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Demonetisation effect on weddings: Ludhiana’s big fat nuptials get leaner and meaner

Known for its no-holds-barred wedding celebrations, Ludhiana is losing its urge to splurge, largely because of note ban and GST initiatives enforced by the government.

india Updated: Dec 01, 2017 07:38 IST
Manraj Grewal Sharma
Manraj Grewal Sharma
Hindustan Times, Ludhiana
Demonetisation,GST,Goods and Services Tax
Opulence is disappearing from marriage venues in Ludhiana with people facing severe cash crunch, resulting in losses for hotel owners and wedding planners. (HT Photo)

• The owner of a Ludhiana export company had planned seven functions for his son’s wedding in December. He has now pared them down to four.

• Another entrepreneur has opted for a two-day destination wedding in Jaipur with 200 guests, as compared to the 1,000 his family invited to a previous event.

• A bride, who had her heart set on a Tarun Tahiliani lehanga, is convinced to settle for a copy by a local designer.

Ludhiana, once known for its no-holds-barred wedding extravaganzas, is losing its urge to splurge. And revellers are not the only ones affected by this phenomenon, blamed largely on two key initiatives enforced by the Modi government over the last one year.

Jassi Khangura, who owns the five-star Park Plaza hotel in the city, says shrinking weddings have already cost him over Rs 5 crore in revenue this year. Sunder Studios owner Tejinder Pal Singh has a similar tale of woe to relate. While he used to deploy drones and cranes at marriages until last year, customers want nothing more than two to three cameras and a simple shoot these days.

Dr KNS Kang, president of the Ludhiana Management Association (LMA), admits that the city is experiencing a sharp economic slowdown. “People were still recovering from demonetisation when they were hit again, by the Goods and Services Tax (GST). Small businessmen who used to drive a Mercedes without paying a paisa in tax are suddenly forced to pay up,” he says. He also adds that while the GST is not a bad initiative, it could have been implemented better.

Shoestring budget
  • From sending out e-invites to paring the number of guests to half and doing away with drones, the people of Ludhiana are looking at various ways to scrimp on weddings this year
  • Many marriage hall owners have begun accepting their payments in instalments
  • Jassi Khangura, former legislator and hotelier, claims that the losses suffered by the hospitality industry this year come up to Rs 100 crore
  • Amarjeet Singh, president of the Ludhiana Marriage Palace Owners’ Welfare Association, also laments how business has plummeted by 60% when compared to last year
  • Hit hard by the cash crunch that followed the demonetisation initiative, a well-known ladies club was forced to down shutters through November and December last year
  • Vinod Thapar, president of the knitwear and textiles club, describes it as the biggest decline in business over the last five decades. He says the business has dipped by almost 50%, and almost half the labour has been rendered unemployed
  • Narendra Chugh, owner of Million Exports, laments the cut in benefits for exporters. The GST refunds are not coming through either, he says

Vinod Thapar, president of the knitwear and textiles club, is far more scathing in his condemnation of demonetisation and the GST. “We have never suffered such a decline in the last five decades. Our business has dipped by almost 50%, and almost half our labour has been rendered unemployed. There is no liquidity in the market,” he says.

Narendra Chugh, owner of Million Exports, admits that the situation looks bleak. “There is a cut in benefits for exporters. Our GST refunds haven’t come through, and there is no cash in the market. At every wedding I attend, people tell me how they had to cut costs,” he says.

Charanjiv Singh, general secretary of the knitwear club, flashes his mobile to show a digital invite — a new entrant in the Ludhiana wedding scene. Gilded invitation cards accompanied by boxes of sweets and dry fruits were the norm in this city until a few months ago. “How can we celebrate when we have no cash? Hosiery is a seasonal business, and Modiji’s demonetisation hit us when it had only just begun. Then, even as we were recovering, he unleashed GST on us. It is ruining our season again,” he fumes.

Thapar claims that the new tax regime dampened their Diwali as well. “Instead of 125 boxes of sweets, I ordered only 50 and cut my budget per box from Rs 700 to Rs 500. Most of us don’t have the money to splurge on weddings,” he laments.

Nobody knows this better than Amarjeet Singh, owner of Shahenshah marriage palace on Ferozepur Road. “Our business has plummeted by 60%, as compared to last year,” he says. “We had barely gotten over demonetisation when the Supreme Court liquor ban came along. The GST added insult to injury.”

To top it all, pundits have spelled out very few “auspicious dates” this winter. “Only October 5 was deemed propitious in October, and there are just five good dates in November and a similar number in December. We’re doomed,” adds Singh, president of the Ludhiana Marriage Palace Owners’ Welfare Association.

With clients facing a severe liquidity crunch, many marriage palace owners have begun accepting their payments in instalments.

The effect on weddings speaks volumes about the city’s economy. “Weddings are the last thing that people scrimp on around here, no matter how hard their business is hit,” says Kang.

While hosiery business owners don’t want to commit to a figure, Khangura — a former legislator and hotelier — pegs the losses suffered by the hospitality industry this year at Rs 100 crore. “Multiply this number two-three times if you want to calculate the knockdown effect on casual workers and other allied industries,” he adds.

Bhanu, one of the oldest DJ-turned-wedding planners in the city, says many people now opt for destination weddings to rationalise their expenses. “They book a hotel outside the city for two days, and invite only immediate relatives and close friends. It works out cheaper as most business families would have to invite 1,000-odd people and hold several functions if they were to hold the event in Ludhiana,” he explains.

Bindiya Sood, a choreographer who holds song-and-dance sequences at weddings, laughs dryly at the mention of functions. “What functions? Nowadays, most people make do only with a cocktail event,” she quips.

There are few who haven’t noticed how celebratory occasions have been whittled down in the city. Shelly Goyal, former vice-president of Laxmi Ladies Club, a meeting place for wives of industrialists, says there has been a steep drop in wedding invites she has received this season. “Less is more these days. Now, with Income Tax sleuths watching, mothers have begun gifting their ornaments to daughters and people are taking designer clothes on rent,” says Goyal, recalling how she had attended many seven-day affairs in the past where ‘chaat-wallahs’ were flown in from Mewat and Bollywood artistes danced at the baraat.

Struck by the cash crunch that followed demonetisation, the Laxmi Ladies Club was forced to down shutters through last November and December. “Notebandi hit the parallel economy of women’s kitty groups,” rues Goyal.

Sunil Vinayak, a city-based haute couture designer who had showcased his collection at the London Fashion Week in February 2017, says there has been a fall in the quantity of orders but not quality. “This is Ludhiana. Where else can people flaunt their wealth, if not at their wedding?” he asks.

However, Kang is optimistic that the downturn won’t last. “Ludhianvis are very resilient. They will come out of it sooner than later,” he says.

First Published: Dec 01, 2017 07:37 IST