India Inc hands out an austerity parcel to employees this festive season

Compared to previous years, corporate gifting has varied sector-wise.
In a normal year, a glut of gifts at corporate offices signal the festive build-up to Diwali. From carefully curated hampers to single malt scotch, gold coins, fine chocolate, luxury watches, even mini golf putting and poker chip sets that cost upwards of ~15,000 – corporate gifting is an exercise for which brainstorming and budgeting begins months before Diwali. But with India Inc continuing to work from home, this year’s gifting has taken an austere turn.

Into the last week before Diwali, clients haven't sent any customary gift, an executive at a media investment firm in Gurugram said. He said an airline that buys from a non-governmental organisation (NGO) has cited inability to afford gifting. Instead, in an email, it urged the company to promote the NGO, the executive said, requesting anonymity.

Compared to previous years, corporate gifting has varied sector-wise.  Delhi-based image guru Dilip Cherian said corporate gifting by information technology firms grew and witnessed higher-value purchases. Meanwhile, fast-moving consumer goods companies, which largely send hampers to their own staff, have trimmed their gifting budgets by half.

With contact-less exchanges becoming the new normal, companies are preferring e-gifting options.

Nestlé India, for example, is looking at providing e-gift vouchers to its employees, a spokesperson said.

PepsiCo has gone beyond gifting hampers to its employees and recently organised a “festive family day” that leveraged technology to create a virtual carnival set-up. Besides live music performances, a stand-up comedy gig, and a virtual Diwali mela, which offered shopping options, the company sent family meals to its employees.

“Our aim has been to look for innovative ways of sending best wishes to our stakeholders. So, we are also engaging with hand-picked celebrities and influencers,” said a PepsiCo spokesperson. “As part of Kurkure’s (corn puff brand) recent collaboration with designer Masaba Gupta, we shared limited-edition festive hampers with fans as a special ‘money-can't-buy’ experience.”

And then there is an increase in gluten- and sugar-free items in all the hampers. “This year, there is a push towards immunity building and reducing unhealthily eating trends,” Cherian said.

For gifting companies, the financial year started on a sour note, but with the festive season approaching, business has picked up. Ferns N Petals had “degrowth” in the first quarter (Q1), said Manish Saini, chief operating officer, Ferns N Petals. “But, in Q2, we saw 10 per cent growth. Q3 started very well. Because of Diwali, there is a surge of about 80 per cent.”

The company is anticipating to get more than 10,000 corporate orders by the end of the festive season. “The highest-selling categories are gourmet gift hampers and eco-friendly gifts. Clients are opting for customised planters along with branded savouries or chocolate hampers,” he said.

What’s more, the firm is also fighting polluting in a small way as customers are opting for customised planters. The most sought-after plants are sansevieria, ficus, bamboo, palm and money plant that improve indoor air quality.

“There is 100 per cent growth in corporate orders,” says Vikaas Gutgutia, MD and founder, Ferns N Petals.

The boost to shopping online since the lockdown has offered e-commerce companies opportunities to attract buyers, including for corporate gifting.

“This festive season has been different, so Amazon made it simpler for customers to send gifts from its revamped Gifting Store,” said a company spokesperson.

The season has witnessed the number of companies opting for Amazon Pay Gift Card double compared to last year. “There has been a trend among companies to opt for e-gift cards more than other physicla products that increase chances of contact,” the spokesperson said.

Although corporate gifting is a useful way of expressing gratitude to employees and a reminder to clients particularly for companies to get noticed, reduced spending may not harm brand image in the given circumstances.  “This year should make no impact because in general, all expectations are low and those receiving gifts would actually be surprised,” said Cherian. />

(With inputs from T E Narasimhan in Chennai)

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