<p>iPod, wine accessories or a mini golf set? Corporate India is spending more and more time and money to plan the right Diwali gift
How many people would think of giving a fire extinguisher as a Diwali gift? Perhaps none. The idea of a fire extinguisher may even seem ominous during the festival of lights. But when Pune-based real estate major Vascon Engineers decided to gift the fire-fighting device to its residential clients, it did so after a good amount of thought about the message it wanted to send out. “It was a simple way of saying, ‘We don’t want anything untoward happening to your house, but in case it does, we want you to be prepared’,” says Roopa Mudliar, vice president, business development, sales and marketing, Vascon Engineers.
The company took pains to find out how many houses ordinarily have fire extinguishers for emergency situations. “The answer was, very few,” says Mudliar. The idea went well with the image the company wanted to maintain — of being a conscientious developer. Being a major real estate player in the area, Vascon Engineers also wanted to keep the client’s family in mind while planning the gift.
India Inc is clearly investing a good deal of time and money in planning Diwali gifts. A recent random survey by the Associated Chamber of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) shows that corporate India’s Diwali gift budget is expected to touch Rs 3,200 crore this year, up from Rs 2,025 crore in 2009. That’s an increase of nearly 60 per cent from last Diwali.
Planning it right
“For corporates, Diwali has become another opportunity to showcase themselves. So the choice of gift is a carefully calibrated exercise to project an image,” explains Dilip Cherian, co-founder and consulting partner of image management firm Perfect Relations. The occasion, he says, is increasingly seen as a branding opportunity. And it has come a long way since a box of sweets was considered good enough.
Abnash Kumar, food and beverage manager of Taj Mahal Hotel, Delhi, agrees. “We spend a lot of time just brainstorming to get the idea right,” he says. Taj, he adds, has a panel which evaluates gifts for the Diwali hamper. Planning alone takes six to eight weeks. The intent is to make a lasting impression on business associates, clients and prospective clients.
“Corporate Diwali gift planning goes through several levels of checks,” says the spokesperson of Magppie India, a design-led brand for premium home accessories. “People right up to the top management are involved,” he says. He gives the example of an IT company which has been in touch with Magppie since April this year to get its Diwali gift right. Gauging the trend, he says, Magppie has set up an internal product design team which holds presentations, takes the brief from companies and then tries to conceptualise the gift accordingly. At times, companies shortlist some gifts and put them on the internal website. “Department heads can choose from among these,” adds the official.
The concept of Diwali gifts is now an extension of companies’ marketing strategies, says Cherian. This is seconded by Mehul Choksi, chairman and managing director of the Gitanjali Group, one of India’s largest diamond jewellery manufacturing and retailing companies. “Besides carrying a message of the company’s prosperity, the gift has to convey to recipients that the company wants to engage with them,” he adds.
A senior official at Mumbai-based music label T-series candidly admits that there is a definite message behind the gift: “We appreciate what you have done for us and we wish to continue this association and grow together.”
Gifts and the budget
If gifts are part of business, these have to fall within the company’s scheme of things. “The gift has to correlate with our tagline, ‘turning dreams into reality’,” says the spokesperson of real estate developer Omaxe. Which is why Omaxe likes to zero in on “something related to our business genre like home furnishings or decoration that symbolises aesthetics and utility,” he says. The gift comes with a message: “Enlighten your home”.
Similarly, when T-Series decides to go for an Apple iPod or a high-end mobile phone, it is simply sticking to its genre. “The budget, however, varies from client to client,” says the official at T-Series.
The budget, which may start from Rs 200 per person, can go beyond Rs 20,000, depending on the importance of the client. “The bulk falls in the Rs 1,000 to Rs 3,000 segment,” says the official at Magppie. “The high-end segment is limited to, say, CEOs and bank heads,” he adds. For example, some multinationals might give a gift hamper of fine chocolate and a bottle of whisky or wine, says Cherian. “But for a few select clients, the whisky would be a premium single malt,” he adds.
Budget matters, even for business czars. So, for Choksi, this is not the year to gift gold coins. “Gold is simply too expensive now,” he rues. “The product must spell value for money,” says Choksi who starts planning three months before Diwali. “I need that kind of time if I want to import gifts like watches,” he says. With brands like Nakshatra and D’damas, the group is determined to keep up with the times. And the choice of a watch as a gift reflects that thought.
Also, instead of leaving the value of the gift to perception, more and more companies are opting for branded items, like those from Frazer and Haws, Magppie or the good, old Archies. Looking at the demand, Archies is bringing out a mini catalogue of corporate gifts for the fourth year this time. “It includes the wooden wine bottle case, which is especially popular this year, and comes with tools like wine opener, wine pourer, stopper and thermometer,” says Youhan Darrab Aria, head of corporate communications, Archies. Also in demand this time round are mini golf putting and poker chip sets. Each of these branded gifts can cost more than Rs 10,000.
In the middle of all this, where are the traditional puja-related gift items? Very much in the picture, says Archana Singh, president, Frazer and Haws. Companies, she says, have found novel, made-to-order ways of staying top of the mind through silver. “The Gita in a silver box with the company’s name or logo engraved as part of the design is one such gift,” says Singh. The logo could be subtle or in-your-face, she adds. But the aim is singular: to establish presence and send out a message that the company values its relationship with you.
As the official at Magppie sums up, “For corporate India, Diwali gifts are now a forethought rather than an afterthought.”