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Guest Column: Eat, pray, love and… give!: Rajendra Khare, SureWaves MediaTech

24-December-2016
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Guest Column: Eat, pray, love and… give!: Rajendra Khare, SureWaves MediaTech

In India, celebrating means giving and spreading cheer to people around us. Indian families are raised in the culture of ‘gifting’—whether it’s for friends, relatives, people who work in our houses, facility workers in our buildings and service providers like gardeners, garbage collectors and the dhobi. So, gifting and giving is not new to us.

At the institutional level too, gifting is a serious practice followed by corporates. In the past, companies gave more traditional gifts like ‘Diwali bonuses’ to employees and sweets and mementoes to clients; they even did service to society through practices like anna daana (donating rice) or prasad distribution after a pooja.

Today, the concept of corporate gifting is taking on newer avatars. It has evolved beyond companies giving away customised calendars, pens and other stationery items or gift boxes containing sweets and dry fruits to customers, service channel partners, vendors and others. Gift vouchers, cash bonuses, dinner coupons and movie tickets too seem passé now!

Gifting experiences

Several companies are now redefining the concept by gifting employees with offbeat ‘experiences’ such as staycations, spa treatments and fun activities such as paint ball and horse riding. For example, during this festive season, one heard of brands gifting experiences to its employees, like a romantic yacht ride with one’s partner, recording one’s own song in a studio and flying a microlight, parasailing, a hot air balloon ride, and Royal Enfield rides!

Sustainable gifts

Globally, sustainable gifting options are rising in popularity among corporates. Whether it is handwoven items, energy-saving LED lights, sustainable Christmas trees or saplings, the accent is on benefiting the environment and the NGOS that make these gifts.

For instance, in India, there is the Goodness Gracious Gift Box, a curated collection of handcrafted, ethical, sustainable, organic products designed to benefit the recipients of the box and enterprises that made the products that go into the box.

Socially relevant and responsible gifting

Corporates are also extending the scope of gifting to social outreach programmes and sustainability initiatives to reaffirm their commitment to society at large—not just during the festival and gifting season, but throughout the year as well.

This Diwali, fruit juice brand Réal joined hands with Prayas Juvenile Aid Centre Society to launch the Réal Greetings Dil Se Dua, which sought to educate the children from the underprivileged sections of the society about nutritional needs.

Last December, ReNew Power, a renewable power producing company, came up with the Gifting Warmth campaign, a drive to donate blankets and shawls to the less-privileged citizens of Delhi. Two years ago, Amazon launched the ‘Gift A Smile’ initiative that enabled consumers to gift ‘instantly, directly and conveniently’ to beneficiaries of a cause of their choice. The initiative tied up with institutions and charities such as Magic Bus, Make a Wish Foundation, Pratham, READ India and Sahyog.

What’s interesting is many of these campaigns made customers key stakeholders in the process of giving to society.

Some companies engage themselves with the community through cause-related marketing campaigns that create and spread awareness about social causes. Tata Tea’s Jaago Re campaign in 2008 was a huge hit among the public. Hair-care brands like Marico’s Nihar Shanti Amla (featuring Bollywood actor Vidya Balan) and HUL’s Clinic Plus took up the cause of girls’ education through their ad campaigns.

Many corporate social campaigns use celebrity endorsers to steer the communication in the right direction. Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan and Priyanka Chopra… they have all done it.

And then there are campaigns that make use of other kind of ‘stars’. Last year, bath tile maker H&R Johnson set out to sensitise the society towards making public places disabled-friendly. The company launched the ‘Red Ramp Project’ wherein a tiled ramp was built on the Kiri beach in Goa. The video campaign showed three protagonists with different physical challenges being gifted a ramp to fulfil their long-awaited dream to visit the beach.

The success of any social campaign is the impact it creates in the community. A good example of this is Lifebuoy’s anti-disease ‘Help a Child Reach Five’ campaign’ in 2013 that created awareness about infections that spread due to unhealthy living practices. The campaign, which included hand washing initiatives and an award-winning ad film, managed to reduce diarrhoea in Thesgora, a village with the highest rates of diarrhoea in India, from 36 per cent to 5 per cent. Lifebuoy donated over Rs 3.5 lakh to children—one rupee for every social media share of its ad campaign.

The Global Citizen Festival, which was held recently in Mumbai, an initiative by Global Citizen Project, encouraged fans to ‘Take Action’ like raising awareness about issues like poverty, health and education. Fans of the rock band Coldplay had to download an app that would enable them to take action (from tweeting to signing petitions) and earn points after the completion of every action. A certain number of points gave fans the eligibility to enter a lottery draw to get tickets for a music show. This initiative rewarded action to promote social change.

As corporates seek to make the lives of those around more meaningful, the practice of corporate gifting has gained renewed meaning and deeper intensity. Corporates have realised that there are diverse ways to reach out to society and etch their brand presence, without being obtrusive and in-your-face. The key is to sustain these efforts over a significant period of time and ensure they are not mere flash-in-the-pan exercises.

Rajendra Khare

Founder, Chairman & Managing Director – SureWaves MediaTech Pvt Ltd. 

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