India’s Diwali Festival To Boost Economy, But Stokes COVID Fears

Consumers are flocking to shopping areas in India’s major cities and towns in advance of Diwali, India’s festival of lights, this Saturday (Nov. 14), boosting optimism among business owners while also stoking concerns over the potential for a rise in coronavirus cases, reported AP News.

India’s 70 million business owners expect to bring in $8 million in sales over the festival season, which also includes the Dussehra and Durga Puja celebrations. The season is a popular time to make large purchases, such as on homes, cars, gold and electronics, according to the AP.

The festival season is also boosting the spirits of business owners, as it encourages consumers to shop local. That and a recent tendency to boycott Chinese-made goods could give a well-needed boost to India’s businesses and their 400 million employees.

Larger businesses like Flipkart and Amazon are also prepared for a surge in sales. Flipkart hired 70,000 additional workers to meet the demands of the Diwali season, and Amazon has injected $95.51 million into its India unit.

But businesses also remain cautious this year, wary that consumers could be primed to save money amid the pandemic, reported the AP.

“If we compare our business to last year’s, then it’s only 40 percent right now. Sixty percent of customers are not there. Because everyone is afraid of COVID-19,” Jitender Sachdeva, a shop owner in New Delhi’s upscale Sarojini market, told the news wire.

Some consumers have held back on going out and spending ever since COVID-19 first hit, and many are eager to embrace the festival celebrations.

“The past three days have seen a tremendous increase in customer footfall in shopping markets for festival purchases,” noted Praveen Khandelwal, general secretary of the Confederation of All India Traders.

Health experts have warned that a crowded celebration could cause an upsurge in virus cases and consumers are urged to follow coronavirus protocols. Delhi is already seeing a rise in cases, reporting 8,593 cases on Wednesday (Nov. 11), a record high — the first time the city’s cases have crossed 8,000, according to NDTV.