Carnivals redefining culture in Trivandrum

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  • 27 Apr 2019

Traditional market places and bazaars have made immense contributions to our cultural diversity. Be it the independent spots in the city or at the midst of festivals, markets have always been the centre for economic, cultural and social exchanges. They’ve always been an alternate space for people from their routines-that helped in socializing and building relationships apart from catering to their needs.

Probably, a kind of market that stays close to the concept of old-time bazaars would be the one named ‘Flea markets’. Though flea markets are known as places where old, used stuff (containing fleas) are sold generally, the concept has evolved over the years. Flea markets are usually considered as alternate shopping places that sell used or new items at lower and bargainable prices respectively, which also accommodates consumers who belong to a lower economic spectrum. They offer different products with varied offers under a single roof, thereby catering to all tastes. These platforms celebrate products from the local market, that tends to attract both tourists and the local people around.

Though flea markets have been common globally and in other parts of India, it wasn’t that popular in Kerala until last year; when a group of youngsters in Trivandrum joined hands for bringing out a never before shopping experience the city has ever witnessed. The ‘Olam flea market’- now rebranded as the ‘Olam Festival’ was conceptualised by Tony Cyriac, an engineer based out of Trivandrum along with 12 core members, who felt the need for a platform that showcased and celebrated passionate & creative local talents and entrepreneurs, who would otherwise remain unknown to the public.

Olam is a weekend-long open-air street market, where artists and entrepreneurs are brought together under a single roof to celebrate Trivandrum, through a designed platform enriched by art, food, music & shopping. Olam reminds us of the old time bazaars and carnivals that were an inevitable part of our culture. An apt example of that would be the pinwheel- the festival’s icon and apparently the most popular imagery associated with the festival among the people, which all of us can relate with the carnivals that we’ve been part of. Usually, the exhibitions and fairs that happen in our city do not necessarily offer a diverse shopping experience as it would feature only a limited range of items. And that’s where Olam turns unique and innovative by bringing business and shopping out of closed spaces like the exhibition halls, shopping malls and thus providing a whole new perspective to the people.

The maiden edition of Olam took off on May 2018 at the Trivandrum Golf Club, with a walk in of almost 9000 people. Considering the fact that many of the people in and around Kazhakootam could not attend the event, a two-day special edition of the event was hosted at the Technopark Clubhouse on August 13 & 14, which was received warmly by the people in Trivandrum.

The festival has travelled a long way to being one of the most awaited social events of Trivandrum. Since it’s inception, the graph of Olam is soaring higher, with the Olam flea market being rebranded as Olam festival this year. The 2019 edition of Olam happened on February 2 & 3, which had a footfall of more than 12,000 people. Anina Elizabeth Jacob, who works as the creative director of Olam festival, says that it was no easy task to introduce an entirely new event to a space like Trivandrum, as we weren’t sure of its success. But as each edition received positive responses from the public, we are constantly putting efforts to make it more unique each time. Our idea was to create an experience where the visitors get to experience Trivandrum- like never before.

“This year, we had much more to offer. Besides our stunning range of nearly 80 vendors who came from all across the country to display the venture to the masses of the city, we also introduced workshop sessions, a dedicated play area to cater to the little ones at Olam, a game zone to engage the young at heart, a dedicated area for pets organised by ‘Hands for Paws’ and ‘People for Animals’, an open mic organised by ‘TedXMBCET’ to encourage the upcoming speakers, poets, rappers , a dedicated busking area which was a platform for musicians to come jam together , a fashion walk and obviously a musical band performance by Job Kurian- which was one of the major attractions of the fete. We also had three workshops along- a Calligraphy workshop facilitated by an ace calligrapher – Prajwal Xavier all the way from Kochi, Special cakesicle(baking) workshop by Sarah Zia (Fluff In a Cup) all the way from Ahmedabad and a Ukelele workshop by Dr.Haroon Markiar” says Anina who’s also an illustrator with the Toonz Media Network.

