This festive season push those accessories and personalised mugs aside and go instead for 'experience gifts' that will undoubtedly remain a cherished memory for a long time to come.
Experience gifts, as the name suggests, means gifting an experience instead of a product. So if you have a friend who is a wine connoisseur, you could gift her a wine-tasting session. Or a well-planned getaway to a couple who always plans of a perfect vacation without actually realising it. The ideas, as you can now imagine, are endless.
Of course, given the present-day time-starved schedules that we all have, planning an 'experience' requires time and research. This is where various start-ups that specialise in such experience box gifts come in.
WittyGift is one of the first companies in India to specialise in experiential gifting concept. Started in 2010, it has different categories to choose from – wellness, adventure, gourmet, culture – and with different price brackets to suite one's budget.
"The concept of WittyGift basically stemmed from the idea of how people are more interested in gathering experiences rather than hoarding objects. Each gift box offers a wide variety of experiences (under a selected theme) to choose one they like best from," Manvinder Kohli of WittyGift told IANS.
According to Kohli, the concept of experiential gifting, which has been popular in Europe, is now catching on in India – and it's not just restricted to the metros. "For the most part, gifting experiences have seen the biggest growth in Mumbai, Bangalore, and Delhi, primarily because it was marketed to corporate in these cities. But the trend has changed in the past four years," he said.
"Today you will find racing zip-lines in Indore and Bhopal, premium spas in Ahmedabad, paintballing in Jaipur, and scuba diving in Tarkarli, Maharashtra. This has broadened our scope and helped us provide best experiences to our customers in more areas than ever before," Kohli said.
The increase in seeking to gift someone (or yourself) something to do, or an experience, rather than something to have, or a product, has paved the way for various companies to design such gift services.
According to Thomas Cook India, the Indian gifting market is growing at an exponential rate and is expected to touch over $2 billion by 2016. "With increasing growth, people are also exploring new gifting options," one of the company officials said. Thomas Cook has introduced the travel gift card, a means by which you can gift someone a vacation – complete with all the frills.
Likewise, travel portal makemytrip.com has also introduced travel gift cards that give one the freedom to choose where to travel and when. Available in different denominations, and to suit different occasions, be it an anniversary, birthday, wedding, business relationships, or festivals, these cards are an ideal way to gift a priceless memory.
There is also a 'Pool Pay' option. In other words, a group of people can pool in to buy an e-travel gift card too.
Obviously, there won't be supply if there isn't enough demand. Indians are, therefore, lapping up the choice of experiential gifts.
Saswati Sharma, a Delhi-based entrepreneur, for instance, gifted her parents a vacation – complete with the air tickets, accommodation, prepaid meals, and sight-seeing – to Jammu and Kashmir last September, on the occasion of their wedding anniversary.
"My parents had taken their honeymoon in Kashmir 30 years back, and had always wanted to visit again, but because of various reasons and family commitments had not been able to make that trip. So I decided to gift them this cherished trip, and what better occasion than their anniversary?" she said. Needless to say, they loved every bit of the surprise.
Gunjan Shah, based in Ahmedabad, is a student and understandably has a shoestring budget. Even then, she wanted to gift her elder sister – who just became a mother – something special for her birthday. "After much thought, I realised that what she really needed was some pampering and a little alone time. So I decided to book her a spa session. Taking care of my niece for three hours was a pleasure for me, and she could let her hair down," Shah said.
"I think it was the best birthday gift ever" her sister, Amrita, said. "It was just so thoughtful, you know. I can always buy clothes and accessories, but I wouldn't have been able to go for a little pampering session away from my baby."
As they say, you cannot put a price on everything.
(Azera Rahman can be contacted at email@example.com)