Mumbai-based Punya Shivram, 28, an advertising professional, found herself in a fix when she couldn’t decide what book to gift her husband, Rajesh Tekchandani, a human resource professional working for an information technology firm. “Being an avid reader, he jumps from one genre to another and at any given day has a laundry list of books that he wants to read,” she says. So she chose the middle path that allowed her husband to buy a book of his liking and yet retained the spirit of gifting: she gave him a gift voucher of a popular book store.
To some, gift vouchers may seem impersonal, but even they would agree that deciding on a gift can often throw you in a quandary and a voucher may look like a saviour. A voucher obviates the dangers of subjectivity and if you are one who subscribes to the concept, here is some good news for you: now you can also have gift cards or vouchers delivered at the click of the mouse.
What’s on offer?
Middle path: Punya Shivram gifted her husband Rajesh Tekchandani a gift voucher of a popular book store. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint
You have three online options that work differently—gift vouchers, gift cards and e-vouchers.
A voucher is a one-time purchase from a website that offers it and can be used only up to the specified value. The person whom you gift it to can present the voucher in the specified shop or brand after making a purchase.
Gift cards, on the other hand, are generated online and can be topped up multiple times until they hit their expiry date. These, too, can be presented in shops and retail outlets at the time of purchase. So you load the card with a particular amount and the user either utilizes the same amount or tops up to make a larger or multiple purchases.
E-vouchers are a step ahead. Here you don’t get the vouchers in physical form but just a code. Moreover, these can be used only for online purchases. You can pass on this code to the person to whom you are gifting. The person just needs to mention the code at the time of billing. If you log on to any online shopping portal, such as Letsbuy.com or Flipkart.com, you get the option to generate e-vouchers of various denominations.
Where do you buy?
Broadly there are two ways of buying a gift card online.
At company websites: If you have a brand or retail chain in mind then you can just log onto its website to buy a gift voucher. Online gift vouchers may not be available with all brands, but big brands and retail stores such as Shoppers Stop or Pantaloons have it. These websites usually offer all three options: vouchers, gift cards and e-vouchers.
At aggregators’ website: If you haven’t been able to zero down on a particular brand or company, you can skim through options on websites such as Excitinglives.com, Giftcardsindia.in and Giftbig.com and then make a choice. However, these sites do not offer e-vouchers.
These portals act like aggregators as they give you a list of all the companies that offer online vouchers and cards under different categories such as occasions (birthday, marriage and so on) and themes (books, dining and so on). You can also choose the denomination of the card. You can have the voucher delivered to any part of India without any extra cost.
What’s more, these companies go an extra mile to make the experience of gifting a tad sweeter. For example, Giftbig.com, an online portal for gift vouchers and cards, packs in a gift without any extra cost with the card, which itself is presented in a sleek case. “If someone buys a voucher worth at least Rs 1,001, we send a free chocolate box along with the voucher,” says Sadiq Ahamed, head (e-commerce), Giftbig.com.
There are aggregators, such as Badhai.in, that give you the option of group gifting. Here, more than one person can chip in and send a combined gift. This would work if you plan to gift, say a colleague or a common friend.
Why should you go for it?
Ease of transaction: Apart from making gifting confusion-free, these cards provide you the ease of transaction. “Gift vouchers give the end-user the flexibility and choice of buying something of their own liking. Also, it saves on the time required to go to a store and pick up stuff manually. The ease of its usage adds on to the benefits,” says Shivram.
It is this ease that the portals are betting on. “One need not worry about going anywhere to buy a gift. Sitting in the comfort of home you can buy these vouchers,” says Ahamed.
Shortening distances: Also, the fact that these cards are shipped to any place in India without any extra or at minimal cost makes them attractive. Say, you are in New Delhi and want to gift something to a friend in Bangalore, all you need to do is key in the friend’s address details and the card will be delivered there.
“We deliver cards worth Rs 1,000 and above to any place in India where there is a courier service available,” says Firoz Khan, co-founder and chief operating officer, Giftcardsindia.in.
If you are worried about the shipping cost, then opt for e-vouchers, where you just need to pass on the code to the gift receiver and the person can go online and shop.
However, when you are buying a gift card or voucher, make sure that there are outlets in the place of residence of the recipient. The user needs to keep the expiry date in mind.
Gift card business in India
Gift card business constitutes a small portion of total sales in India. “Roughly the gift cards and voucher business constitutes around 6% of overall sales of outlets which offer vouchers,” says Raj Bhatia, founder and managing director, Up, Close and Personal, a data marketing company specializing in loyalty and database driven solutions.
The lapse ratio of such cards, which is cards issued but not used, is as low as 8%, Bhatia adds. Unlike Western countries, where there are various online sites that buy cards if they are unused, the concept is still to pick up in India. “It is not a mature marketplace. However, I am sure the trend will pick up in India soon and work on the same lines is underway,” says Firoz Khan, co-founder and COO, Giftcardsindia.in.
With almost all businesses opting for the gift card and voucher way, the space may become larger in coming times.