Olam has been successful in bringing together an eclectic mix of wannabe entrepreneurs – that include designers, home chefs, artists, musicians, craftspersons and many more. The stalls in the festival are a mix of small, medium-sized and large enterprises- who would either be looking for an apt platform to soft-launch their products or to expand further. All the ventures that are part of the festival are unique in one way or the other because the festival has a dedicated vendor curation team- who would assess the product in terms of both category and product quality out of the hundreds of vendor applications that they receive.

Minu Mathew, ART-ery

The festival has also opened up immense opportunities for the entrepreneurs, who run their ventures through online social media platforms like Facebook, Whatsapp & Instagram- to physically connect with the customers and sell their products while building their clientele and brand. This year’s Olam also featured a lot of exciting ventures like LiloRosh(Bags & Stationery manufacturers), ART-ery(Jewellery store), Liso Chocolatier (Chocolate Manufacturer from Ernakulam), Aroya (a boutique run by Malayalam TV host Arya), Comic Mantra(comic booksellers), Body Tree Naturals (Cosmetics & Body Care) etc, most of which are online ventures. Minu Mathew, who runs the online jewellery store ART-ery feels that festivals like Olam are a platform that brings together like-minded people, where people like them get to interact and know from people regarding their interests. “ Being an online platform, it is very rare that the client and maker meet each other. But the mutual appreciation is the takeaway of such a platform. And such festivals give hope to future generations to establish in a career like mine” says Minu, who’s ART-ery won the ‘Trivandrum’s favourite vendor’ award at the festival.


Many of the prominent cafe and restaurant chains in the city like 1976 Cafe Bistro, Buttercup Bakehouse, Bikash Babu sweets, Kaffehaus, Ovenly bakers, High Range Takeaway, The Pagoto Wagon, Aanandam Takeaway, One Cup Beverages were also part of the festival in serving different varieties of food items. Hema Edwin who runs Ovenly– one of the prominent bakehouses in the city, better known for its delicious ‘Red Velvet cakes’ say that they look forward to these platforms a lot because it helps them doing business effortlessly as all hassles related to space, decorations and marketing are taken care of. “The unbelievably happy and cheerful crowd was what made us enthusiastic to do the sale. The key is getting the right crowd and the right vibe in which Olam was 100% successful,” says Hema, who’s also an architect by profession.

It is interesting to see how the team behind Olam leave no stones unturned when it comes to using new marketing strategies and promotional techniques for the success of the festival. They were able to bring in more than 12,000 people at the venue by just using the potential of social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook, which is indeed an eye-opener. Olam can be looked upon in many ways as an apt predecessor for flea markets in the city as they’ve set new benchmarks on how a festival should truly be. Being inspired by Olam in terms of its success and crowd participation, events on similar lines have already been scheduled to make this year’s summer a special one.

Summer of ’19

The weekends of April saw a lot of similar festivals taking place in the city. Locally Made, a festival by the Facebook community Whats Around Thiruvananthapuram was the first one in the calendar this month, at Sreemoolam Club on April 12 & 13. Similarly, a summer festival named Summer of ’19– organised by the Facebook community Eat at Trivandrum in association with Sravia Ceremonies happened on April 26,27 & 28 at Thycaud Police Ground- upholding the motto ‘Food, Fun, Flea’. A beach festival featuring the local vendors was also organised at Kovalam on April 28 & 29, by Helping Hands Organization in association with the organisers in Olam as part of the Barrier Free International Kite Festival.

A common query that the organisers face from the vendors while designing these kinds of festivals is whether Trivandrum has a crowd for such events. And probably, their answer to that query would be that the city has a vibrant crowd, provided they get the right events. Keeping the heritage intact, these festivals aim to create a cultural revolution here. As the city possesses a lot of talents, they need to be portrayed to the world and platforms like Olam seeks to inspire passion-driven individuals to strive towards doing something of their own.

Trivandrum hosting more of such events is a clear indication of the cultural change the city is witnessing. We are thrilled as Taurus Zentrum will have all the required infrastructure to host flea markets and such cultural festivals.