Businesses harness the rainbow, flourish during Pride Month

- June 18, 2024
| By : Tanisha Saxena |

Pride Month initiatives provide businesses with platform to increase visibility and reach new audiences; however, lack of employment opportunities to LGBTQ+ remain a concern

Uniting communities through fab drag shows and LGBTQ+ events

June isn’t just another month on the calendar — it is the Pride Month, a time for celebration, empowerment, and advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community worldwide. 

But beyond the rainbow flags and vibrant parades, Pride Month has become a significant opportunity for businesses to not only show their support but also thrive in the spirit of inclusivity and diversity.

From greeting cards adorned with rainbow colours to merchandise like stickers and flags proudly displaying LGBTQ+ symbols, businesses across various industries have tapped into the momentum of Pride Month to connect with their audiences. 

But why do these initiatives matter, and how do businesses ensure they resonate with their customers?

Local business is flourishing

Rahul Rai, manager at Shahpur Jat-based ‘The Flag Company’, shares insights into their current business trends. 

“We have received approximately 120 orders for rainbow flags so far,” he mentions.

Scene from the vibrant Pride Month bash at Sidecar!
Scene from the vibrant Pride Month bash at Sidecar!

“While the demand is seasonal, there is significant potential for our business to thrive.”

He further elaborates on the customer base, noting that corporate entities are the primary buyers. 

“Most of our orders come from large corporations such as Wipro, Infosys, and other major corporate houses. These companies often host events during June, which is why we see a spike in demand for rainbow flags around this time.”

June, known globally as Pride Month, sees numerous events celebrating LGBTQ+ communities, which drives the need for rainbow flags as symbols of inclusivity and support. 

Rai emphasised that this recurring demand from corporate clients not only boosts their sales during the season but also highlights the growing recognition and celebration of diversity and inclusion within the corporate sector.

“Given the increasing awareness and support for LGBTQ+ rights, we anticipate that this segment of our business will continue to grow. We’re excited about the potential to expand our offerings and cater to a wider audience in the coming years.”

Rainbow Flags flying high are among corporate favourites
Rainbow Flags flying high are among
corporate favourites

RK Traders proudly manufactures and sells vibrant rainbow flags in Okhla. 

Owner Ravinder shares, “At RK Traders, we offer high-quality Portable Plastic Rainbow Pride Stick Flags, priced affordably at approximately Rs 400 for a minimum order of 5 pieces. Our flags come in various sizes, ranging from 2X3 to 7X90. As a passionate designer myself, I ensure each flag embodies creativity and precision.” 

He says his clientele includes corporate offices and college students.

“Notably, our demand remains consistent throughout the year.”

In today’s digital age, the purchase of LGBT merchandise, such as badges and posters, has become increasingly prevalent through online platforms like Amazon. 

“Identifying as gay, I work as a graphic designer at a Gurgaon-based firm,” tells Rizwan Khan, a 30-year-old. 

“During my weekends, I indulge in my passion for design by creating badges and rainbow stickers, which I sell on Etsy, an online marketplace dedicated to buying and selling various items. This endeavour not only allows me to express myself creatively but also provides a source of additional income.”

Advocating for awareness and inclusion at every celebratory turn
Advocating for awareness and inclusion at
every celebratory turn

These online marketplaces not only provide a convenient avenue for consumers to access a wide array of merchandise but also empower smaller businesses and independent creators to reach a global audience. As a result, the visibility and availability of LGBT merchandise has expanded significantly, contributing to the normalisation and celebration of diverse identities.

Embracing Authenticity

Businesses that genuinely embrace and support the LGBTQ+ community throughout the year, rather than just during June, build trust and loyalty with their customers. Authenticity is about fostering an inclusive culture within the organisation and actively supporting LGBTQ+ causes.

Depot 48 in Greater Kailash is renowned for creating a safe space for the queer community. The venue is celebrated for its live music performances, featuring genres from jazz and blues to rock and indie. Their LGBTQ+ events, such as Pink Thursdays, are particularly popular.

Vikas Narula, co-owner of Depot 48, says, “We’ve been hosting Pink Thursdays since before India decriminalised homosexuality. Word of mouth helped it gradually become popular. Every Pride, we organise something special.” 

This year, on June 6th, they held an LGBTQ+ business fair and networking event in collaboration with the US Embassy. They also hosted pop-ups featuring about 12 independent queer businesses, such as artists making homeware items, candles, and more.

Patruni Chidananda Sastri, a drag artist
Patruni Chidananda Sastri, a drag artist

“These businesses set up stalls, and the event included a regular DJ set. Next week, we have a karaoke event, and on June 27th, we’re hosting a drag show. In fact, we hold a drag show every month. We’re also planning a Sunday tea dance party, a concept that’s popular in the West.”

Vikas adds, “It’s crucial that our staff are sensitised and well-informed, which I ensure. For example, if two men are hugging and dancing, there’s no need for poker faces or judgements. It should be viewed the same way we see heterosexual people showing affection.”

