This Raksha Bandhan, Guwahatians Opt For Indian Rakhis Instead of Chinese Ones
For Vridhi Surekha, a Rakhi seller from Guwahati who is passionate about her profession and sells her stuff online, Raksha Bandhan in the month of August is usually a special occasion for her and her business. While selling Rakhis is a just part of the occasion, the variety she usually has on offer is somewhat different this year than in previous years.
She said, “There’s a lady in Kolkata who makes Rakhis for us and we sell it out here. In the market, in malls and Fancy Bazar, there are shops that sell Rakhis which are made in China. These China ones are relatively cheaper; ours are made in India and are exclusive, so they are usually priced higher.”
In August, markets are usually filled with these colourful amulets suspended as display in shops on the streets of Guwahati. This time around, the COVID-19 situation has hindered the sale of the commodity.
To add to this massive fall in demand for Rakhis due to the pandemic, there is no demand for Chinese Rakhis due to the cross border standoff between India and China at the Galwan Valley in Ladakh. There was no demand for Chinese Rakhis two years ago also around this time prior to the festival, due to the face-off in Doklam.
To find out more about the preparations with the fast-approaching Raksha Bandhan festival that is right around the corner, G Plus got in touch with sellers of the commodity to find out how Guwahati was prepping for this symbolic and highly popular festival.
Rakhi sellers first evaluate demand which fluctuates each year. “We would, for instance, purchase one lot of 10,000 Rakhis and see whether customers like them. We examine the designs and see whether these designs are doing well in the market only after which we purchase in bigger lots.”
On the size of a lot purchased at once, Vridhi said, “We purchase 50 to 60 thousand Rakhis depending on the types available.” The demand is sometimes very high and this time, despite the COVID situation, sellers are seeing much demand as compared to previous years for Rakhis which are made in India after the India-China stand-off.
As malls and markets are closed and people are unable to put up stalls on the roadsides, a lot of customers have begun placing orders for Rakhis online. “Malls and shops in bazaars are closed and we give customers free delivery which is why many customers are now placing orders with us,” explained Vridhi.
On taking the Rakhi business online she said, “I have a 3-year-old online business. We also sell other seasonal items such as hampers for Diwali and other festive occasions. The response is not great as many people are still unaware of our business, as we do not have a website. We run our business through social media platforms like Instagram,” said the owner of the business.
Online Rakhi business is flourishing in Guwahati city as people are afraid to step out of their homes due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. “We send customers a catalog of Rakhis in PDF form and they select their Rakhis. We accept online payments from them. So people find it convenient to order from us,” said Vridhi Sureka.
“We are making our own Rakhis this year as we’re not able to purchase Rakhis from our usual seller in Kolkata,” said Premlata Maskara, owner of a boutique in Kumarpara who also sells Rakhis in her boutique around the time of the festive season.
“Although there is this COVID-19 pandemic, those who have got to celebrate Raksha Bandhan will celebrate the festival; however, the grandeur of celebrations may be reduced to some extent. There is still uncertainty regarding the demand of Rakhis this year,” said Maskara.
Transportation, she believes is a problem. “Someone willing to send a Rakhi to her brother in Guwahati will not be able to send it due to that problem. So they ask us to dispatch the product and send it to the house of the receiver and they directly give us the payment,” added Makara.
Contrary to this, another Rakhi seller from Fancy Bazar, whose family has been doing a similar business of seasonal festive commodities, said that although there will be no imports from China this year, wholesalers in cities like Delhi and Kolkata have already previously purchased huge lots of Rakhis.
“Rakhis are not something that is perishable; most of the sellers here in Guwahati already have a stored stock from previous years which they will now release into the market,” she added.
Apart from buying Rakhis online, most people have decided not to exchange Rakhis between households to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus disease among communities at a time when Guwahati is the hotspot of COVID-19 pandemic in the region.
Some sisters have also decided to make their own Rakhis at home and tie them to the wrists of their beloved brothers.
From sending e-Rakhis to ordering Rakhis online, customers have stopped at nothing to keep the spirit of the festival alive, despite the major COVID-19 setback.