissur Night Shopping Festival was a new message on how to surmount a crisis, though on a small scale.
Trade in Thrissur, like elsewhere in the country; admit that business has been going dull over the last few years. It all started with demonetisation, admit even the BJP supporters among the trade. "One fine morning, people suddenly found that the high denomination currencies were declared invalid. There suddenly started a dip in trade and it never ever recovered. To make matters worse came the hurriedly implemented Goods and Services Tax that compounded issues," admitted a trader in the heart of the town. And surprisingly, he is a supporter of the BJP-led NDA Government, and claims that intentions behind these moves were laudable.
As the slowdown peaked, trade and the chamber of commerce got together to find a way to face the situation. Thus was born the idea of a shopping festival. It may have not been a big success, they admit. But a strong move was initiated. Rough estimates are that there was roughly some 30 per cent increase in trade during the month. This is reason to be satisfied, the organisers say.
it is true that despite there being a liquidity crunch, trade volumes saw a slight pick up. Such initiatives can go a long way to counter the bad scene. They pointed to the state government some time ago making a Budget announcement of a Dubai-like shopping festival. That has not happened. Trade in Thrissur has shown a small way and even Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman can take a cue from Thrissur, say the festival organisers.