The Ram Brandwagon

Large and small businesses make a beeline for Ayodhya to make the best of ‘Brand Ram’

The Ram Brandwagon

So, what's the flavour of the season? Lord Ram of course! All eyes are on the consecration ceremony of the Ram Mandir on January 22 — a historic day that will be the culmination of long-pledged promises, years of acrimonious litigation, and (hopefully) the end of a bitter battle between religion and history.

The momentous occasion brings forth mixed feelings — should it have been used for non-religious entities like a hospital or an educational institute for the purpose of greater public good? However uncomfortable it may make some feel, perhaps it's also time to admit that facts have won in the court of law, and justice has been done?

But the road to this end can't be easily forgotten, especially December 6, 1992, when all hell broke loose, and the months of fear, darkness, and communal clashes and killings that followed. The means surely didn't justify the end. The brazen demolition, the lumpen behaviour, the dancing with saffron flags on another’s holy site…nope, the path of this victory was not warranted either. But here we are.

The fight for the rightful birthplace of Lord Ram was not just litigation fought on the tenets of law and historic evidence, it divided two religious communities — the scars of which haven't completely healed. Here’s hoping that the next few days don't make old wounds resurface. And while there have been concerns about excessive celebrations, possible instances of mockery, and insult meted out to Muslims, the atmosphere has stayed largely peaceful.

This is a golden opportunity to also rise above the skirmishes and rancour of the past, with the chance to show what Hinduism has always truly meant — a religion of tolerance, love, and acceptance. And I know that there are lakhs of Hindus who are overjoyed simply at the prospect of a pilgrimage to the hallowed grounds. They hold no hatred or malice towards Muslims.

All eyes have been on this most-anticipated global event. Some top Shankaracharyas may have declined to be part of the “Pran Pratistha” citing non-compliance with the rules of Sanatan Dharma, and in this fascinating debate of rituals, timings, and action, one ‘ism’ has overtaken all others — consumerism!

Have you seen how quickly everyone has jumped onto the “Ayodhya” bandwagon? News channels have OB (outside broadcasting) vans with Lord Ram branding, airlines have gone full pelt on promoting Ayodhya routes with cabin crew decked in Ramayana gear, every brand is using the opportunity to peddle its myriad products and services. There is nothing “religious” about it, dear readers. It's all just good business!

FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) behemoths such as Reliance, Dabur India, ITC, Parle, Coca Cola, Adani Wilmar, and a host of others are jostling to vie for the promised streams of bustling pilgrims; around 45 lakhs just in the next few weeks alone. The crowds are expected to swell going forward — from 3.25 lakh tourists in 2021 to a staggering 4 crore in 2023.

News reports suggest that top hospitality chains are setting up shop to cater to the devotees with over 70 major hotel brands under construction. Startups such as Uber and Staqu Technologies are also partaking in the pie. After the new year’s lull, the timing is perfect to incite aggressive online and on-ground brand marketing activities.

Ayodhya is set to become the new hub of economic activity. As per news reports, agreements worth Rs 18,000 crore were signed during the Global Investment Summit aimed towards tourism in Ayodhya. There are also 178 projects valued at USD 3.6 bn already underway. A total of Rs 85,000 crore will purportedly be pumped into Ayodhya.

Is it the commodification of religion, strong capitalism, or religious fervour? It's a fine line. But have no doubt, Lord Ram will be the biggest influencer in coming days; he will now bring votes, tourists, business…everything.

The writer is an author and media entrepreneur. Views expressed are personal

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