Luxury Gifting Alternative: The Experience of a Lifetime

What do you gift someone who has it all?

Luxury retailers have long known that an experience scores higher in EQ and recall value than just a product, and so they’ve created entire universes around their offerings. When it comes to gifting, the Indian imagination – so far confined to a pretty package tied with a bow – has quickly caught on to the theory as well, and entrepreneurs are now rushing in to fill the gap in the Indian gifting landscape by offering experiences one just can’t resist.

Take 34-year-old Pooja Lal. When the young mother moved back to India after an eight-year stint with Visa in Dubai and Sydney, she found herself missing the ease of shopping for gifts online for family and friends spread far and wide. And so, along with a little help from her husband Siddharth Lal, a digital marketing and SEO expert based in New Delhi, she scouted the market for a gap in the online gifts segment. The result of her research was Delight Gifts, a gifting website that purely offers experiences, not goods, to present your loved ones anywhere in India.

“Research has found that if you gift a wine bottle or wine rack to someone, they’ll appreciate the gesture for a while but if you gift them a wine-tasting session, they are likely to remember it all their lives,” she explains of her decision to choose ‘experiences’ over products for her e-commerce venture. The website, now a year old, offers gifts divided by activity (gourmet, spas, sports, entertainment and so on) or by occasion (birthdays, anniversaries, et cetera). You can choose from golf coaching classes to fine-dining meals, from hot-air balloon rides to luxury escapes.

Indeed, gifting experiences has become quite the ‘in’ thing in metropolitan Indian centres over the past few years, and has taken over a meaty chunk of the gifting market in India, which is estimated by American Express to be over US$ 30 billion annually. Cashing in on the trend, gifting websites have begun to offer luxury experiences along with the usual array of products.

Are-You-Ready-to-Take-a-Golf-Holiday.jpgAnd so, The Dotted I, a brainchild of US-returned Naadia Mirza, offers ‘surprise’ packages, even the chance to ‘hire a shopping consultant’ as a gift idea. Excluzen, developed by Urvashi Bahuguna Sahay, daughter of the current Chief Minister of Uttarakhand Vijay Bahugana, offers wine and whisky tours, golf tours and yachting expeditions along with a plethora of other luxury goods. And Exciting Lives has an entire section for experiences across India and the US, including belly-dancing lessons and mock combat flights.

“It’s like phases in the gifting industry,” explains Mayank Bhangadia, ex-IIT Delhi alumnus and co-founder of Giveter.com. He goes on: “Indians started out with gifting money (called ‘sagan’) in the old days; then moved to gifting thoughtfully selected products. Then we moved to personalized products and now we’re moving to gifting experiences.” At their one-year-old website, fine-dining lunches and dinners at select five-star hotels form part of the repertoire of gift ideas, divided by relationship, occasion, age, personality and even mood. The approach is highly personalized – the site even offers to scour your recipient’s Facebook feed to suggest ideas based on their likes and interests.

“Gifting experiences is the new way of expressing yourself,” says the young entrepreneur who admits that while the volumes are still low in this category as compared with products, the trend has quickly caught on in recent months.

Offline too, gifting experiences is an idea whose time has come. Witty Gift launched in 2009 and Dhoombox, launched in 2010, both offer a ‘boxful’ of experiences that one can buy as per theme, preference and budget, and which the recipient can redeem at the vendor of their choice. With hundreds of strategic tie-ups across major Indian cities, the vouchers inside every box – from luxury camping to facials to cake-baking classes – can be redeemed at a convenient time and location.

With creative solutions such as these, the act of buying a gift can be just as exciting as receiving one. For someone who has it all, here’s a once-in-a-lifetime surprise.

First published on Luxurynext.com Blog

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