Sidecar, another renowned cocktail bar located in Delhi, has gained reputation for being LGBTQ-friendly. Known for its innovative drinks and vibrant atmosphere, Sidecar welcomes a diverse crowd and supports inclusivity. 

“For the past eleven years at Speakeasy and five years at Sidecar, we’ve proudly celebrated Pride Month, showing our solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community. Every June, we curate a special cocktail menu featuring four to five unique drinks to mark the occasion,” says Minakshi Singh, co-founder of Sidecar and Speakeasy (another bar in Gurgaon). 

She further explains, “A highlight of our celebrations is the Coming Out Crusades, where we host a panel discussion with individuals sharing their personal coming out stories. This tradition has been a cherished part of our events for the last five years. This year, the panel discussion will take place on June 23 at Sidecar, followed by a lively party featuring amazing bands.”

Minakshi says that the events and celebrations are their way of spreading awareness and fostering an inclusive space.

“We believe that our bars should be welcoming to everyone. To emphasise our commitment, we display rainbow flags not only during Pride Month but throughout the year,” she concludes. 

Visibility Through Visibility

Pride Month initiatives provide businesses with a platform to increase visibility and reach new audiences. Whether it’s through social media campaigns, special events, or partnerships with LGBTQ+ organisations, businesses can amplify their message of inclusivity and attract customers who align with their values. 

The Lalit New Delhi hosts a variety of events, including parties, art exhibitions, and collaborations with LGBTQ+ artists and activists. Its nightclub, Kitty Su, is a well-known supporter of LGBTQ+ rights, regularly featuring drag shows and themed events that provide safe space for the community.

Patruni Chidananda Sastry, a drag artist who has often performed at Kitty Su, shares, “Organising drag shows in restaurants and hotels is crucial for several reasons. Firstly, it fosters inclusivity and diversity, creating a welcoming environment for patrons of all backgrounds. Secondly, it provides a platform for LGBTQ+ performers to showcase their talent and artistry, promoting visibility and representation within the entertainment industry.” 

Patruni says that the shows serve as an informative means of education, challenging societal norms and encouraging acceptance.

The Power of Representation

Representation matters. Businesses like hotels, bars, and restaurants organising LGBTQ events play a crucial role in creating a sense of belonging and acceptance. These events offer safe spaces where LGBTQ individuals can freely express themselves, connect with others who share similar experiences, and celebrate their identities without fear of discrimination or judgement. 

Ankit Anand Roy, an alumnus of the University of Delhi, shares, “I have attended several events and drag shows at Kitty Su. I strongly feel that drag shows and LGBTQ events foster a judgement-free atmosphere where individuals are encouraged to express their true selves. These spaces celebrate diversity, creativity, and inclusivity, allowing everyone to feel accepted and embraced for who they are.” 

Ankit says that he and his friends have never experienced discrimination or ill-treatment because of their sexual orientation

“However, I have observed at other places where bouncers and staff give side-eye looks to community people.”

Pranav Das, a Queer activist based in Vasant Kunj, highlights, “Last year, Archies introduced Pride greetings to celebrate inclusivity. However, this year, there’s been no follow-up, highlighting how commercial interests often dictate actions. The absence underscores how profit margins can overshadow genuine commitments. This shift serves as a stark reminder of the commercialisation of social causes.”

Walking the tight rope

Pink capitalism, also known as rainbow capitalism, refers to the incorporation of LGBTQ+ rights and themes into corporate marketing and products, often to appeal to LGBTQ+ consumers. While this can raise visibility and normalise LGBTQ+ identities, it sometimes results in superficial support that prioritises profit over genuine advocacy. For instance, companies like Nike and Coca-Cola launch Pride-themed merchandise and ads during Pride Month but may not support LGBTQ+ rights year-round or have inclusive policies internally. 

Vee, a non-binary, says, “The rise in businesses promoting Pride Month shows both good and tricky sides. On the positive side, it means enhanced possibility of acceptance of the LGBT+ people, making them more visible in society. Special offers and promotions during Pride Month can help spread awareness and support especially when done by big reputed brands. However, there’s a downside too, called “rainbow capitalism”, where companies might just use Pride Month to make money without really caring about LGBT+ rights.” 

Vee, however, says that people are getting better at spotting this and want businesses to show real, ongoing support, not just during June month.

“In the end, while businesses can help celebrate and promote Pride Month, they should also be genuinely committed to supporting the LGBT+ community all year round.”

Sipping on Pride! Special rainbow drinks light up the Capital's restaurants
Sipping on Pride! Special rainbow drinks light up the Capital’s restaurants

Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil, India’s first royal to come out, emphasises that sensitisation must be prioritised to foster true inclusivity. 

He notes, “Corporate houses are increasingly taking inclusive steps, which is a positive development. While initiatives like special menus during Pride Month, DJs, and celebratory events are commendable and contribute to visibility, the most crucial aspect is generating employment opportunities for the LGBTQ+ community. Sensitisation plays a vital role in this process. Disseminating information and raising awareness are essential to achieving genuine inclusivity and providing the community with the opportunities they deserve.”