Co-Founders Sukesh Ganda and Puneet Rampal in conversation with Afshan Shaikh of YBT about launching novel concept of collective gifting in India
Every time I have to attend a birthday, wedding, festive or ‘who cares what the occasion is’ party, one question confounds me – what would be a good gift? Having been at the receiving end of gifts I have no use for, I have also ended up getting the same present from multiple people. In a country that loves to celebrate, we all confront the gifting puzzle all year round. How often do we think – what if the money from all these gifts could be channeled towards buying that one gift that you really want? ChipNGift takes the ‘what if’ out of the picture and brings you the novel concept of chipping in to buy a gift that a family member or friend would love.
Co-founders of ChipNGift, Sukesh Ganda and Puneet Rampal, had a candid talk with me about ChipNGift, its practicality today, and its future.
Afshan: Tell us a little about ChipNGift – what is it all about?
Puneet: In a nutshell, ChipNGift is a group gifting enabler. Let’s say, you are getting married and want to buy a new scooter but can’t afford to spend over INR60,000/-. However, you know your guests at the wedding will be spending on gifts. ChipNGift enables you to create an event, where you can send invites to family and friends, letting them know that you want this particular gift. They can then chip in individually and, instead of 20 presents that you don’t really needs, you will have enough funds to buy that dream scooter.
Sukesh: You can even create an event to buy a present for your friend. ChipNGift gives you the flexibility to buy exactly what you want, whether it is for yourself or for someone else. It is a practical, meaningful, yet fun approach to gifting that has never been implemented online.
Afshan: That’s very interesting! How exactly does it work?
Puneet: Well, for now we are still in the beta phase. At present, users can create an online event where they state what the occasion is and what exactly are they looking to buy. The occasion could be anything – a wedding, graduation, migrating to foreign shores, setting up a new house, or something as simple as a birthday. People can even collect funds for projects and special vacations such as a honeymoon.
Sukesh: Yes, we are currently offering only the collection of funds. However, we are eventually planning to tie up with online partners and vendors. This phase will allow our users to select specific products from partner vendor sites and list them as part of their event. Once the funds are collected, they will be able to directly buy the product and have it delivered to their doorstep.
Afshan: I can see how this concept could be really useful! How was the idea of ChipNGift born? What inspired you to develop this concept?
Sukesh: When I was in school, I used to take the lead for arranging gifts for friends’ birthdays. This involved first of all figuring out what to give, and then having our group of friends chip in an amount to purchase it. When I was in the US for college, I came across gift registries and was completely blown away by practicality of it. People were putting up lists saying ‘we need so and so items’ and their family and friends would just mark off which gifts they would be buying. Puneet, Amblish – who is the third co-founder of ChipNGift – and I started discussing this concept and agreed that there was major scope for it in India. At the same time, given the unique cultural DNA of India, we knew that we would have to merge Indian sensibilities with Western practicality. After a lot of brainstorming, the concept of ChipNGift finally took form. The idea was to take gift registries a leap forward by not just letting people list their preferred gifts but collect funds for them too. Eventually, ChipNGift will be the complete collective gifting solution.
Puneet: We believe that the key to the success of the initiative is acceptance of the concept of chipping in for gifts itself. So we decided that the first step would be to inculcate the habit among users. Beginning with someone setting up an event to buy an awesome gift for a friend, we would like to progress to the point where people don’t hesitate to create events for themselves. I think once that happens, users will realize that not only is the ChipNGift concept very practical, but it makes the process of buying and receiving gifts much more fun! We are transforming gifting into an event itself. realized hige potential. That’s how it was born. Chose to build habit first, then products. Let the concept set in, keep it to cash at start, then move to products, give options.
Afshan: Given that ChipNGift is a ‘never done before’ concept, what would you say makes it extra special? And who would you consider as potential competitors in this business?
Puneet: Well, that fact that ChipNGift is one of its kind itself makes it extremely special. As far as competition is concerned, again, although gift registries do exist in Western countries, they have not really made a mark in India. Collective gifting itself is unheard of. I think the overall practicality of simply getting the gift you want is amazing. At the same time, you don’t have to worry about getting the ‘right’ gift for your friends and family. It’s a win-win situation for both, the gift giver and receiver. There are no hassles, no confusion, no wastage. There is a greater sense of satisfaction on both sides and this makes the entire process of gifting more meaningful.
Further, ChipNGift features a complete invite management system. So, the person creating the event can track who contributed how much towards their dream gift. This works excellently well in the Indian cultural context where people usually want to keep a track of gifts given. They even use this as a benchmark when deciding the value of gifts that they will be giving in turn. So, if a person contributed INR2,000/- for your gift, ChipNGift will keep a track for you and you can return the favour when it’s your turn to buy this person a gift.
Sukesh: I think it’s important to say here that, while the event creator has complete transparency about who contributed how much, the contributor has complete privacy. That is, none of the other contributors will know how much others have contributed. (Laughs) I think this is a kind of ‘Lifafa’ system without any of the embarrassment. In India, I have seen cases where, at weddings with large attendance, a person is delegated to register all the envelopes containing money as a gift. It can be terribly embarrassing when the envelope you give is opened and the amount is displayed for all to see before it is noted formally in a register!
Another aspect that makes ChipNGift very special is that, you can collect funds for virtually anything. For example, you want to take a 6 months hiatus to finish working on a book or any other project. You could create an event where friends and family can chip in support you during the course of the project. Again, since you have absolute control over whom you invite to contribute to the event, the contributors know you and trust you. It just takes the comfort level a notch further.
Afshan: I could use a 6 month break! But, how has the journey been so far? What were the challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?
Puneet: Technically speaking, there are always challenges. We are in the beta testing phase and discover that the site can be bettered every day. However, the mindset of our target base is the biggest challenge – particularly with the older generations who are tech savvy yet slightly conservative when it comes to traditions. However, I would say 99% of Millennials are head over heels in love with the concept.
Sukesh: To overcome this challenge, we started testing the concept within family and friends, across the world, and it was a huge success! Family members living in different countries and even continents found a way to contribute to gifts at home for birthdays, weddings – events they can’t attend. Success at home greatly motivated us and we launched the beta version of the portal. After small scale advertising, the response from Millennials was astounding! Among the older generation, parents have started using ChipNGift to get gifts for their children, but hesitate to create an event for themselves. We have even begun reaching out to them with the message that – if you don’t want to create an event yourself, just ask a trusted friend to do it!
Afshan: What is the future of ChipNGift? Where do you see it 5 and 10 years from now?
Sukesh: Within this year, we aim to establish ChipNGift as a popular and loved gifting portal across generations in India. We are also developing a mobile application for ChipNGift that will make it all the more accessible and user-friendly. In 3 to 5 years, we want to become India’s largest gifting market place with a multitude of offerings and partnerships. After that, we want to take the brand global. We have already sent out feelers and the response has been very encouraging – even in Western countries where gift registries are already common. Chipping for gifts as a concept is being loved by one and all. ChipNGift aims to be the Xerox of gifting – a brand synonymous with gifting around the world.
Puneet: If you think about it, gifting was one of the first net businesses to crop up – starting with free greeting cards and then flowers, cakes and gifts that could be delivered anywhere in the world. Now, with ecommerce and online shopping becoming a part and parcel of urban life – ChipNGift will bring the zing back in gifting. Also, we would love to move on to include charity and donations at a later stage.
Afshan: That’s brilliant! Finally, any message you would like to send out to our readers?
Puneet: Go right out and try it out! Wish bataana achha hai.