Delivering the ‘personal touch’ virtually: How COVID-19 changed the way we celebrate Raksha Bandhan

As COVID-19 changes our very way of living, festivities are no different. With Raksha Bandhan around the corner, here’s how you can keep the personal touch alive — even in a pandemic.

Raksha Bandhan has always been about jostling around busy stalls decorated with rakhis of all shapes and sizes — from the basic dhaaga to the fancier versions today, some based in cartoons and even superheroes. But, whichever rakhi you choose to buy, it is almost impossible to not be entwined in this immensely popular festival. 

However, this year, things are bound to be different. The year 2020 has changed our habits, routines, and lifestyles. 

In one of his addresses, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his concern about the impact of COVID-19 on the festival season around the corner. After all, at a time when stepping out of one’s house is dangerous, it is hard to imagine that we could be celebrating festivals like we used to. 

Times have changed and so has consumer behaviour. With people still sceptical about going to the market to shop, this festival season will prove to be very difficult for micro-businesses that rely on this period for a lot of their sales.

Micro and small entrepreneurs, who used to put up stalls to sell rakhis are scrambling to find a way to survive these turbulent times. On the other hand, COVID-19 has brought about a drastic surge in the demand for rakhis and gifts on online gifting platforms and ecommerce portals. 

Adding a virtual ‘personal touch’

Ferns N Petals Founder and Managing Director Vikaas Gutgutia tells SMBStory that more customers are buying rakhis online, probably to maintain social distancing and because ecommerce companies are promising 100 percent contactless deliveries.

He says, “We are getting 10,000 rakhi and gift orders every day and delivering to over 80 countries this year. Also, we have witnessed a huge surge in customers who want rakhis to be delivered in other countries like the US, the UK, Singapore, the UAE, and more. We are experiencing an excellent growth of 100 percent in orders as compared to last year this time.”

FernsNPetals also claims to be receiving orders for personalised video messages for siblings from celebrities like Shaan, Kailash Kher, Isha Koppikar, Jay Bhanushali, Hitesh Tejwani, Jhonty Rodes, Rohit Roy, etc. It has also partnered with brands like Cadbury, Amul, ITC, Bata, Cookie Man, Phillips, Gillette, Raymond, etc. for gifting during this festive occasion.

Organic fruits delivery startup Fruit Box & Co. has also seen a surge in the demand of their gift hampers this year. CEO Rishi Sakhuja says that the nationwide lockdown saw people are now opting for online gifting over going to the market.

“We have seen pre-booking of rakhi hampers at least 20 days in advance. This is approximately 5X growth compared to last year and conversion for rakhi gifting,” he adds. 

Not only in India but NRIs located across the world have also switched to online shopping for Raksha Bandhan greetings and gifts.

American multinational ecommerce giant eBay has also seen a sudden rise in the demand of rakhi hampers. In the interaction with SMBStory, Vidmay Naini, India Country Manager at eBay, speaks about the diaspora of Indian consumers always looking for a variety from the Indian sellers for various products and categories.

With Raksha Bandhan around the corner, eBay has seen a huge demand for rakhis from the US, the UK, and Canada. It has over 3,000 handmade rakhis of colourful threads to exclusive 925 silver rakhis embedded with semi-precious stones in the portals for its buyers in these markets.

A trend here to stay

There has been a paradigm shift towards healthy gifting options, Rishi says, adding that people are opting to gift fresh and natural products to their loved ones that would help boost their immunity and have other wellness benefits. 

He says, “We feel this trend of gifting healthy is here to stay as people are becoming more aware and  conscious of healthy eating.”

The festive season brings opportunities for all business sectors especially SMBs. However, in a move to contain the spread of COVID-19, people have drastically shifted to online shopping. 

Vidmay says that eBay has witnessed soaring demands in the past two weeks for salwar kurtis and festive lehengas from the buyer in the US and the UK. There has been a significant uptick across eBay’s marketplaces globally with strong new buyer growth in this quarter. The company expects this to continue in 2020 and onwards as well.

Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta


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