The festive spirit fills the air as Diwali is approaching and the streets are filled with people shopping for essentials like diyas, colourful pots, paper lanterns and rangoli powders. But most importantly, it is shops selling crackers and fireworks that are prominently seen all over the city.
Keshav Dattatreya Karhadkar has been selling crackers in Pune for more than half a century. His shop in Kasba Peth, Quality Enterprises, sells crackers all year round. However, in all these years, he has seen a dip in his cracker sales, “Earlier, we were selling at Sarasbaug. Later, the corporation asked us to shift to Mhatre Bridge and this year onwards, we’re selling at Mulik Garden in Kalyani Nagar. It is because of these shifts that our business is getting affected. People from the city side won’t come all the way here to shop for crackers.”
Karhadkar also adds that the decrease in sales doesn’t prompt him to shift his business entirely, “I’ve been doing this for the past 50 years. I have established contact with all the agents in Sivakasi. The investment is a lot. I know everything about this business, so why should I change?”
As the awareness for environmental safety increases, more people are opting to reduce or stop the use of fireworks and crackers during Diwali. But, does this affect the several businesses that are dependent upon cracker sales?
“What we do is that we delist all those heavy fireworks and crackers that people aren’t buying and we stock up more on the smaller items like sparklers that do not give out much smoke. Crackers that have colour in them also give out a lot of smoke so we keep them in smaller proportions. We have to change with the trend,” explains Anand Aggarwal, the owner of Shri Hanuman Sales in Shukrawar Peth. He also mentions that there is not much change in the profit margin as it varies from year to year. Aggarwal also spoke about how no cracker retailers or wholesalers are keeping Chinese products this year, “Due to China’s support for Pakistan after the surgical strikes, no shop is selling products made in China and buyers are being discouraged too.”
Varieties of crackers are laid out on shelves bearing faces of not just popular Bollywood celebrities but also of famous characters like Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes and the Terminator. “Ever since the series got over, most cracker companies have stopped putting Harry Potter on the cover. Putting such famous people makes quite a difference on the sales. Children are easily able to identify their favourite characters on cracker boxes,” says Chandradip Kadam, who runs Surya Phataka Stall in Mulik Garden.
Seen picking up fireworks and flowerpots with her children, Tara Gupta feels that using crackers is the only way to make her children fully experience the joy of Diwali, “My kids are going to grow up speaking in English. This is something that helps us hold on to tradition and expose them to it. These days, most families are nuclear so it is important for us to celebrate. We do not want to let go off the culture.”
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