From Tehelka Archives November 13, 2001: Diwali or a shoppers’ paradise?

Gift giving is no longer a symbol of affection, discovers Shivranjini Krishnamurthy as she surveys shopping trends this Diwali

Sweetmeats, dairies, Polish crystals and Malaysian pottery — the shoppers want it all. A gift is not just a gift this Diwali, it is a statement! The question then troubling all shopper is — what is the right gift? Where earlier a box of sweets would suffice, even maybe most appropriate, the gift list today just doesn’t cease — silverware, crockery, crystalware, antiques, artifacts, solitaires, electronic goods, home accessories, and everything else in between and beyond.

Diwali, in fact, is now the ideal bribe-time. When it comes to bribing, neither the giver nor the receiver has any qualms. If anything, this is when the number of visitors are an important marker of a person’s social standing and importance in the scheme of things. While the buyer is at one end of the problem spectrum, the seller has a unique set of problems as well. Says Sandeep Sabharwal, owner of an upmarket gift outlet in west Delhi, “Today’s buyer is so complex, you can’t judge him from the dress he is wearing. He is wise enough when it comes to money, but wouldn’t compromise on the quality of his gift,” adding, “One common demand buyers have, though, is for something different.”

On being asked about the hot sell this season, Sabharwal says, “Antiques and crystals seem to be the universal choice this Diwali. Depending on the quality and finish, their price runs into a few thousands.” He says there have even been a few corporate buyers for his crystal-ware. That would sure change one’s notion about the conventional corporate gifts — diaries, pens and organisers. Ever thought about gifting a telephone? Well, that rings a bell with the rich and prominent. While a Sony table phone would cost anyone a couple of thousands, a Samsung Blue-i mobilephone could cost you somewhere in the range of Rs 20,000. Of course, price is no deterrent for those looking for something different.

For those looking for some contemporary firang stuff, Alka Madan, owner of Shubham Gallery in a posh south Delhi colony says she has, “Polish crystal-ware, Malaysian pottery and Italian glasses are in this season”. Another way to say it this season is with diamonds. Have you been considering buying that diamond set Aishwarya has been sporting? Well, all you need to do is head for the nearest De Beers outlet. The diamond jewellery is priced at a whopping 15,000 onwards.

While the Capital’s best shopping centres put up their finest deals and wares for Diwali shoppers, Amdavadis (as Ahmedabadis are called) are shopping till they drop as well. The refrain in Ahmedabad this season is — size does matter. With shoppers flocking to departmental stores, the small shopkeepers are left out in the cold. Whether it is Circle P, Kenzer, Bodyline or Hours, there is constant movement of people in and out, clutching their shopping bags. “Shopping here is a unique experience for the whole family. Though we are not regulars here, this Diwali we thought of adding more to our shopping budget and shop at a big store,” says Deepak Lavisi, salesperson at a private firm, seen at a departmental store.

Mehul Vaghela, manager of Pantaloons, admits, “The response was fantastic last weekend. Sales reached close to the highest last year during Diwali.” For obvious reasons, they expect better sales in the two days to go before D-day. A response on similar lines was to be seen in Chennai, the southern metropolis. The city’s most popular shopping mall, Spencer’s Plaza, seems to be attracting customers by the hordes. From clothes to watches to greeting cards, special offers await customers at most stores this festive season.

Dexter, store manager of “Just Kidding” — the exclusive kids store, says, “We promise surprises for all kids visiting our store. And the surprises include free gifts any child would be delighted to possess.” The uniqueness of the offer lies in the fact that it is not limited to any one particular brand, he adds. Indian cyberland is all spruced up too. Content to commerce, dotcoms are part of the festive spirit too. Be it kesar kaju katli or almond chocolates, digital diaries or an idol of Lord Ganesha, designer clothes or crystals, cars or mobile phones…you find it all online. Like Indian homes, websites too are speckled with diyas, crackers, mithai and the other paraphernalia that light up the night.

Shikhar Gupta, an employee with an e-tailing major says, “Diwali is one festival that has traditionally marked the highest spending among Indian households, but the festival is also associated with endless hours of waiting and shopping at crowded malls. That is where online shopping comes handy.” As one rounds up this look at Diwali shopping, one wonders where the emphasis is on this Diwali. A famous adage goes: give a little bit, or give a little more, but give it meaningfully…