By Rebecca Burn-Callander Thursday, 27 October 2011

Diwali, the festival of lights, boosts business for UK entrepreneurs

Meet the entrepreneurs catering for Diwali celebrations, filling the sky with lights or helping to send Diwali greetings across the globe.

Everyone knows that Christmas is the busiest time of year for most retailers but other seasonal events and festivals can provide additional short-term revenue streams. Yesterday was Diwali, the festival of lights, celebrated in the Hindu, Sikh and Jain Dharma religions. But is there money in it?

Undoubtedly. Websites like India-based Diwali Gifts and Mumbai’s Indian Darbar Gifts centre their whole business models around the festival, helping families and friends to exchange gifts whether they live in the UK, India, Sri Lanka or beyond. Diwali Gifts saw a 40% increase in page impressions (Alexa.com) in the run up to the festival as shoppers browsed for that perfect present.

Back in the UK, a whole spectrum of companies across multiple sectors benefit from the festival. In cities like Leicester, home to one of the biggest Diwali celebrations outside of India, local businesses sell food, gifts and souvenirs to 35,000 people attending the switching on of the lights on Belgrave Road.

Mr Michaels is the founder of Leicester Fireworks. Demand for Diwali fireworks this year led to a real sales spike at his firm: ‘Sales have nearly tripled,’ he says. ‘And the business picks up gradually, starting in September, so it’s not just a couple of days of strong trading but a whole month or more. Diwali, along with New Year, Chinese New Year and of course Bonfire Night is among our best times of year.’  

But it’s not just about the fireworks. Pat Nabhan, CEO of Dialog Vizz, provides pay-as-you-go mobile SIM cards to the UK’s Sri Lankan and Asian communities. ‘Diwali is an important tradition for this group of people,’ says Nabhan. ‘A crucial part of the festival is visting friends and family. For those not able to travel they inevitably turn to their mobile phone.’

‘Dialog Vizz Mobile traffic to India increased 25%,’ he continues, ‘but calls to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Middle Eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait also improved by 25%.’

And Nabhan’s customers weren’t just making phone calls. Dialog Vizz did a storming trade in virtual gifts too: ‘A tradition during Diwali is giving gifts. It seems that subscribers have been using this service to quickly, and conveniently, send mobile credit as gifts to their loved ones. Usage of our prepaid airtime transfer service increased 50 per cent over the Diwali period.’

And there are some unexpected winners over Diwali too. Mitesh Soma’s online chemist outfit Chemist Direct sees sales of certain stock rocket during Diwali, and across Halloween and November 5th. What are people buying? Anti-anxiety drugs for pets, scared by the loud bangs!

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