The new-age female shopper is showering herself with gifts — with a little help from services that are happy to indulge her.
Roma Lakhani loves surprises. A shiny box delivered to her doorstep every month could contain anything from beads and baubles to creams and books. And no, it’s not her friends or family splurging on her. The PR professional invests in feel-good gifts for herself. “It’s really exciting to get something you’ve gifted yourself; it’s like a little surprise gift from you. Sure, you can go out and buy these for yourself, but the fact that someone has curated these gifts for you makes it amazing. Not to mention the fact that if your day is going badly, and the box arrives then, it changes your mood completely!”
Charming as it sounds, it isn’t a rare phenomenon. Given the demand for these pick-me-ups, it seems the Indian woman today isn’t waiting around for the man in her life, her friends, parents or children to pamper her with gifts. Not when she can do it herself, thanks to subscription boxes, which largely keep the mystery of what you will receive, intact.
From make-up, skin care products and lifestyle items to music boxes and sanitary essentials, Indian start-ups and websites are cashing in on the new-age, unabashed shopper.
For a country that has been largely apprehensive about shopping online, worrying about the size and quality of the products they will receive, as well as ensuring return policies are in place, the Indian audience has evolved, says Sakshi Tikiya of The Little Bauble Box. That’s what prompted her to look towards curating jewellery for her subscription box.
“Women tend to buy jewellery more, since it’s a bit of impulse shopping, and I realised there is a market for them to splurge a lot. Hence, the idea of starting a box with luxury jewellery at affordable prices came about,” she says.
Sakshi’s boxes are targeted at women between the ages of 25 and 50. And cost nothing less than Rs 2,500. “But we ensure you get jewellery worth Rs 4,500 in that amount — and this is the lower priced box. College girls, obviously, can’t afford these boxes. But our product is a luxury one, and we can’t place it any lower,” she asserts. “We source these pieces from emerging designers and wholesalers. We don’t store junk jewellery or Chinese goods.”
Niharika Jhunjhunwala of Sugarbox, a lifestyle-based subscription box, concurs. “When we started off in 2015, people were still wary about e-commerce; it was a leap of faith. However, the entire idea for me was not to be dependent on people to buy you a gift, but make yourself feel special. It’s just a nice twist if you don’t know what you’re going to get,” she shrugs. “Two years ago people didn’t want to pay for something like this but now I get eager mails asking when the next box is out.”
The Little Bauble Box, Sakshi explains, is also big on customising ornaments to suit the customer’s need. “Yes, this is about giving yourself a surprise, but unlike cosmetic boxes, we personalise our boxes for each person, and that’s our USP. See, it’s okay if we use the same cream, but you can’t have a hundred people wearing the same necklace at the same time! This will only make them wary of purchasing the box again. The process may be time consuming, since we put in special notes on why we picked up the jewellery and how to style it, but that’s why they like it!”
While for some, starting a subscription service came out of the need of pampering the women around, for some, it was born out of necessity. “In my friends’ group, as well as with my own wife, I’ve seen buying pads and tampons is a last minute affair; there’s always a special trip that’s made to the market, purely for purchasing intimate products,” sighs Deep Bajaj, founder of Being Juliet, a service that provides sanitary goods to women who sign up, five days before their expected period. “We all know it’s not the happiest time of the month, so we decided to add freebies.”
There are other services however, that are born out of more luxurious reasons. Surabhi Rai and Desh D. Singh, both Delhi-based students, started their own book service, called The Big Book Box purely for the love of reading. “I’m a voracious reader, and about six months ago, I came across a UK-based book subscription box, but there was nothing of this sort in India. Getting it shipped here was very expensive and I didn’t even like the products, to be honest, but the books were new releases. So I decided to start something of this sort by myself for students like me,” reveals Surabhi.
A key point, the English honours student mentions, is to get the pricing of the box right, to meet the intended audiences’ expectations. “We’ve specifically had a box priced at Rs 1,000 for students. It has paperbacks and goodies. The higher priced ones have hard covers, bookmarks and more.”
Not everyone has had a good run though. Shalom Bejnamin for instance, had to abruptly shut down his The Revolver Club, a subscription for classic vinyl records because the service’s inventory didn’t match their ambition to personalise and curate the collection. “It was a little difficult to source these good records, and new releases at that. Vinyls are expensive by default, and we’d send out new releases and artistes to a subscriber, based on a questionnaire. It’s difficult to get some records that are not classics,” he says.
Personalisation or no, if there’s one thing all the providers are on the same page about, it is the fact that little surprise additions to the boxes are the best way to capture and retain the consumer.
“Book-based fan clubs always have bookish goodies like horcrux lockets for Harry Potter fans, and these are exciting for any reader,” reveals Surabhi. “Customised bookmarks that specially go with the book you’re reading will definitely make you feel special, so we add stuff like these with the books.”
Deep, however, adds that if yours is a utility-based service, goodies won’t take you too far. “We give out a lot of skincare, hair care, cosmetics and accessories with our boxes. But it’s eventually the assurance of a timely product they can use is what keeps them coming back,” he observes.
Ankita Sharma, who confesses she’s constantly on the look out for interesting boxes to subscribe to, explains that it’s not as ‘indulgent’ a thing as people make it out to be. “See, you have to end up spending money on things you need regularly anyway. If by subscribing to these services you get an element of surprise as well, it’s a win-win for you. More often than not, the stuff sent inside these boxes is value for money, and even if you don’t like some of it, the discount codes and other freebies they put in will make buying them worth it. It’s a win-win!”